Slowly, I made my way down the corridor, going over everything with a fine-toothed comb. I found an apple on a table alongside a split of champagne. I took both — after what I'd been through, what I'd seen — I deserved a no-judgment drink. I went to take a sip when I saw it out of the corner of my eye — a small jet-black blob darted to my left. I steadied myself and walked toward the quivering mass when it reared up to attack. I used my wrench to beat it until it was a lifeless mass of goo. Then I harvested its organs for later use.
Welcome to the world of Prey. Developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks, Prey is an upcoming first-person action sci-fi game set to debut May 5 (PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One). I had the opportunity to play through the first two gripping hours of the title and I can't wait to jump back in.
Don't Call It A Comeback
Don't let the name fool you. This is a totally different title than the original Prey, which debuted back in 2006. You shouldn't even consider this a spiritual successor. The only similarities between the earlier Human Head title and the upcoming game from Arkane is that you're going to be fighting some freaky-looking aliens.
Now that we've gotten that out the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty. The new Prey puts you in the shoes of Morgan Yu, a crew member on the Talos 1 space station orbiting the moon in 2032. Something is amiss, as most of the crew and passengers are missing or dead. Instead, there are ink-black aliens roaming the halls and disguising themselves as almost anything — cups, tools, clipboards — to strike.
It seems the key to defeating these creatures lies in locating your brother, who is deliberately keeping secrets from you. Meanwhile you're trying to piece your memory back together after undergoing experiments that augment your natural ability with the very aliens who have overrun the ship. Sounds like a hell of a good time, right? Then, would you kindly keep reading?
Something Borrowed, Something New
As I escaped from the testing facility in the first part of the game, Prey suddenly got really familiar, but in a good way. Armed with a wrench and being guided via radio by a nameless figure calling himself a friend, I admired the futuristic Art Deco motif of Talos 1. And that's when it hit me: Prey is kind of like Bioshock, but set in space. Like the underwater city of Rapture, Talos-1 is breathtaking, but it's also seen better days as evidenced by the scads of debris jettisoned out into the darkness of space from a resulting explosion. The desolation and threat of my impending demise put me on edge — a feeling I felt when I first encountered Sander Cohen in BioShock.
And like BioShock, Prey is a bit of a Metroidvania, in the sense that you explore most of Talos 1 right off the bat — there's even going to be some parts where you're taking a space walk. However, in some cases, you might not have the necessary tools or abilities to access certain areas. Never fear, there's usually another way to get around; if not, you can always come back later.
Sometimes you've got to fight fire with fire, and in with Prey, your flame will come by way of Neuromods. To keep these Bioshock comparisons going, Neuromods are like Plasmids, but instead of injecting the power into your arm, you're shooting up through the eye. You can allocate Neuromods over three branching skill trees, which can improve your health, hacking or weapon skills. Once I got my first mod, I activated my hacking ability so I could start hacking low-level security doors. But before you start futzing around with your DNA, you first have to choose a gender.
Speaking of weapons, Arkane and Bethesda aren't going to leave you to stave off bloodthirsty aliens with just a wrench. Through the course of the game, you'll come across many weapons, the first of which is called the GLOO gun. And yep, it's just what you think — a big hulking gun that shoots out sticky material. The weapon can be used to immobilize enemies, opening them up for your attacks. Or it can be used to solve puzzles or access out-of-reach places by building a bridge. There are also traditional weapons like pistols and shotguns, all of which can be enhanced with a weapon upgrade. Gunplay felt fluid throughout my playthrough, but my aim was a little off with the wrench.
After playing through two hours of Prey, I still don't know what this species of alien calls itself, but I do know it's dangerous. The smaller spider-like blobs are known as mimics and just like John Carpenter's "The Thing," these little bastards can copy the shape of just about anything. A word of advice: if you see two of anything laying innocently on a table or shelf, start swinging that wrench like a crazy person.
Once they've been exposed for the evil inky blobs that they are, they take on a spider-like form and start swiping at you with their scary-strong tentacles. Oh, and did I mention that they like to travel in packs? They do, and they can quickly overwhelm you. Use the GLOO gun for crowd control and start blasting the frozen ones.
But the mimics aren't your only concern. I also encountered a larger, more powerful version of the aliens called Phantoms. These hulking black masses deal damage with a powerful melee attack along with shooting what seems to be an electric attack. If that isn't creepy enough, somehow they've learned English, which they speaking in a halting, garbled tone. Again, the GLOO Gun is your friend here as it can stop these baddies in their tracks long enough to put them down for good with a few well-placed shotgun blasts. Or you can save your ammo and bludgeon them to death.
At the end of my playthrough, I had made it to my office and watched a video of myself. Apparently, my friendly guide was me or rather a previous version of me before I started using the memory-erasing Neuropods. I was filling myself in on what was going on when Alex Yu, Morgan's brother, cut off the video saying that he would explain everything... soon. That ended the demo, leaving me with a burning desire to get to the bottom of this mess.
Arkane and Bethesda have taken the best parts of some of my favorite games and movies and made something that I'm going to have fun sneaking, blasting and sleuthing my way through. Prey is familiar, yet also foreign and I'm looking forward to exploring every nook and cranny of Prey when it launches in May.