- Arkane Studios
- Bethesda Softworks
- Ster Kinekor Entertainment
- Ster Kinekor Entertainment
- FPS, RPG
- Single Player
- Xbox One
- PC, Playstation 4
Lately, I’ve adopted a purist angle when it comes to a lot of upcoming products. By purist, I refer, of course, to avoiding trailers and previews. This is primarily so as to avoid any sort of hype, which is a serious problem these days in all forms of media. I’ll admit, I didn’t even watch StuntZA’s preview video that went up last week. Purely because I wanted to be completely surprised or disappointed, on my own merits when playing Arkane’s latest foray into the world of the first-person shooter – Prey.
Let’s be clear, right off the bat, for those of you who were expecting a sequel to Human Head Studios’ 2006 title by the same name, you might be disappointed. The similarity lies in the name only. Arkane Studios’ new video game, does play out in space, yes. But, it’s a completely different beast altogether. To start out with, it’s an FPS RPG. Putting you in the shoes of either a male or a female protagonist of Dr. Morgan Yu (your choice, but it doesn’t appear to really matter) and allowing your character to upgrade by means of Neuromods, but more on that later.
As previously shown in StuntZA’s first hour of gameplay video, you take the role of the before-mentioned character, starting your journey at a new company, undergoing various tests, which aren’t well explained at the outset. This is intentional as you’ll see later.
Some truly horrifying things unfold in front of you and you are rendered unconscious, waking up in your bed once again, confused and disorientated. You go through the same motions from the day before, but you quickly realise something is wrong…very wrong. Your janitor is dead, the apartment is not laid out the way it was before, and a mysterious voice is coaxing you to escape. But where do you go? After some exploring and smashing (yes, there’s a lot of that in this game) you find your way out of your apartment, only to find out that everything you’ve been led to believe is a lie. You are actually on a huge space station, called Talos I, hurtling through space, and there has been an outbreak of strange and mysterious aliens on the station, called Mimics which prey (yes that’s where the name comes from) on humans, reproducing off the biomatter.
As you progress in the world you learn that the world of Prey is an alternate-history world, in which the space race progressed much further in the 1960’s leading to the discovery of Typhon or mimics as they are referred to in the game. An alien race devoid of emotion or the ability to have peaceful communication, instead opting to assimilate and destroy everything in its path.
As the protagonist, you’ll soon find out that this is not your typical amnesiac premise, but instead something far more sinister and as the story progresses, you find out more and more about this disturbing world. People are not who they appear to be (ha ha! Prey joke!), and what makes it worse is you will find yourself trusting yourself (or your previous self even less).
The world of Prey is a living, breathing, organism. Talos I is fully explorable, with some areas only becoming accessible as you unlock abilities. The various areas are diverse and well sculpted and instils a sense of wonder in you as you enter new areas for the first time. The environment is quite interactive as well, with various items strewn around which allows you to set up defences (turrets), to elements which require repairs, in order to access yet further areas or objects (such as safes, or doors).
Some of the areas in the game include your standard fare such as offices, open area entrance foyers, elevators (and shafts), ducts and research labs (and test chambers). Other areas of the space station employ zero gravity – or microgravity as it’s referred to in the game, which allows full 360-degree traversal, using your jet propulsion system. Speaking of which, this can also be used in normal gravitational areas, but to a lesser effect, ie. to slowly descend from great heights. Although, it only has a certain amount of juice, before it runs out and causing you to plummet to certain death.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-traversing the very interesting and ever-evolving areas of Talos I, discovering new areas as abilities unlocked during my progress.
The Gameplay and gameplay mechanics
At the outset, Prey employs your normal RPG-type abilities, ranging from more stamina to more strength for leveraging/lifting items & better weapon handling. But with the addition to (gasp – spoilers) introducing alien DNA, you are also introduced to the abilities associated with mimicry. The problem is this though. The moment you become more alien than human, the before-mentioned turrets, and other space station defences, all of a sudden turn on you. This adds an interesting element to the game.
Progressing in the game is done in quite an interesting way. Reaching the next part where you need to go is no longer linear, with multiple options available to you. You could look around, trying to find a keycard/passcode for the door…or find a vent to crawl through, amongst various other options. Something worth mentioning though is my frustrating experience at a certain point in the game where I was blocked from proceeding because I was unsure where to go. Or more specifically, I knew where to go, but I was missing information in order to proceed. So, as one is want to do, I Googled it and found a video and in typical lazy fashion, I thought I’d just use the code in the video. The clever developers made it so that the code changes with every single playthrough it seems as the code in the video did not work, forcing me to find it in the game. So, to this, I take my hat off to Arkane Studios.
The enemies in the game also vary quite a bit. The mimics assimilate not only the other humans on the station but the machinery as well. Corrupting them and turning them against you. The biggest problem I had with the game was the way in which the difficulty is scaled, especially when it came to the enemies. If you don’t spec your character right from the outset (and they don’t do a good job at helping you), then you end up dying over and over again. It’s not that the enemies are difficult to defeat. It’s quite literally just a situation of, if you don’t pour your neuromods into the correct abilities, you are needlessly making the game harder for yourself.
Creature design in the game is very monotonous, relying on the player’s imagination to drive the scare-factor across. The mimics are pretty much just a black goo that assimilates its host and when not attached to anything moves around at blisteringly fast speed, jumping out at you in an attempt to assimilate you. So, the game utilises a lot of jump scares to keep you on your guard.
A stealth element exists in the game and at the outset, you are encouraged to use it, but the AI for the enemies were not given enough thought to warrant using it and I feel that it is a wasted effort on behalf of the devs. Even the crossbow-esque nerf weapon does nothing to help you progress quicker when stealthing your way around. The enemies did not make any attempt to try and find you when you made enough noise to draw their attention, forcing me to re-engage with them when they lost interest in far too quick a fashion.
Weapons & Inventory
Not unlike Deus Ex or Dishonored (I still miss that U – damn you American spelling!), the inventory system (which is upgradable – thank goodness!) is very much block based, allowing the player only a certain amount of objects. It is divided up into different types of items, namely health and food, weapons and upgrades, biodegradable items (which we’ll get into in a moment) as well as actual usable objects (also to be discussed in a moment).
Health and food items are scattered throughout the world, ranging from med kits, fruit and various drinks. Biodegradable items can be procured in various ways, from breaking down enemies and other objects (using unlockable abilities) and picking up scattered, already converted items throughout the world. These are used in crafting machines.
Crafting machines are found scattered far and wide throughout the world and allow you to craft weapons, replenishable items such as health packs and psi-canisters and ammo. Each using its own unique recipe. The machines are easy to use and understand and not only shows you which items it needs to convert into crafted items. You can either manually insert each item into the required blocks, or just select which item you want to craft and let it insert the required items into the containers, then craft!
The weapons in the game vary from a wrench (which is sadly not upgradeable), to a 9mm silenced pistol (keep an eye on that ammo counter), a Gloo Cannon (which can be used to attack or freeze enemies in place or to close up hazardous spills, such as fire) a stun gun, a nerf-gun imitation, which I’m assuming is meant to be used for stealth kills (and is woefully inadequate in combat) and a few others. Others like the gravity guns you need to use to solve puzzles.
Progress and Missions
An average playthrough of Prey will take the player anywhere between 15 – 40 hours, depending on how many of the side quests they decide to do. The latter of which there are a lot. All of which are interesting and adds a lot of flesh to the already interesting main story.
Prey is not the best game of 2017 by any measure of the bar, but if you enjoy jump-scare driven, RPG first-person shooters, then it’s definitely worth a look at. It has a lot of frustrating elements to it that could have been done better, but I feel that once you get the hang of it, you could truly enjoy the experience. I just did not.
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