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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Prey is a sci-fi first-person shooter. Gameplay is packed with guns and fantastical combat abilities, but its heavy focus on freedom of choice means players can opt to avoid perpetrating violence through most of the game. That said, even if players choose not to kill, they'll still see plenty of dead bodies, pools of blood, and scenes of violence where people die. Players also need to make several moral choices with no clear answers, choosing whether to allow or cause the death of some characters while saving others. These choices have a marked impact on how the game unfolds and eventually ends and ultimately determine the sort of person the player's character is (good, bad, or something in between). Parents should also note that the player's character can consume whisky and beer to regenerate health and "cure fear," though it causes the player's vision to waver. There's also occasional profanity in the game, including "s--t," mainly found in emails.
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What's it about?
Morgan Yu needs to decide whom to trust and what to believe in PREY, a sci-fi shooter where the player might not end up doing much shooting at all. The entire game is set on and around Talos 1, an expansive space station upon which something terrible has happened. Its crew is mostly dead, replaced with inky alien creatures that exist half in our world and half in another as they roam the station's halls and facilities. Morgan wakes up to this nightmare in a sophisticated simulation chamber with his memory gone and with only a disembodied voice providing guidance. The story allows players to explore the vast station as they like, solving navigational puzzles to unlock doors and access new areas by growing skills like hacking and repairing, searching for access keys, or simply finding alternate routes to get where they want to go. Players can also choose whether to use stealth to avoid the aliens or employ a variety of weapons and combat skills to take them out. But the biggest challenge is the process of slowly deciphering the mysteries of the station, the aliens' purpose, and whether the Morgan you once were is the same as the one you are now.
Is it any good?
This sci-fi-based shooter stands out with its emphasis on moral choices, exploratory freedom, and rich storytelling. Though it's technically a reimagining of the 2006 game Prey, veteran players are more likely to see the influences of iconic sci-fi adventures such as Deus Ex, System Shock, Dead Space, BioShock, and even Arkane Studios' own Dishonored. That's because this new Prey is all about playing the way you want to play. No two players are going to make the same key decisions about whether to help or doom the various people they meet or how to move around each of the station's maze-like environments. There aren't infinite endings to represent the nearly limitless permutations of player decisions, but the story plays out significantly differently depending on the overall tone of your choices. This process of making the story your own is half the fun of the game.
The other half comes in exploration and action. Deploying Morgan's weapons, tools, and many abilities -- slowly earned by collecting skill-infusing "neuromods" -- in creative ways to bypass obstacles (try using the glob-firing GLOO gun to create stairs to higher levels and bridges across gaps) and discovering secret codes to locked safes and rooms is rarely anything less than gratifying. It's clear the game was designed for this kind of deliberately paced exploration -- and it works great all the way up until near the end, when long load times between sections of the ship combined with too much backtracking start to put a damper on movement. Combat, meanwhile, follows an opposite evolution. It feels a bit sloppy at the start -- it can be very hard to track and hit enemies with standard weapons -- which may lead to some early frustration. But then it improves significantly once Morgan starts earning powerful area-of-effect psi abilities several hours into the experience. It's not perfect, but Prey's twisty, morally charged narrative and commitment to giving players a choice in how they play makes it an easy recommendation for fans of sophisticated interactive sci-fi storytelling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Clocking in at 30-plus hours, Prey is a pretty big game, but it lets you save anytime, anywhere, so have you considered breaking play sessions into timed chunks? Or setting specific limits, such as exploring a certain area of the station or completing a specific mission objective?
Talk about the nature of identity. What makes you you? If you lost some of your memories, would you still be who you were before you lost them? If you augmented your mind with technology so you could, say, play the piano better, would your new piano-playing skill really be yours?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bethesda Softworks
- Release date: May 5, 2017
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Topics: Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.