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Prey – First Thoughts (Based on the Demo)

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“Another Bethesda classic seems to have been lined up for us thanks to the good work of the developers at Arkane Studios”

Bethesda have perfected the art of crafting compelling action role-playing video games. From Skyrim, Fallout and Doom, to Arkane Stuios’ own Dishonoured and Dishonoured 2, if there is a story to be told and a character to tell it, having Bethesda’s backing always guarantees a damn near perfect job. This week, Bethesda will look backwards to move forwards, reviving a 2006 classic into a brand new and shiny science fiction horror title called Prey, and people are excited.

Prey is a game set in a not-so-distant alternative future, where President John F. Kennedy survived the assassination attempt on his life in 1963 and investment in the US space race flourished. A more technologically advanced and outer space-faring human race flourished, and attracted the attention of species from beyond the planet Earth. The less-than-pretty future which followed this is best revealed throughout the game itself, but that is where the main protagonist comes in.

Around the year 2035, Morgan Yu is preparing to deploy on a mission for the TransStar Corporation. Waking up in his apartment to a call from his brother, Morgan gets into a chopper and heads over to the company headquarters where his final tests await him. However, even at this early stage of the game, these tests feel unusual; something isn’t quite right. Just as you start to get this uneasy feeling, the scientists running the tests are attacked by an alien lifeform before your very eyes… and then Morgan wakes up in his apartment again. It is almost like a Groundhog Day-style experience, with the same events playing out again, only this time something has changed. Something is wrong, and that is when Morgan realises that this isn’t truly his apartment at all…

The game has an epic, movie-like start to it which really gets you going for the story ahead. Events quickly reveal that you are in fact not on Earth at all, but rather on the Talos I space station. The station was once used by the joint governments of the United States and the USSR to imprison alien lifeforms that attacked Earth under the banner of the Typhon, but somewhere down the line it was purchased by the TransStar Corporation and became a research station instead. Now, a lifeform scientifically identified as Typhon Cacoplasmus has escaped and wiped out much if not all of the life on Talos I. All except for Morgan…

The Typhon Cacoplasmus, colloquially known as “mimics”, are a particularly daunting threat, and are the element of Prey which truly gives the game its intense fear factor. The alien lifeform has the ability to disguise itself as an exact replica of another object, be it a mug, a crumpled piece of paper or a bar stool. This means that any object in the game which has a matching object nearby could just as easily be a mimic as it could be a simple wine bottle. This puts you on edge from the very first chapter of the game, leaving you bashing random multiples of objects with your wrench for fear of them exploding into life at any moment. It is a similar intense feeling to that portrayed in 2014’s Alien Isolation; a simultaneous sensation of both fear and thrill.

In its true form, a mimic is a strange black mass which is both fast and deadly. You can easily be caught off guard and injured should you lack concentration and lose the upper hand. At the same time however, the creatures are physical beings, and therefore can be fought. Prey gives you a small arsenal of science fiction weapons to help you do this, almost rivalling 2016’s Doom in terms of size, power and general outlandishness. These range from a heavy wrench and standard “pistol found in a drawer” to a Disruptor Stun Gun, GLOO Cannon and Q-Beam. And those are just a few that have been revealed thus far in trailers, details and the game’s short demo. The GLOO gun is particularly fun to use in Prey’s open world, creating solid masses of hardened glue instantly. These can be used to climb to otherwise unreachable places, helping you to both navigate the terrain of Talos I and find some sneaky secrets.

As well as loading you full of guns however, Prey entails a Metroidvania style of play. This means that you progress through the game by finding key items and progressing you character, and character progression in Prey is precisely as strong as you might expect from a Bethesda title. Arkane Studios have drawn on the success of their Dishonoured series in Prey, with two different forms of character progression being used. One is the standard skill upgrades which you might find in other, similar titles. These can give your character more health, greater speed, better computer skills or more proficiency when it comes to breaking security systems, for example. In Prey however, you can also inject Morgan with small amounts of the mimics’ biological material, allowing him to perform otherworldly abilities. Whilst these have only been touched upon in what has been released so far, perhaps the most exciting ability is the one which allows you to become a mug yourself. In a game so intense and serious, it is nice that a little hilarity can be allowed to ensue, but this ability does also have a discernible strategic advantage in the game as well.

To go along with its enticing story, intense gameplay and well-developed systems, Prey also has a fantastic design. The open world of the game allows you to navigate and explore, even though the story itself is a linear one. This makes the simple aim of eradicating the Typhon Cacoplasmus before it can reach the Earth a more open and player-determined journey. Transitioning the levels of the station, engaging in combat with mimic’s and the order in which you explore new areas is determined as much by how you play as it is by the path of the story itself. The visuals of Prey are also stunning. Similar in feel to the Dishonoured titles but with a greater variety in its futuristic styles, Talos I is a space station in which the architecture has been inspired and changed by many different occupants over its years in service. Some areas have a classic gritty sci-fi feel, whilst those on show are often more art-deco inspired. This gives a sense of scale to the game world, and helps underline the emotions that different parts of the game are intended to inspire. On a smaller design note, you can also play as either a male of female protagonist in Prey, making the game accessible for all.

Even taking into account the small amount of Prey which has been revealed and playable thus far, there is a lot to look forward to ahead of the game’s full release. I haven’t detailed every part of the story and gameplay which has been revealed so far in order to steer clear of spoilers. The elements I have touched upon however show that this game is going to be something special. Another Bethesda classic seems to have been lined up for us thanks to the good work of the developers at Arkane Studios, and the excitement of gamers around that fact appears to be very well justified indeed. I for one cannot wait for Prey’s full release come May 5th.

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Nathan is a passionate gamer and writer, who has been producing content for Invision since his first year of University over five years ago. He enjoys the opportunity to make personal connections with the developers and publishers that he works with, and is often praised for the high-quality of work that he produces. Now working as a Senior Staff Writer for Invision, Nathan's continues to grow as a writer and administrator for the site, and continues to connect with the wider gaming industry.

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