[VIDEO] The first hour of Prey: Pulp sci-fi with notes of Bioshock and Deus Ex
The new Prey has Arkane's fingerprints all over it but we need to see more before we're totally sold.
When the new Prey was first announced at E3 2016, we were firstly excited to see that four letter word appear on screen and secondly interested to see new rights-holders Bethesda hand the reins over to Dishonored 2 developer Arkane. One thing we were curious about was the complete shift from the franchise's roots and whether 2017's Prey would honour the original's legacy.
After spending an hour with the new Prey, we're still not exactly sure how (if at all) it ties in with the original. What we do know is that this game has Arkane written all over it and whether it's linked to the original or not, Prey is looking like an exciting psychological thriller with notes of Bioshock and Deus Ex.
Our hour with Prey kicked off at the very beginning of the game. It opens in the futuristic apartment of protagonist Morgan Yu (we chose the lady variant for our first play-through). We're awakened by a voicemail message from Alex Yu, the protagonist's father, who instructs us to head over to the lab for testing. Already the vibe is ominous, despite the spotless bedroom and serene view. We spot a fancy looking bottle of wine and take a swig (no time like present, right?).
Ingrained with a weird compulsion (blame Dishonored), we proceed to interact with every inch of space in Morgan's apartment with the fear of missing out on a secret lever or loot stash. What we found was a Yu family photograph, Morgan's personal computer (with some emails further hinting at Morgan's testing) and some metal scraps and wire that will assumedly be used for crafting later on.
After that we proceed to a helicopter which transports us across a stunning city skyline as the intro credits roll and a pulp sci-fi synth number plays (courtesy of DOOM composer and Aussie Mick Gordon). At this point, I'm sold.
Eventually the chopper lands atop the research facility and we're introduced to Alex, Morgan's father and apparent mentor. He apologises for the menial testing ahead and leads you into a sterile white room that faces three sinister-looking characters who run you through several basic tests (basic movement and control tutorials). The researchers on the other side of the glass seem somewhat perturbed at your very standard reactions to the tests at hand. At one point you're asked to hide somewhere in a room with nothing but a chair. Naturally, we crouch behind the chair, hoping to appease our onlookers, to which one scientist remarks "Is she... She is hiding behind the chair". I had a good chuckle. Hiding behind a chair was ridiculous, I know, but what else was expected of me? This and the events that followed suggest there's something Morgan has either forgotten or isn't privy to in the first place. An interesting and hilarious way to handle the amnesiac hero trope.
The introduction to the folks at the research lab ends with something slightly horrific and we end up transported back to Morgan's apartment, ready to chug another bottle of wine and seize the day. The exact same day that is. Yes, it becomes apparent rather quickly that not everything is as it seems at the research lab and as the curtain is pulled back we begin to discover that Morgan's ostensible high-rise life may be more superficial than her choice of decor and before you know it, we're headed back to the research lab with the help of a mysterious voice on other end of the line.
Finally we get to see Talos 1, the sprawling space station where Prey takes place. Here we acquire some weapons, like a wrench for melee attacks, a standard shotgun and the GLOO gun, a utility weapon that allows you to freeze enemies solid and create platforms to scale. This was my first taste of the "emergent gameplay" that Arkane prides itself on. Give me a tool like the GLOO gun, and I'll just about break the game trying out every possible use case. I went to town on Talos with my newly acquired GLOO gun, creating some helpful alternative pathways and some joyful gameplay moments.
While Prey is pretty-well polished overall, we experienced enemies dropping through the floor to impossible to reach places on more than one occasion. The only thing that hurt was my overbearing obligation to wipe the floor clean with every last one of the spider-like mimics, otherwise it wasn't really much of an issue. Bethesda also noted that the code we were toying with was slightly outdated, so some bugs were to be expected.
I was also a little disappointed with what we got to see of the combat. Granted, we had a pretty vanilla arsenal being the the very start of the game, but I really wanted to mess around with more neuromods and alien powers a little more than we were allowed.
I also got sidetracked a lot during my time with Prey. While the world is littered with objects to manipulate, very few actually carry any meaning or significance. In that sense, Prey is more like Deus Ex than it is Dishonored. There's lots to get your little mitts on, but the majority of it will be tossed at a wall the moment you realise it's useless.
That said, I had a lot of fun with Prey and I can't ignore its resemblance with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (which I loved) and Akane's own Dishonoured 2 (which I really loved). I'm fairly confident Prey has what it takes to pull me along for its pulpy sci-fi romp but I think I need to see more before committing.
Check back later for the full (spoiler-laden) video of our first hour with Prey.