‘Prey’ On PC – Solid Performance, But Developer Still Shows Disconnect With Players [Opinion]

Bethesda Press Site

Arkane Studios’ reboot of Prey hit PC and consoles this last week, and it hasn’t been without controversy. However, what gamers wanted to know, specifically PC gaming enthusiasts, was how the game would run. Coming off the heels of Dishonored 2, many users were concerned that Prey would not work properly – especially given the fact Prey is built on CRYENGINE, one of the more advanced engines used to make games.

Starting off, the PC settings for Prey are a little skinny. For a game running CRYENGINE, you’d expect more customization, especially when you look at games such as Ryse: Son of Rome and Crysis 3 as examples of robust menu options (Crysis 3 moreso than Ryse). However, it does make some sense that there would be less options than normal – given Prey’s setting, you needn’t include options for vegetation or overt draw distances. The options Prey does include, though does shed off some tweaking. You can set the Anisotropic Filtering to 16x (texture filtering) and you have options for anti-aliasing, going up to 2x SMAA (sub-pixel morphological anti-aliasing technique, used to soften the jagged edges in a digital image). However, it doesn’t exactly explain what the different settings do for you, as well as the performance hit you might expect by using one.

Prey's PC Performance Can Be Tied to The Lackluster Nature Of its Settings
[Image by Bethesda]Featured image credit: Prey Screenshot (Bethesda)

Other options include screen space direction occlusion and screen space reflections, which give lighting and shadows a more realistic look within a scene. And while it’s nice to see these options, there are some glaring omissions – one in particular that has PC players specifically expressing displeasure with Arkan Studios – a field of view slider. Prey is played from a first person perspective. As a result, some players may feel the default field of view is too narrow or close and need to tweak it in order to either widen the Fov for comfort, or simply to see more of the game world at a time. While doing so puts extra strain on your graphics card, most PC players have hardware powerful enough to support some widening. However, it’s missing from the options menu – and Arkane anticipated outcry at this omission. In anticipation, they released information on how to tweak this setting in a config file.

Via a post on Steam, Bethesda offered advice on how to tweak this setting, as well as reasoning as to why it’s missing currently in-game.

“FOV can be adjusted via a config file and will be accessible via the Options menu in a coming update. During the final phases of testing, we found some bugs we would like to address before officially supporting it, but we wanted you to be able to play with it now! See below for info.”

  • To enable FOV, edit the game.cfg file in notepad. The file is located in the root Prey folder in your Save Games folder (likely c:usersSaved GamesArkane StudiosPrey )

  • Look for cl_hfov = 85.5656

  • 85 is the default horizontal FOV setting, but it can be replaced with values up to 120. (Note – some of the issues we are working on are more noticeable with higher FOV.)

Performance-wise, Prey is definitely not a repeat of Dishonored 2, though PC players would not have known this prior to its release like console players did since there was no demo released on PC. The disconnect between the developers and the gaming public is most clearly shown here, especially in the reasoning given as to why there was no demo on the platform. Speaking with AusGamer, Arkane co-creative director Raphael Colantonio likened Steam Refunds to having demos already, stating that since Steam users can refund a title within two hours of play-time, “it’s like a demo already.”

Prey PC Performance Issues and Disconnect With Gamers
[Image by Bethesda]Featured image credit: Bethesda Press Site

What Colantonio is conveniently forgetting is two key aspects of a demo: financial stake and replayability. The idea of a demo is that you can try a game before you buy it. You can tweak settings, figure out if your system is going to run the title at an optimal performance setting, and see if the game is worth your time based on an initial vertical slice of the game. With a demo there is no financial stake up-front – it’s designed to inform your purchasing decision before the fact. Xbox and PlayStation users were able to do so with Prey, but what Colantonio is suggesting is that PC players pay for the demo upfront and refund as needed. That’s not a demo – that’s paying full price for a product and then exercising your consumer right to return the product within an acceptable window.

It is worth noting, however, again, Prey performs admirably on both AMD and Nvidia systems. Running it on two separate PCs, both with the latest drivers installed, I averaged at 1080p, max settings, about 130fps on my EVGA GTX 980 SC, and around 90 fps on my MSI Rx 580 cards. At 1440p both cards maintain above 60fps solidly. The mouse and keyboard controls feel great as well, though I’ve found myself playing this with my Xbox Elite controller on the AMD powered rig while on my couch. Visually, Prey is decent – neither bad nor is it cutting edge good. It is, however, one of the most thoroughly unimpressive CRYENGINE games I’ve seen, though. This is especially apparent when you compare footage of Prey today with the likes of Ryse: Son of Rome, which released in 2013 and uses an older version of CRYENGINE.

Prey is definitely not Dishonored 2, which is a step in the right direction, but with the performance gains, Arkane have taken a step back in terms of consumer relations. What Arkane needs to do is remember that all of their consumers deserve the same level of respect, which includes release parity if its a cross platform game. This includes the DLC and yes, demos. While they got the performance correct, which was key, Arkane and Bethesda are still showing a basic disconnect with the very consumers they rely on for revenue – a disconnect which needs to be remedied before it affects more than just consumer attitude and instead targets the bottom line.

[Featured Image by Bethesda]