The die has been cast for the current generation of gaming - multi-platform games are built from the ground up with consoles in mind, with only limited gains when ported over to PC: higher frame-rates, larger resolutions and perhaps a 4K texture pack. But having spent a few days looking at the console and PC versions of Arkane Austin's Prey, one thing is clear - this title bucks the trend. The evidence strongly suggests that PC may well be the lead platform here, and the improvements are dramatic. For the full-fat Prey experience, PC is the only way to play.
Even core elements of the game's design seem to be built around the kind of high frame-rate experience that the consoles do not deliver. Key combat beats - battling the Mimics, specifically - are built around a twitch shooter mechanic that works best at 60fps or higher, and feels better still with mouse and keyboard. In terms of UI, Arkane offers PC users an enhanced interface which takes advantage of the classic keyboard/mouse combo. In addition, Prey offers native support for the Steam controller which works brilliantly here.
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Then there's the level of optimisation built into the PC version. As we discussed earlier this week, the ability to hit 1080p60 gameplay at decent settings on a budget-orientated gaming PC ensures that the feel of the game can remain a class above, even if you're using relatively meagre components. The higher frame-rate ensures a crisper response than the Xbox One version, and it feels dramatically better in every way to the PlayStation 4 game, which can feel laggy and lumpen by comparison. That was an issue we highlighted in our initial Prey demo report, and while Arkane has tweaked deadzones, the Sony platform's rendition of the game clearly needs further work.
The PC version also offers a more user-friendly experience all-round. With Prey installed to an SSD or even a slower mechanical drive, loading times are a mere fraction of what you get on consoles. Loading a new level on PC requires very little time - and this is important as the design of the game focuses on a large interconnected space station. You will be going back and forth between areas often and the rapid loading times on PC help make for a more pleasant experience all around. With loading times often crossing the one minute mark on consoles, this is significant.
The core Prey gameplay and content is still all present and correct on the consoles, of course, but one thing we would like to stress is that although the demo offers plenty of content and a good overview of the title's technological credentials, the full game simply takes things to the next level. It really is a great game, but there is the sense that the consoles are being sold short somewhat. Despite the retail packaging suggesting that PS4 Pro support is included, we could find no improvements whatsoever. The resolution remains identical, frame-rate is still locked to 30fps and even the lacklustre texture filtering is the same.
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The PC version benefits tremendously from higher pixel counts, better anti-aliasing and improved visuals so the fact that none of these pre-existing effects were rolled out for Pro owners is tremendously disappointing, and it's surprising that Sony would allow for a high-profile title to hit the market place touting support for the enhanced hardware when practically, there is none.