If I was asked to describe Prey after what I saw in my gamescom meeting, I’d tell you that it’s basically a wonderful space baby, with it’s parents being Psychonauts, BioShock and a little splice of Prop Hunt. However, like every good child, it’s also more than the sum of its parts.
If that hasn’t whet your palate, let me dive a little deeper into this mysterious title and explain what I mean. When I first saw the Prey reveal at E3, I was enamoured by the dystopian story they were setting up, the cyberpunk influences, and the groundhog day nightmare that Morgan Yu was trapped in. That alone was enough to make me buy into whatever Arkane Studios were selling – it’s not like they have a bad track record either, with titles like Dishonored under their belt.
However, at this year’s Gamescom, I got to actually take a look at the gameplay, which changes absolutely everything. The vertical slice started with the player character shooting at a seemingly innocuous pedal bin. The row of journalists (myself included) guffawed, but we were all fools that day. The alien creatures in Prey have a ‘Mimic’ quality, that means you cannot trust anything you can shake your weapon at. Moments later, as you would expect, a simple prop you wouldn’t concern yourself with in other shooters turned into a head crab with a lust for blood.
Luckily for poor Morgan Yu, the game contains Biomods akin to Deus Ex/BioShock that you can ‘acquire’ using a portable version of that horrid scene at the end of Dead Space 2. Yes, these puppies are injected straight into your eye. Speaking of which, let’s talk about my favourite scene from the demo. This was a situational dilemma. The player character had to get into a locked area with a computer holding the records of a rogue scientist he was hunting. The room was locked from all angles, but we were shown how we can actually adapt the abilities of the monsters onboard the barren starship. The player mimicked into a coffee cup, rolling his way through the small gap in the window and reforming as a human to access the information. You can do this to any object in the game, much like Prop Hunt in Garry’s Mod. At this point, my jaw needed a pick-me-up.
Later, we were introduced to the GLOO gun. A novel idea for a weapon which solidifies enemies in place for a brutal finish, but is also useful for creating new paths and platforms for you to access secret areas. This is a unique approach, and seems to complement the games ‘open’ level design.
In an attempt to show how the powers synchronise, the same mimicry was later used on a grenade, combined with a psionic blast to grenade jump yourself up to a guarded location. Genius.
‘Recycler Grenades’ that suck in and rework the environment were also showcased. For example, you could declutter the physical space blocking you from an objective, and be rewarded with a tonne of crafting parts for your trouble. This was another remarkably fascinating aspect of my short demo. Storage cupboards turned into crawl spaces, and the game seemed to be able to warp the level to fir the players needs. The immersive sim is back, and it’s in safe hands.
The true immersive sim is back, and from what I can tell, it’s in very safe hands.
Prey is scheduled for release in 2017 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. You can find the aforementioned gameplay in the trailer below.