Prey, the reimagining of the franchise that Bethesda is bringing back from the dead this May, seems to be a lot of things. On one side you have elements of developer Arkane’s own creations, with experimentation and hub exploration akin to their Dishonored games. On another you’ve got the sort of dystopian environmental storytelling of BioShock, with the role-playing systems of System Shock. There’s a lot going on, but somehow Prey seems to be able to find itself a new spot to shine brightly from.
That’s the overall sentiment that echoed around late last evening, as an embargo lifted on preview coverage for the title. Other outlets (we sadly weren’t part of the crop this time) got a good hour with the game’s opening, which seems to hold a twist that you probably shouldn’t be seeing this far from launch. Spoilers aside, most of the gameplay on offer does a good job of showing you the mildly open starting areas aboard the Talos I, and some of the few ways you’ll be able to take on its dangerous, ink-like aliens.
The Official PlayStation Blog has most of their time with the game cut up into its most interesting bits, which primarily deal with the Gloo Gun and the different types of foes, ranging from Mimics to Phantoms, that you’ll encounter from the onset.
The Gloo Cannon has been a particular fascination of mine since the reveal at E3 last year. The weapon/tool allows you to freeze enemies in their tracks, letting you get in close for the kill with a wrench ala BioShock. But it’s also a tool for diversion, with Morgan being able to use it to create walkways and stepping-stones to areas that would traditionally be inaccessible.
Arkane is used to giving players the tools they need for experimentation, and lead designer Ricardo Bare (via Glixel) explains that it’s often the hardest part of the game to communicate to the players. In his experience, players are more often apprehensive to use tools in ways not explicitly described, which is why more subtle methods are being used in Prey.
“There’s a part in the game where you run into this laboratory and there’s a scientist that’s still alive – only briefly – and he’s trying to get away from a phantom. He sprays a line of goo up the wall and then he starts to climb it. Of course then the phantom catches him and kills him, but hopefully players see that.”
The Gloo Cannon is only a staple to more traditional weaponry, such as pistols and shotguns that you’ll have to manage in your limited inventory space. They go hand in hand with the alien powers you’ll be able to use later on in the game, but none of which were sadly present in the segment of the game previewed.
And even despite that, Prey does already look like something that will easily maintain the high bar of great single-player experiences that have come out of Arkane. It’s easy to reduce it to “BioShock in Space”, but it’s not just the some of those parts in practice.