At the end of this week, Bethesda and Arkane Studios’ reboot of Prey will be unleashed upon the gaming world. Last week a demo of Prey was released, giving gamers their first chance to play through the first hour of the game on board Talos 1. Being the astute and I assure you, super awesome gamer that I am, I promptly downloaded the demo and took on that first hour of gameplay all in the name of giving you an initial insight into the latest game to tackle the Sci-fi genre.
I’m a big fan of Survival Horror and the Sci-Fi genres, when those two genres cross paths and it’s done well it is like a match made in heaven. Of the more recent games, Alien Isolation is one that resonates strongly with me as great example of how to do Sci-Fi survival horror. Prey is a game that has captured my imagination, Man on a spaceship stuck with Aliens, that very watered down premise I just gave is more than enough to have me interested.
Players take on the persona of Morgan Yu who is about to head off onboard the Talos 1. It’s Morgan’s first day of work and what should be a pretty straight forward day gets turned upside down when those pesky Aliens happen to ruin your plans. The demo starts out in a pretty linear fashion, as one might expect since the first few minutes are when you get the basic tutorial that is supposed to set you up for success (or failure) throughout the rest of the game. Immediately you’ll discover that things like attacking and sprinting are tied to a stamina bar that will obviously deplete the more hard out you go, contributing to a more human feel.
Once things start to take a turn for the worst you’ll find yourself starting out with nothing more than a wrench that is supposed to have those Alien’s running scared (hint a Wrench isn’t scaring ET). The Aliens here are crafty little buggers, they are made from some sort of ink like substance and the can morph into surrounding objects. This can lead to quite a decent jump scare when you are moving around and suddenly find that inanimate object actually isn’t so inanimate. Pro tip here, when the Aliens run from you try and keep track of them because they will use their little morphing trick to try and escape so pay attention and keep track of where and what they are morphing into.
A good thing about the demo is that there is a decent amount to do in that first hour. Some games take a while to warm up but Prey gives off the impression that it’s all systems go right from the moment you board Talos 1. Weapons are there to be found and used including a nifty weapon called the GLOO Cannon. Take note of this one because it is your friend. It sprays out a foam that will turn hard and take down enemies but it can also be used to create an escape route for you by turning say a wall into a climbable area that opens up a new path.
Character progression appears to be pretty decent with abilities accessed via a neural mod. The system features a familiar skill tree where you can choose which skills you want to level up. Throughout the game players will find Neuromod’s which are required in order to unlock those abilities. This system in the demo is limited to human abilities but from what we know about Prey, Alien abilities and skills will be available in the full system so expect plenty of customisation.
When it comes to this sort of game, Atmosphere is equally as important as the gameplay. If there is no atmosphere it doesn’t create that sense of urgency and tension, something that Alien Isolation did very well. Thankfully Prey has all the hallmarks of a game with great atmosphere, there is a nice dark undertone to the visual presentation that has a foreboding feel that is complimented by a soundtrack that will leave the player tense and filled with that sense of dread.
It’s hard to be critical of a demo, an hour isn’t a long enough time to get a good gauge on how a game is going to turn out. The gameplay mechanics look decent and the story appears compelling enough to have me wanting to find out more. Where Prey appears to really shine is in the creation of an eerie atmosphere that is absolutely essential to making a Sci-Fi Survival game like this succeed. It won’t be until after release day that we know for certain what the complete Prey experience is like but much like my old High School Report Cards, Prey is oozing potential, now it just has to live up to that potential.
Prey is releasing on PS4, Xbox One and PC on Friday May 5.