Prey

DE­VEL­OPER Arkane Stu­dios / PUB­LISHER Bethesda / WEB­SITE https://prey.bethesda.net

Custom PC - - CONTENTS - RICK LANE

There can be no ques­tion now, Arkane Stu­dios as­pires to be a modern-day Look­ing Glass. Where Dis­hon­ored was Arkane’s reimag­in­ing of Thief, Prey is the stu­dio’s rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the almighty Sys­tem Shock. It’s a sci-fi hor­ror RPG with open-ended level de­sign, deep emer­gent sys­tems and a fear­some alien men­ace. Like Sys­tem Shock, it’s in­tim­i­dat­ing and, at times, un­for­giv­ing, but learn­ing to mas­ter its com­plex and dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ment is re­ally sat­is­fy­ing.

For­get the 2006 shooter of the same name; aside from fea­tur­ing aliens, Arkane’s Prey has noth­ing to do with it. In­stead, Prey is set aboard the space sta­tion Ta­los 1, which or­bits the moon in the year 2032. Built by the TranS­tar cor­po­ra­tion, Ta­los 1 is the cen­tre for TranS­tar’s ad­vanced and quasi-le­gal sci­en­tific re­search. You play Mor­gan Yu, a sci­en­tist aboard the sta­tion who awakes to find it over­run by a strange and hos­tile alien species known as the Typhon, and you’re given a sim­ple task. To save Earth, you must de­stroy the sta­tion, along with ev­ery­one and every­thing in­side it.

As with Dis­hon­ored, the star of Prey is Arkane’s majestic en­vi­ron­ment de­sign. Ta­los 1 is a beau­ti­ful fu­sion of fu­tur­is­tic tech­nol­ogy and art deco ar­chi­tec­ture, a place where gleam­ing sci­en­tific lab­o­ra­to­ries sit along­side wood-pan­elled of­fices and lav­ish liv­ing quar­ters. Visu­ally, it re­sem­bles a blend of Dis­hon­ored and BioShock, where glit­ter­ing op­u­lence and colour­ful car­i­ca­ture meet with dark and grisly hor­ror.

While Prey may look like a merg­ing of these games, though, it’s struc­turally much closer to the com­plex and open level lay­outs of Sys­tem Shock. In fact, it goes even fur­ther. The sta­tion is struc­tured as one giant level, and although dif­fer­ent ar­eas are sep­a­rated by load­ing screens, you’re given a re­mark­able amount of free­dom to ex­plore. Some star lo­ca­tions in­clude Psy­chotrop­ics, where the core of the sta­tion’s re­search is per­formed; the mind-bend­ing G.U.T.S, a gi­gan­tic Zero-G tun­nel used for cargo stor­age; and the sprawl­ing Life Sup­port deck, which houses many cru­cial sta­tion sys­tems, in­clud­ing a mas­sive nu­clear re­ac­tor. You can even ex­plore out­side the sta­tion in its en­tirety, us­ing your space­suit’s propul­sion sys­tem to move through its su­per­struc­ture, ex­plor­ing dam­aged ar­eas that have been sealed off from the vac­uum.

Dur­ing your trav­els, you’ll en­counter many locked rooms and blocked pas­sages, but they aren’t placed to fun­nel you along a spe­cific path.

Rather, the de­vel­op­ers want you to fig­ure out how to get in­side for your­self. That’s the great­est joy of Prey; learn­ing and dis­cov­er­ing how to over­come the many ob­sta­cles in your path.

A locked room could be over­come by seek­ing out a key­card or door code, hacking the door’s ter­mi­nal or sim­ply smash­ing the win­dow with your wrench.

Al­ter­na­tively, you could adapt some of Prey’s more in­no­va­tive me­chan­ics to cre­ate your own so­lu­tion. For

ex­am­ple, you could use your GLOO can­non (imag­ine weaponised ex­pand-o-foam) to con­struct a stair­way up to a gantry or main­te­nance shaft, and drop into the room from there.

Prey lets you dis­cover the sta­tion for your­self, but wher­ever you go in Ta­los 1, you must con­tend with the Typhon. These black, semi-fluid aliens come in var­i­ous forms. Mim­ics are per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing en­emy; spi­der-es­que crea­tures that can dis­guise them­selves as any ob­ject in the game word, lead­ing to some spooky hide-and­seek en­coun­ters as you at­tempt to fig­ure out which of the three chairs in a room will try to eat your face. Phan­toms, mean­while, are hu­manoid in form, but can tele­port around a room and at­tack us­ing var­i­ous el­e­men­tal ef­fects.

Fight­ing the Typhon isn’t as fun as bat­tling guards in Dis­hon­ored though. Prey’s com­bat is fast-paced, chaotic and fiercely chal­leng­ing, putting you in a much weaker start­ing po­si­tion than Arkane’s pre­vi­ous games. Mor­gan isn’t a nat­u­ral fighter, and at­tack­ing more pow­er­ful en­e­mies head-on will lead to a speedy demise. To gain the up­per hand, you must dis­able your en­e­mies first, per­haps us­ing the GLOO can­non to hold them in place, or re­mov­ing their psy­chic abil­i­ties with a Null­wave Trans­mit­ter grenade.

Later in the game, you can use the Typhon’s pow­ers against them, mim­ick­ing ob­jects to slip past them un­no­ticed, or us­ing dev­as­tat­ing pow­ers such as Psy­choshock or Elec­tro­static Burst to dam­age and dis­able them si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Be warned though; un­lock­ing new alien pow­ers will turn the sta­tion’s se­cu­rity sys­tems against you, and at­tract the at­ten­tion of the most pow­er­ful Typhon of all. The Night­mare ap­pears ran­domly through­out the sta­tion, and can kill you in a sin­gle blow. For the most part, you have to evade this tow­er­ing mon­stros­ity, although you’ll gain an im­mense sense of achieve­ment if you can over­come it.

Com­bat isn’t Prey’s strong­est as­set, but for­tu­nately, it isn’t the game’s sole fo­cus. There’s plenty to keep you oc­cu­pied, such as in­ves­ti­gat­ing side-quests and track­ing down miss­ing per­son­nel be­fore guid­ing them to safety. Even the craft­ing sys­tem is beau­ti­fully de­signed. It’s a twostage process that in­volves re­cy­cling game-world junk into ma­te­rial cubes, and then us­ing those cubes to craft items at a fab­ri­ca­tion sta­tion.

It’s a slick and highly phys­i­cal sys­tem – the re­cy­clers are par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing, hulk­ing ma­chines that trans­fer your items through an en­ergy beam and shower out the cubes from a fun­nel at the other end. Through this sys­tem, its de­vi­ous Mim­ics and var­i­ous other me­chan­ics, Prey does a su­perb job of us­ing in-game ob­jects for more than dec­o­ra­tion.

That said, there are some is­sues. While the dif­fi­cult com­bat is a core part of the game, a few en­e­mies are sim­ply frus­trat­ing to fight. There are sev­eral float­ing en­e­mies in the game, such as Telepaths and Weavers, both of which have an an­noy­ing ten­dency to fly off be­yond your reach if you dis­able their pow­ers.

The very worst en­e­mies, how­ever, are the cys­toids – balls of ra­dioac­tive pus that track your po­si­tion and det­o­nate when they be­come near you. They tend to at­tack in clus­ters, of­ten sneak­ing up be­hind you while you’re fight­ing some­thing else. Frankly, the game would be bet­ter with­out them.

Mean­while, Prey’s story is an in­ter­est­ing tale about mem­ory loss, iden­tity and de­cid­ing what kind of per­son you want to be. It’s a sub­tle and cere­bral fic­tion, with no clear he­roes or vil­lains (aside from the Typhon), and some gen­uinely thought-pro­vok­ing eth­i­cal quan­daries. How­ever, the game’s open-ended na­ture means the story comes at you from odd an­gles, and can feel un­evenly dis­trib­uted. Char­ac­ters are also kept at arm’s length, which means you don’t re­ally get to know them, so some de­ci­sions don’t have the emo­tional im­pact they per­haps should.

Ul­ti­mately, Prey is a colder and more cal­cu­lat­ing game than Dis­hon­ored. It doesn’t pos­sess the same ebul­lience of char­ac­ter, and asks con­sid­er­ably more of the player to en­joy it. That said, it’s also more am­bi­tious in scope and ul­ti­mately more re­ward­ing. Ta­los 1 may not yield its se­crets eas­ily, but those se­crets are un­doubt­edly worth pur­su­ing. Mas­ter­ing this im­pos­ing sci-fi space game is an ex­pe­ri­ence that will stay with you for years to come.

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