Pr e y
Hands-on with the first hour of Arkane’s FPS
I’m Morgan Yu. It’s my first day on the job with the TranStar research crew. Before work, I take a breezy helicopter ride over what appears to be a nearfuture San Francisco. A thumping synth track plays in the background. It’s pleasant, really. I’m meeting some people from Human Resources to run a few innocuous tests. Totally normal. Within a few minutes, I’m in Talos 1, a space station (yes, in space) smashing sentient alien spiders made of black goo with a wrench. How you get there and why is a clever reveal that’s better experienced firsthand, but you can watch the first hour at www.youtube.com/pcgamer. You can’t really trust yourself. Shit gets weird. Try to stay cool. Smash aliens.
In the most self-aware change for a BioShocky immersive sim, the very trashcans you typically root through to eat hundreds of candy bars might spring to life and eat you. It’s been talked about before, but rarely experienced firsthand. Mimics, one of Prey’s early enemies, can morph into any static object at will.
With enemies like Mimics, Prey establishes an omnipresent tension that encourages improvisational play. If any garbage can or book or agave plant has the potential to be a deadly sentient monster, then there won’t be much time to react. With all the systems promised – hacking, shooting, super strength, and more – at your disposal, being hunted actually sounds like a pretty good time. But in the first hour, Mimics still behave
Will I still panic with access to superpowers and piles of guns?
like fairly predictable videogame enemies. Most of the time, Mimics just skittered off, turned into objects, and then turned back whenever I got within a few yards. I hope to see more erratic behaviour from them, maybe even staying in object form while I pick up and read a book, or never leaving object form until I leave the room and hear them skittering around behind the door.
The AI may not be as advanced as I imagined, but stressful combat nearly makes up for it. Ammo is scarce early on and a single Phantom, the tougher bipedal monsters, required almost everything I had to take down. I’m curious how it plays with all the powers, security systems and advanced creatures thrown in together. Will I still feel horror and panic with access to superpowers and piles of guns?
Weapons have a nice heft and gorgeous models. The shotgun in particular may go down as a classic. But besides my shotgun lust, what really stuck with me was something a bit more old fashioned: Prey’s level design gave me serious
Metroid vibes. After the linear intro bits play out, you’re dumped into a massive lobby where you can wander off in any direction.
There are signs of what I might be able to do everywhere. Heavy objects have strength requirements to pick up, drones and security require high-level hacking, and the few weapons I had felt bare, missing all the mods and ammo I’d want to synthesise down the line.
The potential toolset and markers in the level design indicate that returning to areas regularly with new powers in tow is expected, as you might be able to slide through tiny crevices as an object or hack security systems that were impenetrable before. Eventually, you can even traverse the entire outside surface of Talos 1, which
Prey writer Ricardo Bare compared to the “woods of Skyrim” in that it’s a vast, dangerous membrane connecting disparate parts of the station together.
I didn’t get to see the hull myself, but it’s a promising concept, one that completes the illusion of Talos 1 as a real place with logical design and not just some complex arrangement of tunnels and doors hanging in a void.
In Prey, what you see isn’t always what you get.
I can see my house from here.