Prey is an perfectly serviceable AAA-class, science-fiction survival thriller game. It’s a first-person shooter, a stealth adventure, and a surprisingly enjoyable platformer. The plot is all right. The art is iconoclastic and gorgeous. As is traditional for the genre, much of the storytelling transpires through the environment: emails, voice logs, and diorama. There are some lovely ethical questions, both abstract and reified. For some reason, these are the things that people talk about when they talk about Prey.
After all, Prey is a videogame, and gameplay, art direction, and story are how we read videogames as texts. But I’d like to step back for a moment and talk about Prey’s symbolic and thematic choices, which are absolutely fucking fascinating. Spoilers ahead.
Prey is a fantasy wrapped in a nightmare wrapped in a reverie. Like so many thrillers, it takes the device of a framing narrative and turns it inside out. We open in Morgan’s apartment, which we discover is a simulation: a laboratory to study her personality and abilities through Neuromods, and now, an iterative prison. Morgan lives each day over and over again, her memory reset to the injection of her first Neuromod. The laboratory envelops her in its idyllic dreaming. Around her, the world is collapsing.