Prey Hands-On Preview
Prey, Arkane Studio’s new first-person shooter experience, may share the same name and IP as the 2006 original, but I can assure you a lot has changed in the more than decade-long gap between the two games. I was able to sit down with the game at an event put on by Besthesda Softworks in San Francisco and I came away from it with a very different idea of what the game is than what I had going in.
Prey’s history is lengthy, and somewhat complicated. After its release, the 2006 Prey was well received amongst critics and fans alike and a sequel seemed inevitable. Less than half a year later, that sequel had already been announced but then things went stagnant. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and eventually the IP was handed over to Bethesda, the minds behind such revered series’ as Fallout and Elder Scrolls. Enter 2017’s Prey, an entirely new game that has risen from the ashes of its previous incarnation.
“I went in expecting it to feel similar to Dishonored, but I was surprised to discover that Prey was more reminiscent of Fallout 4 than anything else.”
This isn’t to say that fans of the original Prey won’t find anything similar to the first game. The original IP is still in place, and their concepts aren’t too far off from one another. At this point, however, it is hard to tell how related the titles will be as a whole. As a game developed by Arkane studios, I went in expecting it to feel similar to Dishonored, but I was surprised to discover that Prey was more reminiscent of Fallout 4 than anything else. From the distinctive weapons, to the retro-futuristic level design, to the random loot scattered throughout the world and hidden on enemies, it’s clear Betheda’s influence on the game has been significant. That being said, Prey still feels like its own beast.
The segment I got to play was approximately three hours into the campaign, and at that point I got the sense most of the narrative setup was out of the way. You play as Morgan Yu, a scientist aboard the Talos-1 space station, a vessel designed as a prison and research facility for a hostile alien collective known as the Typhon. Sure enough, the Typhon escape confinement, all hell breaks lose, and you must fight against the alien horde in order to survive. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking concept, but in my playthrough I was introduced to a few characters and shown a brief-but-cryptic flashback that suggests there could be a complex story with a few mysteries and twists in store.
Prey’s gameplay is both visceral and versatile, and was a clear standout feature. The weapons are diverse and each has a distinct feel to it. I also appreciated the creative possibilities in combining certain weapons for destructive results. For instance, the GLOO Canon shoots out globs of an adhesive substance that stops enemies in their tracks, leaving them open to a devastating point-blank blast from a shotgun. All of the weapons can be switched on the fly, and I found myself using my entire arsenal I was given. On top of that, you also have access to superhuman like powers, such as telekinetic blasts or the ability to make time feel slower, thanks to a technology called “Neuromods.” The abilities can also be combined with the rest of your kit, allowing for even more freedom and inventiveness in combat. And of course, all of these ability and weapon can be upgraded and enhanced, allowing you to invest in the skillset you think you’ll utilize the most.
“Prey’s gameplay is both visceral and versatile, and was a clear standout feature.”
Another thing that stuck out for me was Prey’s setting. The entire game is supposed to take place in Talos-1, which has the potential to feel monotonous due its limited size and the fact that it’s just a hunk of metal floating in space. Thankfully though, each area I visited felt dramatically different from the next. There were the dark, metal corridors you’d expect to find on a space station overrun by a terrifying alien menace, but also some brighter sections filled with décor spanning many different styles. The game also looked quite nice, boasting an art style and some dramatic lighting that matched the tone of the game well.
The aliens you’ll be fighting in Prey are formidable and horrifying, sometimes appearing out of nowhere to ambush you. These are agile, relentless creatures and each battle was a challenge, even against some of the smaller foes. I only encountered a few types of enemies, but I’m assuming there will be a greater variety in the full game. If not, I believe the fights will still be enjoyable thanks to the impressive combat mechanics, but it could be disappointing if you essentially fight the same creature for the entirety of Prey’s duration.
I thought I had Prey all figured out before I actually got a chance to sit down with it, but after spending some time with it I realized it had a lot more tricks up its sleeve than I had anticipated. The mostly open world of Talos-1 impressed me with its connected, almost Metroid-like level design and the surprisingly deep combat and weapon mechanics promise to make your alien-hunting rampage that much more satisfying. With less than a month left before its release, Prey is shaping up to be one of the more unique and promising sci-fi shooters I’ve seen in a while.