Pr e y

Hands-on with the first hour of Arkane’s FPS

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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 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?

Get lost

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.

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