“Thoughts on The Prey Demo” by Carter McDaniel

 

Upon learning that Arkane was developing a new Sci-Fi title, I was immediately interested. Dishonored was my favorite game when it came out in 2012 and is still to this day my favorite single player game. Arkane’s new title Prey while having nothing to do with its predecessor bearing the same name, distinguishes itself with immersive gameplay and a gripping story. I recently had the opportunity to play the first hour of prey as Arkane released the demo to the PlayStation and Xbox stores. The game takes place aboard a space station called Talos 1 which has a very Dead Space feel to it. As for the gameplay mechanics, it brings back what I love about Dishonored, while creating its own identity. Prey presents numerous choices in how to approach every situation. Even though the demo is only supposed to represent the first hour of Prey, I found myself spending far more than that exploring every nook and cranny, finding crafting components, weapons, new enemies to fight, and ways to get around them. While the level of exploration felt very much like Dishonored, Prey sets itself apart by presenting itself less as a stealth game and more like a horror game. The audio cues are very similar of that of Dead Space and the environment bears the same haunting emptiness as Bioshock. The most common embodiment of this horror is the mimic; spider-like alien creatures that can take the form of any object in the game. From a coffee mug, to a table, to a chair to a locker. Any object you walk past could be waiting to kill you. While not available in the demo, later in the game, it is possible for you to take this ability and use it however you see fit, be it turning into a cup to sneak past enemies or turning into a fully operational turret to mow them down. In Prey, you gain new skills by using neuro-mods, devices that directly install new abilities into your brain via a needle to the eye. The demo has a fairly limited selection of these neuro mods since it was restricted to such a small area of the game. The mods that were obtainable include the ability to repair items, the ability to lift heavy objects, or the ability to wield a weapon more effectively. Later in the game you can find alien neuro mods to copy the abilities of nearly any enemy alien you meet.
Spoilers ahead
I didn’t expect Preys story to grab me like it did. While I love Dishonored, I never felt it had a particularly incredible story line. The fact that Prey opens with a twist akin to that of the “would you kindly?” moment from Bioshock had me immediately sold. The game starts with your character, Morgan Yu, waking up in his apartment on his first day at his new job. Morgan puts on his suit, walks outside and greets the maintenance man before taking the elevator to the roof of his apartment building and flying a helicopter to his new job. Upon reaching his new job he meets his brother, Alex, who informs in that there are some first qualifying test before he can begin. Alex warns Morgan that the tests are unconventional in nature. The first test involved Morgan moving boxes out of a circular area as quickly as he could. The second test had Morgan attempt to hide in the room, the only option being to duck behind a chair. And the third test had Morgan cross a room as quickly as possible. The entire time these tests were going on I was confused as to how Arkane could justify shoehorning in such an awkward and out-of-place tutorial. During the tests, however, the scientists comment things like “are you sure you did that right?”, and “no something’s not right here.” Before the final test which is simply answering a few questions to gauge Morgan’s personality. During this test Morgan looks up and sees a scientist drinking coffee. The scientist looks into the cup and says “wait, this is empty. Is this my co-.” before the cup turns into a mimic and kills him in a most gruesome fashion. The room you’re in is filled with gas and Morgan wakes up the next morning… or rather the same Morning. The alarm mentions the same date says he reporting to his first day on the job and that he has to be there by 9 a.m. just like the morning before. Only this time when Morgan stepped outside his apartment he’s greeted by a horribly mutilated maintenance man. Morgan then gets a call saying he needs to get out of his apartment. Naturally I went to the elevator that I went to the first time I played through the scene except the elevator was no longer there, so I went back to Morgan’s apartment and looked for something I could use to escape. I found a wrench, and started looking for something to hit with this Morgan’s apartment has a balcony closed off by a glass sliding door and, since I didn’t know how to open the door I hit it with a wrench. That moment is something I will never forget my gaming career. When the glass shattered, I wasn’t looking out over a balcony but rather a room. A lab of some kind. as I explored more, I found a simulation helicopter rig. I flipped a switch that made it look like my ride over to the job on the first day, and I found a lobby where it looked like my testing had begun. Someone had been keeping Morgan like a lab rat resetting his memory at the end of every day. I never learned why in the demo, but for some reason Morgan’s brother Alex is behind the memory wipe and daily testing. I hope the full game lives up to the expectation it set by opening with such a dramatic twist. For now with my interest thoroughly piqued, I’ll wait with bated breath for the full launch of Arkane’s Prey.