Arkane brings its im­mer­sive-sim know-how to space


PC, PS4, Xbox One

Prey’s lead de­signer, Ri­cardo Bare, is clear about his up­com­ing game’s re­la­tion­ship to the 2006 first­per­son shooter of the same name: there is none. “In terms of a high­level con­cept, it’s aliens on a space sta­tion – sur­vival stuff,” he says. “But there’s no fic­tional or uni­verse con­nec­tion.” This isn’t a re­boot or re­make, and it cer­tainly hasn’t any­thing to do with Hu­man Head’s now­can­celled Prey 2, which was about a bounty hunter on an alien planet. No, Arkane Stu­dios wanted to make a sci-fi game, and Bethesda hap­pened to own the name to a sci-fi se­ries. Square peg, meet square hole.

What­ever the in­ter­nal pol­i­tics be­hind Prey 2’ s can­cel­la­tion and Arkane’s ac­qui­si­tion of the name, the key point re­mains: Arkane Stu­dios is mak­ing a sci-fi im­mer­sive sim. That’s an ex­cit­ing prospect given the stu­dio’s cal­i­bre at forg­ing open-ended sys­temic play­grounds. “Arkane spe­cialises in one kind of game,” Bare says. “We make first­per­son im­mer­sive sims. Games with depth.” The Prey team has the cre­den­tials to back up that claim. Bare got his break at Ion Storm, as a de­signer on Deus Ex. Prey’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, Raphael Colan­to­nio, is Arkane’s CEO, and has had a key role in all of the stu­dio’s games, in­clud­ing Arx Fatalis, Dark Mes­siah Of Might And Magic and Dis­hon­ored.

All great im­mer­sive sims build on the con­cepts and sys­tems of what came be­fore. With Prey, Arkane is chan­nelling Sys­tem Shock. “Play­ers take on the role of Mor­gan Yu,” says Bare, who also re­veals that play­ers will be able to se­lect Yu’s gen­der at the start of the game. “When you emerge onto the space sta­tion, it’s just mo­ments af­ter the dis­as­ter has hap­pened. Most of the peo­ple are dead, and the aliens are run­ning around and tak­ing

over. They’re up to some­thing. You don’t know what, and you don’t know why you’re on the sta­tion, how you got there or what the hell is go­ing on.” Yu’s first job will be to fig­ure these things out, be­fore ul­ti­mately work­ing out how to es­cape.

The space sta­tion, Ta­los-1, is in­volved in hu­man ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, and that re­search will be avail­able to Yu. It would be a poor im­mer­sive sim that didn’t let you up­grade strength to carry large crates and items, and here such en­hance­ments are avail­able through the Neu­ro­mods that Yu in­jects into his (or her) eye. Prey then goes a step fur­ther, let­ting you scan the shad­owy alien pres­ence to learn and utilise their own strange pow­ers.

In an off-stream pre­sen­ta­tion at QuakeCon, the au­di­ence is shown one of those pow­ers: the abil­ity to trans­form into an ob­ject. In the demo, Yu passes through a se­cu­rity win­dow by mim­ick­ing a mug and rolling through. It’s an amus­ing mo­ment, at odds with Prey’s oth­er­wise dark tone. “The tone is grounded and se­ri­ous, mostly,” says Colan­to­nio, “and then there are, as with any of our games, a few lit­tle notes – a few funny lit­tle things. But the mug thing is funny be­cause the player makes it funny, right? The power it­self is that you turn into an ob­ject. If you bounce around as a cup, it might look funny, but, hey, you did it.”

The power needn’t be so pas­sive. Yu could in­stead trans­form into a tur­ret to gun down ap­proach­ing aliens. Sim­i­larly, though, the aliens might be­come unas­sum­ing pieces of fur­ni­ture, wait­ing for you to pass in or­der to set up an am­bush. “We wanted to have some­thing that wasn’t your typ­i­cal two or three archetypes of aliens,” Colan­to­nio ex­plains. “It took a while to re­ally de­fine what they were, and so we went with these para­nor­mal, sonic, ghostly fig­ures that morph into things.”

“Their abil­ity to im­i­tate ob­jects is not driven by a level de­signer’s script­ing,” Bare con­tin­ues. “We have some scenes like that at the be­gin­ning be­cause we’re teach­ing you the game, but it’s just some­thing that the aliens have as a be­hav­iour. When they walk into a room they go, ‘OK, there are 20 physics ob­jects in this room that are on my list of things I can turn into… Oh, god, the player’s com­ing – hide’, and they just pick one. Even we on the team are sur­prised when we’re just run­ning the map. We’re not sure which thing is the Mimic un­til we shoot it.”

Such ac­tion may lead to silli­ness on par with Garry’s Mod’s PropHunt, or Dark Souls’ mul­ti­player trolling, but it also means an emer­gent and sur­pris­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In other words, it’s the per­fect set of sys­tems for a new Arkane game.

The aliens might be­come pieces of fur­ni­ture, wait­ing in or­der to set up an am­bush

The space sta­tion will be com­pletely open for ex­plo­ration. “It’s like one big fa­cil­ity,” Bare says, “and some­times you can go into an area and get your ass handed to you”

Ri­cardo Bare, lead de­signer of Prey

TOP LEFT You’ll meet bands of sur­vivors through­out Ta­los-1. “The way that you treat them has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the end of the game,” Bare says, promis­ing mul­ti­ple con­clu­sions.

ABOVE Weapons will be scarce in Prey, but not be­cause Arkane is in­ter­ested in mak­ing a sur­vival hor­ror. Rather, it forces the player to ex­per­i­ment with Yu’s full suite of tools and pow­ers

Dis­hon­ored’s de­sign di­rec­tor, Vik­tor Antonov, con­sulted on

Prey’s de­sign, help­ing the team craft the back­story with an eye to how the world’s past would af­fect its present visual style

Yu is able to col­lect re­sources to use a fab­ri­ca­tor sta­tion that al­lows him to craft a Zero-G pack, along with many other items

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