Prey is a first-person science-fiction thriller from the creators of Dishonored. Although bearing the same name as the 2006 game by Human Head Studios, this re-imagining is for all intents and purposes a new game, similar to the original by name only.
Following a stellar announcement trailer back in 2016, I have been looking forward to finally getting my hands on the game. Fortunately, I was recently invited to a hands-on preview event where I got to do just that. The preview involved two demos, one focusing on the story and the other on the gameplay. Long story short, I came away impressed with both.
Prey takes place in an alternative timeline to our own, one where humanity has furthered our space program and survived an alien invasion. Following the invasion, scientists have begun studying the alien forces, the Typhon, at a space station called Talos I. The research has led to the creation of human enhancing modifications, Neuromods. When injected, Neuromods can enhance a human’s abilities, even allowing them to develop special super-human powers.
You play as Morgan Yu, a volunteer to this research program. The first demo I played began at the start of the game. You wake up to the calm yet eerie female robotic voice pronouncing it is Monday, March 15. This isn’t just any day. This is the day you’re scheduled to come aboard Talos I. After getting out of bed, reading emails, and putting on your space suit, you are taken on a helicopter to a facility where you will undertake some tests prior to getting taken up into space.
I don’t want to spoil any surprises but things begin to quickly spiral out of control and the plot rapidly twists and turns. Before you know it, you find yourself trying to survive on a near-deserted space station with frightening aliens on the loose.
If this is sounding like a certain other popular game to you, you are not mistaken. The game bears a similar setting and gameplay tone to the surprisingly good 2014 horror game, Alien: Isolation. Prey isn’t Alien: Isolation though, in most respects it is vastly different. If anything, the game puts me more in the mind of Bioshock and Dishonored, with a more horror flavour.
The Typhons have a dark horror vibe in both their appearance and their attacks. During the demos I played, I found myself face to face with two main types of enemies, although it seemed likely there will be many others. The most common Typhon I encountered, aptly named Mimic, can transform into random objects in the world, enabling them to camouflage with the environment. While easy to take down, their number and ability to mimic made them a formidable foe. Their mimic ability introduced a constant sense of fear when moving about the world. I constantly found myself being paranoid whenever I saw two of the same objects next to each other.
The other main enemy type I encountered was the Phantom. Phantoms are roughly humanoid in shape and are a bit more deadly then Mimics. Their power enables them to launch a Kinetic blast at you and their look is something out of nightmares.
Despite dying a lot, I actually wished the game to be more difficult. I loved the transform ability of the Mimic however I felt that they didn’t utilise it enough. The majority of encounters I had with them, they weren’t transformed at all. They were just roaming the world. I actually found myself wanting to be unexpectedly ambushed by them. The Phantoms, although killing me a few times, were a bit too easy to take down. On a couple of occasions I was able to take them down without losing a single bit of health. This is one of those games which I believe will be more fun on harder difficulties.
Midway through the second demo I unlocked a bit of tech that allowed me to scan enemies. Scan enough of them and you unlock the ability to learn their powers. As you would imagine, the Typhon aren’t too keen on sitting still while you scan them. This means you must be strategic about how you approach scanning an enemy to avoid it becoming a fruitless suicidal endeavour.
It is worth it in the end though. The mimic ability is both hilariously fun to use and strangely useful. With it you are able to transform into objects to stealth past enemies, get to areas requiring a smaller fit and just have fun jumping and moving around as objects which logically cannot do such things.
I only used three different weapons in my demo: a pistol, a GLOO cannon and a wrench. The wrench was my main go to weapon, mostly because it didn’t use ammo and was good at close range which I often found myself in. I also just found it more fun to use than a pistol. Despite not using it too much as a weapon, the GLOO cannon was the most creative and versatile of the three and therefore was my favourite. As the name implies, the gun shoots out some sort of gluey liquid. Use it on an enemy and they will slow down and eventually they will become frozen in glue. Use it on a wall and you can create a platform to access places you otherwise couldn’t. Use it on environmental hazards to disable them.
Despite stating on the website that Prey is a “open space station game”, the sections I played seemed somewhat linear. This may be due to the demos taking place early on in the game or possibly just the sections I played. There was some openness to it. As you move through the world, there are numerous rooms and paths off to the side which you can explore however in the end I did feel that I was generally restricted in where I can go. The side paths I explored all tended just to be a temporary detour and not lead anywhere substantial. Exploring these paths was rewarding, often leading to the discovery of additional Neuromods you can use to upgrade your character or some additional items.
Prey is out next month on the 5th of of May 2017. If you want to try it out before then, a demo is releasing on the 27th of April with the first hour of gameplay. From the demos I played, Prey seems destined to be another hit release from the creators of Dishonored.