Prey - Community Event
Recently one of our writers was lucky enough to attend a community event for upcoming first-person action-adventure game Prey, from developers Arkane Studios. You will have likely heard of their work, with Dishonored, and its recent sequel being their two headline games. Prey is a reboot of the 2006 game of the same name, though with pretty much everything altered, it’s fair to say the two share very few similarities.
Our location for the night was X-Studio in Sydney’s Kings Cross. An interesting choice of venue given the area’s notoriety, and we were rather amused by the two visits from local law enforcement. Given the attendance, if there was one place in Sydney where trouble was unlikely to hit, we were in it. Anyway, before we got our hands on the game itself we were given a brief rundown on what to expect, what we could and couldn’t take pictures of, and most importantly that what we were playing was, at the time, roughly three-month-old build code. Whilst this tempered expectation somewhat, we were pleased to see that realistically this mostly related to random, infrequent crashes and that everything else seemed very polished. Once this was over it was then time to head inside and explore roughly the first hour of the game.
Things kick off relatively tamely. Cast as Morgan Yu, a human scientist we presume, the first few moments of Prey is very much like Half-Life’s opening in the sense of when “what’s the worst that could happen?” is taken a little too far. Suffice to say something goes wrong, and unleashed upon you and other unsuspecting scientists is an alien species called mimics. As the name suggests they are able to mimic their surroundings, so rooms that appear alien-free at first glance can suddenly become less so when you discover that the teacup over there isn’t so friendly. They’re essentially a slightly more lethal version of Red Dwarf’s polymorph and given the well-constructed jump scares we encountered, they’re far more likely to give you nightmares!
We really don’t want to spoil too much of the storyline and of the rather significant reveal that we encountered during our playthrough. What we will say is that it’s a rather interesting twist and makes you question what little of the game you’ve played so far. There was plenty to do in the section of the game we got to play and while we were told it was roughly the first hour of gameplay we, and many others, took far longer than that to complete it. As with many modern shooters there’s a skill tree of sorts to unlock and the more skills you unlock the more you can do in the game. It’s very reminiscent of Fallout, in that you will likely find yourself re-treading old ground to gain access to previously locked content and loot. Knowing what we know now, we highly recommend that you scour every inch of every level as we noticed many other, far more intrepid gamers, finding and accessing some rather fun looking upgrades and weapons. It’s this sort of ability to find your own way that reminded us of a game that many at Arkane Studios cite as inspiration, System Shock. Whilst liberating it can seem a touch confusing at first but in all honesty we loved the fact that no matter which screen we looked at, we were always seeing something new and inventive taking place.
We’ve already mentioned there are a fair few jump scares taking place and these wouldn’t be as effective were it not for some wonderful sound direction. Audibly Prey is sounding brilliant with some wonderful environmental sounds and a glorious soundtrack to accompany it. The mimics have a rather handy knack at appearing from nowhere given their abilities, but it’s how the encounter takes place audibly that really made us jump and panic. Even after a good half hour so of playing we were still, often, taken by surprise and this is a good thing. I don’t think this reviewer has been this on edge playing a game since Alien: Isolation and that’s more down to being scarred for life by the sound of a motion tracker.
After we finished playing, we were able to talk to various staff members from Bethesda Softworks Australia including Community Manager, Kelsey Gamble and Managing Director, Simon Alty. The access was fantastic and being able to posit questions and give feedback was rather refreshing. One of our discussions was around whether or not they wanted to show the game’s opening big reveal and while it’s a risk given the likelihood of it being leaked post-event, we personally felt it was the right call. After we’d finished our playthrough it left us wanting more and eager to discover answers to the plethora of questions we were left with. Coupled with a good looking game (it really does look rather lovely on a high-end PC) it left us in high spirits ahead of Prey’s full release in May (a demo due to be released on the 27th March).
Whilst there’s every chance our hopes could be dashed we feel this is unlikely given all the discussions we had with various people both linked to the game and other fellow gamers. On the night there wasn’t anyone there who wasn’t looking forward to its full release. Our only concern thus far is given that you’re free to explore as much of the environment as you can gain access to, you could potentially become a little overpowered. We’re hoping this doesn’t happen, but until we get our hands on the full game we’ll reserve judgement here. Overall though, we’re very, very excited and can’t wait till we get our hands on a review copy. Until then, we will just have to keep making sure that coffee cup really is what we think it is.