Prey - Preview
Studio: Arkane Studios
Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: 5th May 2017
A demo for one of the most anticipated games of the year? Don't mind if I do. Prey is a sci-fi action-adventure with clear horror elements, being developed by the fine people behind the Dishonored series, Arkane Studios, and it has a free demo. It allows players to play through the first hour of the game, and in case you're still deciding whether you purchase this new release, here's what I thought.
From the get-go, the soundtrack seems perfectly suited to Prey. It's dramatic, foreboding, and in times of combat (which is surprisingly tense) can be downright jarring. I mean that in a good way, in the same way that the soundtrack of It Follows, which I consider to be nothing short of perfect, is jarring. This is a good sign.
First, you choose whether you want to be male or female, and then wake to an alarm clock that tells you it's Monday, March 15th, 2032. You're in a sleek studio apartment overlooking a bright, futuristic skyline. Next to the bed is a gadget that works as a phone, along as your inventory, map, and so on. Once you pick it up, you're given the objective of getting dressed and heading to the roof to board a helicopter that's waiting for you. Of course, I explored the entire apartment first.
As is to be expected from the studio behind Dishonored, there are many interactive items dotted around. Some are resources like scrap wire that can be used to create and upgrade items later, whereas others, such as books and emails, give more insight into the world you are exploring. I messed around with everything, including flushing the toilet, of course. Then, it was time to fly.
I headed to the roof, greeted by one of the building's maintenance workers along the way, and boarded the helicopter. Once we lifted off, I recognised San Francisco landmarks - like the Golden Gate Bridge - and was greeted with another epic burst of music that lent something special to the journey from one rooftop to another. It all felt quite momentous in a way that I couldn't put my finger on. I was reminded of Half-Life. Maybe it was the high-tech suit I was wearing, and the fact that I met a guy, Alex - who turned out to be my brother - at the reception of a large testing facility called TranStar.
Fast-forward through a few tests that doubled as mini-tutorials, and things took a nasty turn. The lead scientist asked a member of his team for a coffee. Innocent enough. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wisp of black smoke. Something had happened. The scientist picked up a mug, of which there were now two on the table, remarked that it was empty, and then all hell broke loose. The mug change into an inky black creature which attacked him. My test chamber was gassed and I woke up back in my apartment. What followed was a fast-paced rollercoaster of confusion and intrigue, which I won't spoil because it's done to great effect.
Then, you're onto the meat and bones of the game. Exploring new surroundings, fighting off variations of aliens – known as Typhons – and progressing in a number of ways that are pretty much left up to you. Throughout much of my time with the demo, almost every turn was met by Prey's creepy alien fodder: Mimics.
Mimics, as their name suggests, can mimic any item in the environment. As a result, just walking around can feel extremely tense. At any moment, an innocent-looking chair, mug, or roll of toilet paper can morph into an aggressive blob of inky hostility. It meant that I tiptoed into each new area and tried to spot the telltale shimmer of a Mimic in disguise before truly searching, and even then I never managed to spot them before they attacked. It was time to upgrade.
Click images to enlarge.
In Prey, upgrading requires neuromods. If you've played Dishonored and remember 'Runes', you already understand the concept of these; collectables that can be used to gain and upgrade new skills. In Prey, these upgrades are injected into the eye with long needles (ouch!) and are separated into three categories: Scientist, focused on hacking and medical abilities; Engineer, aimed at improving your ability to fix and upgrade objects; and Security, which improves your combat abilities, such as health, stamina, speed and stealth. This gives players a variety of ways to approach their time within Prey, just as it did in the Dishonored titles. At some point, Typhon abilities also come into play – allowing you to use more otherworldly skills, such as mimicry or summoning fire – although I didn't find these in the opening hour.
What I did find, however, was a wrench, GLOO gun, and a handgun. Just like the good ol' days of Ratchet and Clank, your first weapon is a wrench. Using this weapon takes up stamina, either with quick hits or charged whacks, so aim well. Then came the GLOO gun (Gelifoam Lattice Organism Obstructor). This gun, which shot blobs of a quick-drying liquid, had multiple uses: it could stop enemies in their tracks for a short while, put out fires, conduct electricity, and be used as a platform to reach new areas. After that, I found a silenced handgun. It did the job, and enabled me to deal damage from afar, but I felt like holding the gun blocked up a good chunk of the screen. Although, it was great for lighting up explosives.
Using machines dotted around the environment, these weapons can be upgraded. It seems that you need a blueprint and the right parts to do so, which I did not, but the first blueprint I came across was a wrench upgrade. In my mind, I was already hoping I had enough nuts and bolts to upgrade... Wrong game.
Nearby was also a machine called a Recycler, which invited me to get rid of my unwanted items and turn them into resources that can be used to make upgrades. Being pretty fresh into the world of Prey, I didn't really have much to recycle, but I'm sure this machine is extremely useful in the full game. And, at present, I think that's a full game that I need to experience for myself.
Prey's first hour left an impression on me in the same way that the world of Dishonored did, if not more so. The opening reveal blew my mind, and finding out the reasons behind what is happening seems as exciting to me as exploring, trying out new skills and weapons, and having many options to work through the problems I'll face in my own way is always refreshing. It feels very much like Dishonored with a darker, sci-fi gloss, and I'm totally on board with that. Also, the soundtrack so far seems out of this world.
Prey was released on May 5th, just this past Friday, and if you're unsure about whether to give it a try, I'm hoping this preview will change your mind. Based on my hour playing the demo, it's not one to be missed. Please, play Prey.
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