Last week, we had the opportunity to play Prey (2017) by Arkane Studios. Prey is a first-person science fiction horror game that takes place in the not-so-distant future. In this alternate reality, John F. Kennedy survived his assassination attempt and focused America’s efforts on space exploration. Humanity's efforts caught the attention of the Typhon, a mysterious alien race that launched an attack on Earth not long after. We retaliated and captured the Typhon and imprisoned them aboard the space station, Talos I. In 2032, the Talos I is owned by a company known as TranStar, and you get to play as a budding cadet who has been chosen to join the Talos I crew.
A Sunny Introduction
We start by taking control of Morgan Yu--and you can choose the gender. This won’t have any effect on the outcome of the story, but it will affect how NPCs refer to you. You start the game by waking up on May 15, 2032, in a sunny apartment overlooking the bay. All seems well. Your brother, Alex, calls you once wake up and guides you outside of your apartment. You can take this moment to get acquainted with the physics in the game; you can pick up just about any object you see, although some objects will be too heavy to carry at this point. There’s also a variety of snacks and beverages laying around your apartment that can be used to replenish your health.
Once you’re ready, you can leave your apartment. The janitor greets you as you walk through the corridor to the elevator, which takes you up to the helipad on the roof. The helicopter flies you across the city skyline, which offers a gorgeous view and a cleverly implemented opening credit roll. Once you reach TranStar’s headquarters, you make your way to an elevator to meet your brother.
Alex introduces you to Dr. Sylvain Bellamy, who has you perform a series of tests. They seem to be running poorly until the final test, which requires you to answer a handful of questions and examine a Rorschach inkblo-wait! I could’ve sworn I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye! Hmm, must’ve been my imagination. Moving on. Dr. Bellamy picks up his mug and-an alien pops out of it? The test proctors panic, security guards rush to the scene, and a green gas fills the test room, causing you to faint.
You regain consciousness in the morning of...Monday May 15, 2032? The sun shines through your apartment, but you can already tell that not all is well. An ominous dread fills the atmosphere, and as you step outside you find the mangled corpse of what was once the apartment janitor. You receive a call from a mysterious man named January, who urges you to escape the apartment. The corridor’s layout is different for some reason, so you have no choice but to escape through the balcony. Taking the janitor’s wrench, you smash the sliding door to reveal...a simulated environment? Exploring the area reveals that the life you’ve been living is a total setup. The apartment, the elevators, the TranStar headquarters, and even the helicopter are fake.
A Threatening New Environment, With Threatening Creatures
What’s more, the same creatures that attacked Dr. Bellamy during the simulated tests are creeping just out of sight, or rather in plain sight. These “Mimics” scurry around the environment, sometimes in packs, and disguise themselves as nearby objects (fans of Prop Hunt, rejoice!) Tell-tale signs of nearby Mimics are their scuttering footsteps, their ear-splitting screeches, and duplicate items. To make matters worse, they multiply whenever they claim a victim, as evidenced by a poor fleeing researcher. Their behavior is completely unscripted, so be cautious of any and every item!
You aren’t completely defenseless, though. Along the way, you’ll run into the GLOO Cannon, a weapon that shoots globs of adhesive that stops Mimics in their tracks. Shooting GLOO at suspicious items may immobilize otherwise dangerous Mimics. The adhesive hardens as soon as it makes contact with a surface, theoretically allowing players to create walkways or paths to otherwise inaccessible areas.
As you follow January’s instructions you’ll eventually pick up the Neuromod, a device that enables you to learn new skills. During the introduction, there are only three skill trees available: Scientist, Engineer, and Security. The Scientist tree grants players hacking abilities, provides bonuses to food consumption, and increases the effectiveness of MedKits. The Engineer tree allows players to recycle junk items, lift heavier objects, and modify equipment. The Security tree provides combat and physical perks such as increased firearms damage, additional health, and stealthier footsteps.
January encourages you to visit your office, and along the way you’ll encounter Mimics and the occasional Phantom. Phantoms are the husks of former humans who have been possessed by Weavers. Being your former colleagues, the Phantoms may even refer to you by name, making for an incredibly unsettling experience. (Unfortunately, Weavers didn’t make an appearance during the intro mission.)
As you make your way around the lobby, you’ll find turrets lying around. These handy guardians detect and attack Typhon entities. Turrets may be picked up and deployed anywhere, but if they sustain considerable damage, you’ll have to repair them with your Engineering skills.
Finally, you reach your office after climbing several flights of stairs. Once there, we discover that you’re not just a TranStar candidate, you’re the VP of Research. Inside your corner office, you’ll find a message asking you to watch a pre-recorded video. Unfortunately, our footage ends here.
Go Wherever You Want, Play However You Want
You’re given very little access to Talos I at the start of the game, but as you progress through the main quest and gain new abilities, different avenues are opened. At a later point, players may go outside of the station and travel in zero gravity. This provides players with multiple routes to the same destination. Is there an emergency at the top of the station? You can take the elevator that you repaired with your Engineer skills, or you can pop out of the airlock and glide to the top.
Arkane Studios strongly suggested that Prey can be played however you please. For example, players can choose to ignore the GLOO Cannon and future weapons altogether; if you’re up for the challenge, you can play through the entire game with only the wrench. Similarly, the amount of Neuromod points available is limited, so players will have to pick and choose which skills they want to use, or choose no skills at all.
Further in the story, players will be given access to Typhon abilities, which will be derived from the enemies you encounter. For example, players can use the Mimic ability to hide from enemies. However, with these new abilities comes consequences. If you obtain too many Typhon abilities, the turrets that once protected you will turn their sights against you.
Your choices and play styles will coalesce into two endings. I suspect that the endings will revolve around the skills you adopt; for example, a player who leads a Typhon-focused playthrough might develop a sympathy for the Typhons, whereas a human focused player might try to eradicate the Typhons. Still, a playthrough with half human and half Typhon skills is possible, so the actual outcomes for both endings remains up in the air.
Prey will be available on May 5, 2017.