Same, same -- but different.
The folks over at Arkane Studios have been quite busy — they released Dishonored 2 in November last year, receiving high praise from critics around the world. Arkane also has another team working on Prey, a re-imagining of a previous title that heads to PC and consoles this May. Last week, I was given the chance to play through the first 40 minutes, and although much of what I played did feel very familiar, you can’t deny that Prey is oozing with a great atmosphere and a world that seems really interesting to explore.
In Prey you take control of a character called Morgan Yu, who wakes up in his or her apartment to a buzzing alarm clock; you’re told the date is Monday, March 15th, 2032. You quickly receive an incoming call from Alex Yu, who advises that a helicopter is on the way to pick you up. The apartment you’re in has a bunch of objects you can interact with, search, or even pick up. On the desk nearby is a computer workstation with some emails you can read; next to it is a pizza box that I grab and toss half way across the room. After spending a few more minutes rummaging around the apartment, I leave through the front door and head towards the elevator; on the roof, I find the helicopter waiting.
After getting in the chopper, it takes off into the air and begins to fly through the city. I’m greeted to the title card “Bethesda Softworks Presents” at this time, plastered on the side of the building as I look around. The intro credits begin to be displayed throughout the world, and as I land at my final destination the text Prey greets me on the side of the helicopter pad before the doors open to let me out.
As I walk into the elevator I’m asked to confirm that I have an appointment in the testing facility. As I hit a button and the elevator begins to descend, I realised I’m not really knowing what I’ve just agreed to. When the doors reopen, Alex Yu is waiting; he acknowledges that the, “tests might seem a little unconventional… but it’s a Yu family tradition.” Ominous. As I proceed into the next room a group of people wearing white laboratory coats are staring at me from the other side of a glass window. They blurt out a few instructions and I continue to do what they ask; they seem to get more and more confused with each result.
While performing one of the tasks, one of the scientists grabs a cup of coffee on the desk, strangely empty. Suddenly, the cup transforms into this black spider-like creature; it pounces onto the scientists face. The people surrounding him start yelling for security and the room you’re in slowly fills with a gas substance as your vision starts to darken and gunshots ring off in the background. The screen fades to black but Morgan is quickly awoken by a familiar sound — the alarm clock. You’re told the date is Monday, March 15th, 2032. You open your eyes, somehow back in your apartment.
Prey has a great opening; it’s mysterious and really throws you head-first into its world, leaving you wanting to know more about what’s going on. You can definitely see that Prey takes its influences from other games like System Shock 2, BioShock and Deus Ex. As you delve deeper, you’ll find various tools and weapons that you can use, though you’re limited in how much stuff you can carry according to the space available within your inventory. This mechanic definitely lends itself to survival, forcing you to think long and hard about the gear you’re going to take with you. A unique weapon you receive early on is called the GLOO Cannon. It sticks to surfaces creating a platform which you can use to leverage yourself on to, and can alternatively be fired at enemies to stop them from being able to move – to be then followed up with a good swing of a wrench, of course.
The main enemies that encountered were the Mimics. They are shape-shifting creatures that can disguise themselves as objects throughout the environment. They add a great deal of tension as they can leap out at you from just about anywhere; I found myself at times just shooting random objects just to be safe. It’s an interesting design that I’ve seen in some indie online multiplayer games, but I’ve not come across anything like that in a AAA title before.
Like games such as Deus Ex, you can approach Prey in a way that you want to play it. There are multiple ways to access certain areas. Rather than finding a keycard to grant you security past a door, you can instead jump up to an open vent nearby to bypass the door altogether. Prey also features a few upgrade system that allows you to enhance your abilities; for example, allowing you to lift heavy objects in the world, upgrading your hacking skills or even a range of alien abilities which were locked off. Morgan can also upgrade weapons by modifying their properties like the amount of time it takes to reload or how much ammo the weapon consumes per shot fired.
I had a small play around with a crafting system where you can basically grab items from your inventory — including junk – and throw them into a giant trash compactor that spits out these material cubes which you can use to create other items with. There seems to be a lot going on in Prey, but at the same time most of the game I’ve seen so far does feel very familiar as it draws its inspiration from other blockbuster titles. I’m hoping that as the game progresses you’ll start to see some more unique mechanics and experiences, similar to what Arkane has done with the Dishonored series, or even the Mimic enemies in this. I’m definitely excited to play more of Prey once it’s released, because what Arkane has shown so far has definitely made me want to learn more of its story.
During my playthrough, I did encounter some instances where there were noticeable frame rate drops. This not only occurred during gameplay moments where there was some action happening on the screen, but also when venturing into a new areas and when creating checkpoint saves. While it’s possible that the PCs used were not up to specs for the preview, this is still something to be cautious of and report upon. Despite assurances, we currently don’t know what Prey’s system requirements are, and due to Bethesda’s policy on reviews, we will not be able to confirm this issue doesn’t exist in the final released product until after Prey’s launch.
Prey heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 5 May. We’ve also previewed it from Arkane’s Texas-based studio.