Every early encounter with the Mimics is tense; you creep through offices filled with debris, whacking everything with a wrench as you play a deadly game of 'waste paper bin or alien menace?' When they reveal themselves, they're tough and small, hard to hit with your scarce ammunition, and resilient enough to withstand a couple of solid blows from your wrench. Later, a variety of less interesting but altogether tougher enemies become the norm, most of them capable of all sorts of bizarre attacks. Sometimes you'll be fighting corrupted AI, dealing with enemies that are lightning fast or can blast you with psionic attacks. Then there's the fearsome Nightmare that starts to stalk you later in the game. The less said about that, the better.
Combat in the game is punishing, and with ever-dwindling resources, the game encourages you to try to think your way around problems. Each weapon in the game feels unique, with the military weapons like the silenced pistol and the shotgun feeling punchy and satisfying, although the real fun is to be had with the science weapons: The Gloo Gun lets you spray rapidly expanding foam around the place, good for sealing hull breaches, encasing enemies, or even climbing up walls. There are stun guns, nerf firing crossbows, and the Q Beam, which blasts enemies with a laser until they explode. Then there are your unlockable powers that allow you to fire off a psionic blast or just pick up a sofa and throw it at someone.
Even on the normal difficulty, the game is consistently difficult. Charging into situations relying on brawn or gear often lead to death and a respawn. Not a problem, the game's generous checkpointing system often serves to keep you directly in the action. However, if you want to make any real progress, you'll often have to apply your smarts to just about every problem. That makes Prey engaging in play and also remarkably rewarding.
Progression in the game comes through the steady acquisition of gear, blueprints you can use at several 3D printers around the ship, and the game's Neuromods, which give you access to a variety of different skills and abilities. These span a wide range of different things: They can make Morgan Yu stronger, faster, better at hacking, or able to repair the variety of broken objects around the space station, including the station's security systems.
These also get more esoteric, with mods that let you turn into items around the station, a cup, a dustbin, another cup. There's your psionic blasts, the ability to move things remotely with your mind. However, installing these abilities that are alien in nature requires you to study the living aliens and also risks your humanity. The more alien matter you put into yourself, the higher the chance the many gun turrets on the station will suddenly view you as an enemy. This felt like a betrayal after they had protected me for so long, and was such an unpleasant change that I immediately loaded an earlier save and never used alien Neuromods ever again. Don't use alien Neuromods, kids.
The game's music and sound design is excellent. The jarring synths and jumbled noisescape makes for excellent background and goes a long way to reinforce many of the game's emotional beats. Often the soundtrack serves to make you uneasy, and this seems to be the sum of what Prey is aiming for: to make you unnerved.
Prey is one of the finest immersive sims, but the more time spent with it, the more the cracks appear in the game's veneer. Mimics are the game's most interesting enemy but also its most frustrating. Later you'll be running through rooms filled with debris, and the fact that half of this debris will attack you when you're not looking at it can be draining.
Several of the tasks you need to backtrack for involve adventuring through irritating areas and, although Talos 1 is magnificent, it's not a uniform magnificence, and some areas definitely shine brighter than others. The end of the game, for those that reach it, brings more questions than it answers, but it's hard to fault Prey when it's this good.
Prey is still a masterpiece of a game, although one with several rough edges. Fans of the immersive sim will find plenty to love here, and it's one of the most interesting worlds in gaming. In space, no one can hear you scream, and that's a shame, because people should be screaming about this game.