Aside from squeezing into the same general 'sci-fi shooter' genre, Prey shares next to nothing with the 2006 title it takes its name from. Arkane Studios' from-the-ground-up reimagining should, however, feel relatively familiar to anyone who's braved BioShock's undersea dystopia or unleashed swarms of man-devouring rodents in the developer's Dishonored series. Moreso still if your gaming memories include the System Shock titles of the 1990s.
Much like BioShock's isolated, soggy setting, Prey's moon-orbiting Talos I space station is a creepy, claustrophobic environment overrun by the sort of intruders that respond better to a wrench to the face than a reasonable conversation. While the sprawling station is much larger and more open than BioShock's Rapture, it similarly—and effectively—evokes a once peaceful, prosperous society that's very suddenly gone to hell.
As Morgan Yu, a scientist/human test subject living a Groundhog Day-like existence, players must explore the corpse-riddled station for clues while fighting off an inky-black alien threat dubbed the 'Typhon'. It's within this emergent, search-and-slay gameplay groove that Prey recalls Dishonored's player-driven, systems-focused formula.
Much like Corvo Attano, Yu gradually populates a weapon wheel with guns, gear, and otherworldly powers. Toss in skill tree specializations, the ability to craft useful items from scrap, and various other unlocks and upgrades, and Prey feels more like a character-progressing RPG than a first-person shooter.
Of course, the appeal of all this spawns from molding Yu's abilities to your particular play-style and experimenting with the game's evolving tool-set. The Gloo Cannon, for example, encourages this sort of freedom from the get-go, allowing players to use it as a foe-freezing gun, a platform-conjuring navigation tool, or some combination of both.
This gadget — as well as most of Prey's equipment, including the ever-useful turrets — serves you best when used to stealthily explore the station, evading extraterrestrial threats, completing side-quests for needy crew members, and piecing together the twisty plot via emails, audio logs, and other cryptic clues. When played as a run-and-gun combat game, however, Prey actually comes off as a bit clunky and unpolished. But then, that's not how it's meant to be played.
In fact, if its pre-release buzz had you anticipating an action-packed alien shooter, you might well find yourself disappointed. However, if you crave slow-burn, sci-fi horror, complemented by complex character progression and pliable gameplay then this delivers on all fronts. If you're prepared to immerse yourself in the horrors of Talos I, and take your time unearthing its secrets, Prey provides an interactive nightmare you won't want to wake up from.