In anticipation of their adventurous sci-fi first-person shooter Prey being released May 5th for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, the good people at Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks held an event at the Andaz Hotel in Los Angeles where they gave local game journalists, myself included, a chance to play the first thirty, forty minutes of the game, and an opportunity to interview Ricardo Bare, the game’s lead designer [which you can read here]. What follows is my assessment of my brief time with the beginning of the game.
Suffice it to say, spoilers follow.
After deciding I wanted like to play the Prey demo as a girl and not a guy, I found myself waking up in an apartment in the year is 2032. My name is Morgan Yu, and after taking a call from my brother, Alex, I took the waiting helicopter on my building’s roof to the offices of TranStar, where scientists had me do a series of simple tasks, but then seemed to get annoyed when I completed them. And then one of them got attacked by his coffee mug, and in the resulting fracas, a gas was released, rendering me unconscious.
Waking up, I found I was back in my apartment. But instead of getting a call from my brother, I took one from someone called January, who instructed me to get out of my apartment by any means necessary. With all the doors locked, I grabbed a wrench to smash the window to my deck, thinking I could get out that way…only to find that I wasn’t in a deluxe apartment in the sky, but was instead inside an elaborate simulation. Looking around, I not only realized that my entire experience — the apartment, the helicopter ride, TranStar’s offices — were all part of the simulation, but also that no one was around, save for a dead and desiccated body.
And then, a coffee mug attacked me. Except it wasn’t a mug, it was an alien that had taken the look and shape of a mug. Called a Typhon Mimic, this alien normally looks like a spider made of wires, but can actually assume the exact shape and look of a coffee mug, or anything else it choses, and will be indistinguishable, at least to the naked eye, from the real thing. Though like a coffee mug, these aliens can be smashed with a wrench.
After wandering around and smashing some of these buggers, I eventually found another desiccated corpse. But this one had a weapon called a GLOO Cannon — Gelifoam Lattice Organism Obstructor — which shoots a goo that temporary freezes the aliens, though you still need to smash them with the wrench to kill them. As I learned first-hand.
This was also the part of the Prey demo where I learned that you can not only pick up apples and other food that will restore your heath, but also notes that may contain such important info as passwords (just make sure they’re not Mimics). I also picked up wires and tubes that may be used to fix items, which would explain why I came across a repair station (albeit one in need of repair itself) as well as an auto turret that wasn’t working anymore.
Or, to put it another way, this was also the part of the Prey demo where I learned that this game is going to be rather BioShock-ish and Dishonored-esque. They even seem to all share the same interior decorator.
Moving on, I made my way to what looked like the lobby of a fine hotel, save for the fact that the view was not of Sunset Boulevard but was instead of the moon, with Earth in the distance. Also, you don’t usually find shotguns in hotel lobbies. It was also then that my mysterious benefactor January instructed me to go to my office, where a video would help clear things up. But after fighting my way there, and watching the video — which I won’t spoil — I was told that I had reached the end of the demo.
If this demo is indicative of the finished game, then Prey has the potential to be a rather good sci-fi shooter. The controls are smooth and responsive, the aliens are clever and deadly, and the setting has promise. It kind of feels like a less scary, more action-oriented version of Dead Space 2 crossed with the perspective and adventurous aspects of Dishonored 2 and the BioShock games. The latter two are especially apt because, later in the game, you’ll gain some special abilities, including the Mimic’s skill at, well, mimicry.
That said, Prey does have a couple issues I hope they fix before the game comes out in a few months. First, the game does not allow you to look down the barrel of the gun for added accuracy. More annoyingly, while the GLOO Canon does freeze Mimics in place, you can’t then smash them with the butt of the gun like you can smash Nazis’ faces in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Instead, you have to switch to your wrench, an extra step that’s irritating and unnecessary.
It also didn’t help that, at least in the demo, ammo for the GLOO Canon and the shotgun were in short supply, and that the shotgun wasn’t especially powerful. Though I also wonder if the Mimics ever wait until you walk pass them before transforming back from a chair into their natural forms and attacking you, which would make this a lot more harrowing and interesting.
Still, as is, Prey shows a lot of promise. As I said, both the aliens and the setting have great potential, the controls are rock solid, and the story seems like it will set up some interesting encounters. I guess we’ll all find out when the game hits the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 5th.