Prey Hands-On Preview – GLOO Your Enemies (PS4)
Prey was officially announced as a franchise re-imagining at Bethesda’s press conference during E3 2016, but we’ve only seen glimpses of the game since then. We recently attended a special hands-on session of Prey at the Andaz Hotel in Hollywood, California, to experience the game firsthand. We’ve got some impressions ready for your perusal below.
In case you may have missed the news, the new Prey has nothing to do with the game from almost 11 years ago. According to Lead Designer Ricardo Bare, the only thing the two games have in common is that they are sci-fi first-person shooters. Beyond that, this was also a simple case of Arkane Studios having an idea for a game, and Bethesda willing to offer up the licensing for one of their under-utilized properties. Thus, we have Prey the reboot as opposed to Prey the sequel.
In Prey, you play as Morgan Yu, who has been tasked with running some experiments in a controlled environment. Naturally, things do not go as planned, and you are quickly put up against aliens known as Typhon. Everything is not as it seems, as the game’s intro makes abundantly clear. Who (or what) can you believe if you can’t even trust your own eyes? Is physical and mental prowess worth the loss of some of your humanity? These are just some of the questions posed by Prey, in a world gone wrong.
During our short time with the game, we were only shown a small portion of alien enemies. The Mimic is a tentacle beast of some sort, which can take the form of any object in its environment (hence its name). According to Arkane Studios, a unique feature of this enemy is that none of its behavior is scripted. Any time you enter a room, nearby Mimics will take on the form of a random object that it is nearby. If you’re lucky, you won’t trigger an interaction with the alien, but if you pick up the wrong coffee mug or attempt to sit in the wrong chair, you’ll be rudely interrupted as the Mimic attacks you.
Thankfully, you are not completely defenseless against these enemies. Early in the demo, I picked up a wrench, which quickly became the go-to melee weapon of choice. I also picked up a shotgun, but ammunition appeared to be limited at this point in the game. The much more useful GLOO cannon came shortly thereafter. The multi-purpose ammo used by this gun could be used to encase enemies for a few moments, opening them up to attacks, or to put out fires, or to create platforms against walls and other objects in order to navigate to otherwise out-of-reach locations on the space station. I have a feeling that this GLOO cannon is going to be as ubiquitous to Prey as the ASHPD became to Portal. There are many interesting possibilities for gameplay to be seen with this device.
Beyond the weapons and devices you’ll find, Morgan can also upgrade skills in three different categories. You will not be able to upgrade each category completely in a single playthrough, which appears to be a design decision to ensure the player is never overpowered. Neuromods are a form of enhancement created from the Typhon aliens, which grant you Psi abilities. A side effect of these enhancements is that your DNA becomes more alien-like as you take on more Psi abilities. At a certain tipping point, even the previously friendly turrets located throughout the space station will attack you on sight, as you no longer register as human. No doubt this will influence the game’s story and the way certain things may play out.
Prey is an open-world FPS. Once you make it through the mind-warping tutorial, you are free to move about the space station however you see fit. Of course, with an alien outbreak currently wreaking havoc, you’ll want to proceed with caution. As you explore the station, new objectives will be unlocked, and puzzles will present themselves as a natural extension of the environment. Strewn throughout the station are resources and plants to harvest resources from. At various points, there are recycling machines, which take your collected resources and turn them into resources to be used to upgrade weapons. While we only saw a small sampling of the station during our demo, it was evident that there were many rooms and corridors to unlock and explore.
Explore the Vacuum
A quick glance outside the space station led to an obvious question: could we ever leave the place? As confirmed by Mr. Bane of Arkane Studios, the area outside the space station will indeed be opened up once you reach a particular point in the story. So, that includes zero-g areas, and all the physics fun which that entails. Fighting aliens in space will no doubt present a unique challenge, and hopefully some interesting combat mechanics as well.
While some of the Arkane Studios staff was busy developing the excellent Dishonored 2, others were busy working on Prey. There is a coherent direction for this reboot, and it’s looking very promising. While Prey could be described as a mash-up between Half-Life 2, BioShock, Alien: Isolation, and even Portal, it somehow exudes a personality all its own. Prey is currently scheduled to release on May 5, 2017 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows platforms.