Announced at E3 2016 as a reboot of the 2006 original, Prey burst back onto the gaming scene, and looks like it intends to make a big splash. The original Prey, which released on the Xbox 360 and PC back in 2006, was an interesting take on the then-current trend of shooters to say the least. While Call of Duty 2 was storming the battlefield, Prey was teleporting us to a distant planet, introducing mind bending gravity mechanics and an array of otherworldly weaponry. A sequel to Prey was originally announced at E3 in 2011, in a seeming departure from its original storyline, putting players into the shoes of a bounty hunter in a dystopian Blade Runner-like setting. While it seems intriguing in its own right, it was unfortunately scrapped and the property lay dormant for years. Enter the new Prey reboot.
Gamers were introduced to Morgan Yu, the main character or Prey, during a cinematic trailer shown during Bethesda’s most recent E3 press briefing. Morgan Yu seems to be of Asian descent, and can be played as either male or female, a great decision considering the recent push for protagonists that are anything but a white male.
Yu, the subject of an undisclosed experiment which will change the fate of humanity and its progression, wakes on the Talos 1 space station to find things are not as they may seem. Disoriented and dazed, you must scour the station and stop the newly created alien threat once and for all. It should be noted that Talos 1 is an open area full of hidden passageways and discoverable secrets. Arkane Studios, also the developers of the Dishonored series, have noted that open-ended areas allow for more choice in tackling situations, and this is no different here. While Arkane haven’t revealed how this open ended nature will carry the story, if the Dishonored series is anything to go by, we are in safe hands. President of Arkane Studios and creative director on Prey Raphael Colantonio and lead designer Ricardo Bare spoke in an eight minute gameplay demo saying “We love games that blend simulation and narration like Dishonored we do games you can play the way you want. Prey is another one of those games.”
While Talos 1 seems to be a derelict space station destroyed by its own ambition, its not without its beauty. Open areas hold stunning views of the expansive nature of space, reminding you that you are truly alone, and help may never be on its way. Bare likens the structure and feel of Talos 1 to the Empire State Building. The eight minute gameplay demo sees players searching for a scientist named Dr. Calvino. On the way, players are shown how the enemy aliens in the game have the ability to shape shift into everyday objects, only to leap out at you in the last possible second, testing not only your nerve but also your reflexes. The demo also highlights some of the technology the station is responsible for, such as the Neuromod. The Neuromod is a scope-like object which is (digustingly!) inserted directly into eye of the player’s avatar, a sequence that plays out in the game’s first person perspective. Once inserted, this device allows players to access the RPG layer of the game which contains upgrades that are both human and alien in nature. The detail of certain abilities was not outlined, but we later see that Morgan has the same ability as the enemy aliens, in that they can also morph into everyday objects. This is a handy tool for puzzle solving as Morgan comes across a locked door to a security booth, but instead of looking to unlock the door, takes the likeness of a coffee mug, rolling into the a small opening in the glass and once inside changing back to human form. It’s a clever take on not only puzzle solving, but traversal as the ability urges you to think outside the box.
Weapons are also present in the game, but are limited and rare. This is explained as Talos 1 is an experimental facility and the weapons stored here were for security use only. Sorry to disappoint you, but you may not find grenade launchers or crossbows as this is not seen as practical for the environment. However this is made up for in certain tools we are given. Upon picking up the Glue Gun, we are immediately shown its use as a multi-tool. Broken gas pipes spitting fire in a corridor seem to block your path, but with the Glue Gun you can plug those holes right up. You can also use the Glue Gun for traversal. Shoot it at a wall and as it hardens straight away, you can walk up your created path in order to access out of reach areas. Another interesting tool shown was the recycler charge. This tool seems like a grenade however when thrown, creates a vortex, sucking up objects in its radius and in turn clearing a path for you. Traditional combat while present, seems much more by the book. While the shotgun was the main weapon used for this particular demo, the ammo count seems to not present itself on the screen, but on the weapons themselves which is a further immerses the plate while relieving the clutter that some game HUDs are responsible for.
Traversal is further reinforced through zero g movement. Players can come across crafting systems call Fabricators, and in turn craft specific items. It is not yet know how much crafting will affect gameplay, but in this instance we are introduced to the Artax propulsion system, a tool that allows you to move about the outside ares of Talos 1. In this particular sequence as Morgan floats around space the sound deign is incredible, with the slight echo and heavy breathing within the helmet, complemented by eerie background music, further re enforcing the feeling that you are alone. Upon re entering the station, players come across a gigantic alien enemy, that you seem to have no hope against combating. As the demo ends here, I can’t help but feel satisfied, with a firm grasp of the game’s mechanics and overall tone, allowing open ended approaches to missions, encouraging orthodox traversal and puzzle solving, and ultimately making you feel alone.
In summary, Prey can be likened to titles like Bioshock, idyllic and idealistic surrounds giving way to a dystopic setting in which an unlikely hero must adapt in a desperate bid to survive. Arkane Studios look as though they are trying to create anything other than a simple minded shoot em’ up, and from the materials released so far it definitely seems like they’re on the right track.
Prey releases May 5, 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.