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‘Prey’ Preview: First Impressions at PlayStation Access Event

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Nothing is as it seems – not even the toilet roll.

Last week, the YouTube channel PlayStation Access partnered with the team behind upcoming sci-fi shooter Prey, for an all night movie marathon and an exclusive look at the game’s opening hour. The event featured screenings of movies which heavily inspired the game, from classics such as Aliens and the original Total Recall to more modern influences such as Edge of Tomorrow and Moon. All the movies screened appeared to feature at least one of two things: a questioning of what is real and creatures of the horror-inducing kind. This meant that when sitting down to experience the first hour of Prey, it was hard not to expect the unexpected.

Indeed the opening hour of Prey will likely catch many players off guard as it presents a large twist within its opening 20 minutes or so. It’s therefore very hard to discuss this initial play-through without mentioning this early in-game spoiler. If you’d rather not know what happens before playing the game, then know this – Arkane Studios is well on its way in continuing its fine run of form following on from the Dishonoured series. Prey upholds the studio’s story driven campaign pedigree, with a sci-fi aesthetic that oozes atmosphere, tension, and intrigue. The game presents an environment which begs to be explored as players will want to dig for contextual clues and evidence surrounding the game’s mysterious goings-on.

Proceeding into spoiler territory then; the game opens with players assuming the role of Morgan Yu as he (or she) wakes up in their apartment in the year 2032. Your brother, Alex Yu then calls to inform Morgan of some tests he needs to perform. As far as he knows, it’s just another day at the office (or the laboratory in Morgan’s case). Players are first able to explore the apartment, checking emails and hurling a toilet roll at the TV – it’s all good experimental fun. Once in his Transtar uniform, it’s time to go to work in style; a short helicopter ride serves as the game’s intro credit sequence with the backdrop being a futuristic city skyline.

Once at the laboratory building, he enters the testing facility where Alex greets him before he proceeds to the four tests run by Dr Sylvain Bellamy. The tests consist of several mundane tasks which see Morgan playing the part of the guinea pig. These involve collecting blocks, hiding behind a chair and answering situational questions. Even when players do everything to the best of their ability, those looking on don’t seem overly pleased with the responses. It’s here that players get a sense that perhaps there could be some other heinous plot going on. Everything appears to be going smoothly until players reach the fourth test where a mimic – a freakishly fast spider like alien, attacks Dr Bellamy.

After falling unconscious, Morgan finds himself back in his bed being woken up by an alarm clock at the same time and on the same day. A quick check of his email reveals duplicate messages from someone called January that read “Danger. Leave Now”. Upon following these explicit instructions, players leave the apartment in the lab suit only to find the same maintenance lady from before is now dead – literally having the life sucked out of her it seems. The hallway layout has also changed meaning that players can no longer access the roof. Realizing this, it seems only logical to exit the apartment via the balcony. But when that’s locked, the last resort is to try and break the glass with a wrench taken from the maintenance lady. This is where Prey throws its major curveball, as it turns out Morgan’s ‘apartment’ isn’t actually real.  The glass breaks to reveal cameras and references to stage areas and actors on the other side.

Indeed, Morgan has been center stage for an elaborate experiment, where his brain is wiped through the resetting of neuromods each and every day. These are modifications made to Morgan’s brain which allow him to learn new skills and abilities.  This has kept Morgan in a Total Recall/Edge of Tomorrow – like loop where he has been reliving the same day for – well, it’s not exactly said how long! That’s right; the whole helicopter intro was nothing more than a glorified theme park ride simulation. The Transtar cooperation has been testing new versions of the neuromods on Morgan and recording his responses, thus explaining the need for the tests.

Once Morgan has quite literally broken out of the loop that was his life, the game truly begins. Players are able to explore the environment, and uncover audio logs, emails and notes which further point to what has been going on behind the scenes. There isn’t much time to contemplate why Morgan was put into such a mind bending loop, as a more imminent threat soon becomes apparent. The mimics made out of typhon material, have breached attempts of containment and are running loose around the facility. Prey’s second twist comes when it is revealed that this facility is actually a space station named Talos I, leaving Morgan no choice but to face this new alien threat whilst finding a way off the station.

The newly opened up Prey encourages player experimentation with alternative routes available to reach objectives. There is also usable information scattered around the environment such as security codes and passwords, lending a sense of organic discovery to player progression. Delving into Prey’s skill tree system reveals abilities that players can specialize in such as hacking, strength (picking up and throwing heavy objects) and combat focus (the ability to slow down time). Each skill belongs to a corresponding branch with other abilities that can be unlocked with the necessary amount of neuromods found throughout the world.

When facing the mimics for the first time, players are armed with nothing but their trusty wrench; making the encounters with the fast legged creatures devilishly difficult. What’s more, the mimics can disguise themselves as any object in a room, meaning that players will probably find themselves whacking every inanimate object in sight. In practice however, this enemy behaviour lends a sense of tension to Prey that can’t be overstated. Just walking into a room and checking to see if that was a third shoe under the table is something rarely seen in other games – it’s thrilling stuff.

Players soon have access to other types of weaponry to fight the mimics such as the GLOO gun. This weapon temporarily encases them with foam blobs, allowing for a follow up wrench hit. This gun also allows for platforming opportunities as the hardened foam can be used to create scalable ledges enabling access to hard to reach areas – it is player experimentation at its best. Other weapons found in this first hour of the game include the more standard shotgun and pistol. Ammo was however, scarce for these guns meaning that every shot counted; especially when up against phantoms (humanoid Typhons). This second enemy type is far harder to beat since they have teleportation and kinetic blast abilities; both of which Morgan can acquire later in the game.

Arkane studios have gone to great lengths to ensure that you always feel a sense of tension wandering around Prey’s world. Not only has this been achieved with the enemy design and behaviour, but also with a degradable suit and weapon system that keeps players on their toes. This tension has been coupled with a heavy emphasis on player experimentation and customization, as incremental upgrades to player abilities slowly turn the tide against the alien invaders.

Bethesda has since announced that a free playable demo of Prey’s opening hour will be available for all on PS4 and Xbox One on 27th April – a week ahead of the game’s full retail release on 5th May. Be sure to try it out and see what Arkane Studios has achieved in this thrilling first-person sci-fi action game.

From Kent, England, Ben is a keen trophy hunter with a passion for all things PlayStation. His game of choice is an open world RPG, having a particular fondness for games such as Skyrim and The Witcher 3. Ultimately though, he'll play anything with an interesting story and/or fun gameplay. When it comes to movies, his go-to is Star Wars - just don't ask him to pick a favourite!

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