February 17, 2017 by Eddie Stock
Originally developed as a spiritual successor to System Shock, Arkane’s devs made it clear to us at a recent press event that the upcoming Prey “reboot” will have nothing to do with 2006’s Prey or the now-canceled sequel, Prey 2. A decision that’s sure to be good news for some gamers while bad for others who loved the original alien bounty hunter concept.
We got to play over an hour of the new sci-fi shooter, and while it’s going to take a little more time to fully get over the cancellation of Prey 2, there were some pretty shocking twists within the first 10 minutes of Prey that had us locked in right away. Be forewarned: the game’s first big twist is explained in full detail below.
Based on the initial character selection, Arkane’s new take on Prey begins as you wake up as a male or female version of Morgan Yu. Everything seems awesome as you peer out of your luxurious apartment’s balcony onto a beautiful sunny San Francisco Bay skyline. But aside from it being your first day on a mysterious new job in 2032, not much else is revealed right away.
Like Arkane’s Dishonored series, exploration is key is Prey. In Morgan’s apartment, you’ll be able to log into his or her computer terminal to check emails and try to get a better understanding of what’s going on. Other interactive items such as computer parts, tubes, and remotes can be picked up and thrown or stashed within an inventory system for later crafting use.
As you make your way out of the apartment, a maintenance worker points you in the direction of a rooftop helicopter that’s ready to whisk you away. Once a sleek opening credits sequence plays over the city, you arrive at your destination. Inside a secure lab, you’re greeted by a man seeming to be your relative, Alex Yu, who sends you into a testing room to determine your skills and personality.
But just as you begin settling into the intro tutorial/evaluation, one of the researchers on the other side of the glass is attacked by a morphing spider-like monster. Before you can run yourself, gas pours into the room and knocks you out. When you wake up, you’re back in bed… repeating the same exact process you just did to start your day when the game began.
Things start to get crazier when you check your email again to find new messages warning you to “Get out now!” Quickly exiting the apartment reveals that the walls of the hallway have been reconfigured and the maintenance worker is now lying dead on the floor. The stairwells can no longer be accessed, and you’re trapped with no way out… that is, until you take the dead worker’s wrench and realize that breaking the glass door on your apartment’s balcony leads out into the very same lab you were just being tested in.
After breaking out of the lab experiment, it’s revealed that most of events you just experienced weren’t real, and you’ve been under full surveillance the whole time. The apartment is just an elaborate set with moving pieces, the helicopter was just a motion simulated ride, and you’re not even on Earth and rather a neo-deco futuristic space station known as Talos 1.
To make matters worse, the Talos 1 station has been overrun by these spider-like monsters, referred to as Typhons, which can mimic the objects around them and have multiplied at a rate faster than the humans can stop them.
And this is where the game really begins as you enter the main TranStar company’s lobby on Talos with a new primary objective and all sorts of different optional objectives available to play your own way.
Unlike Dishonored, Prey’s multi-tiered space station level design was teased by Arkane as having an open Metroidvania style that will have you returning to areas both inside and out of the space station.
First equipped with only a wrench to take out mimics in your initial encounters, you quickly find a GLOO (Gelifoam Lattice Organism Obstructor) Cannon that hurls giant blobs which freeze objects on contact – a feature that can also cleverly be used to create vertical stepping stones to access otherwise unreachable areas.
But even after gaining access to new more powerful weapons, there was still a high level of tension due to the combination of weapons not feeling too overpowered and mimics requiring unique tactics to take them down. With shotgun ammo being limited and the GLOO cannon only freezing enemies for a few seconds, I found myself constantly having to go back to my trusty wrench to finish off foes.
What helps the atmosphere create even more suspense is the way in which the Typhons can mimic random objects that other games have trained you to think are safe to interact with.
At first, you’ll want to run through new areas looting everything you can pick up to throw into the game’s crafting/recycling system, but after having something you thought you could quickly grab end up transforming into a monster that jumps in your face, you’ll be second-guessing every item you come across and every move you make.
One of the best aspects of Arkane’s Dishonored franchise was how realistic each area of the game felt. With almost nothing off limits in terms of what you could do, Dishonored‘s crazy chain reaction kills were worth taking your time to precisely setup up each and every time.
I found myself doing the exact same thing in Prey — sometimes not even focusing on objectives and instead simply playing with the physics-based engine.
Every fight you have plays out different based on how you choose to use the environment around you to create epic takedowns and hilarious unexpected ways to kill enemies.
At one point, I tried to chuck a gas canister at a mimic and shoot it midair to BBQ the alien… but my shotgun’s spray accidentally hit the glass floor first, causing both the mimic and the canister to fall through the glass and explode on contact with the ground two stories below.
Such random physics combined with a BioShock-inspired plasmid-like “neuromod” upgrade system are sure to make for good times. Especially with Arkane teasing mimic abilities being unlockable at later stages in the game.
The version we played was on a high-end PC, and while Arkane has switched to the CryEngine after Dishonored 2’s engine had performance issues on PC, there were still a few technical hiccups we noticed. Considering Prey will be a single-player-only 16-20 hour experience, we’re hoping the team will have enough time to get everything running smoothly on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One by the time the game launches on May 5, 2017.