I’ve been paying peripheral attention to Prey for a number of reasons, mostly trying to keep my internal hype machine at bay. I love what Bethesda and Arkane have been bringing gamers over the past few years (Dishonored, Fallout) and sci-fi action/horror is definitely my bag. And when Bethesda and Arkane did us all a solid by releasing a demo of the game, I cleared some space on my calendar. I mean, what else was I going to do with my Friday afternoon?
Right out of the gates this game conveys a lot of energy. The combination of the upbeat music and the cinematics feel like they’re straight out of an 80’s Tom Cruise movie. Your alarm clock goes off and you wake up in an upscale loft on the top half of a high rise, overlooking downtown. Your brother calls to tell you he’s glad you took the job and you’re off.
Hooray – your first day at your new job!
Eventually, you’re whisked off in a helicopter to begin your new career. Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL of our employers did that for us? Even the way the credits are delivered embedded in the environment through signs and/or part of the architecture of the city adds to the energy to open.
Eventually though, things go awry. I mean, what else would you expect working for a giant corporation dedicated to science and technology…
Telling a Story the Bethesda way
The set up for the story is good although feels familiar, mostly because this is how most sci-fi stories seem to open. Shrouded in mystery, aliens, science…All the good stuff. I won’t get into any of that at the moment as to allow you to experience it for yourselves. You’re introduced to a number of characters though audio logs, emails, and notes discovered around the environment.
Eventually you come across a TranStar Exhibit which contains an exhibit that walks through the history of the space program as it occurred in the lore of the game. It’s not a core piece of the game but it sheds some light on the story setting including some potential twists on history (References to the “attempted” assassination of Kennedy and HIS SECOND TERM!? Hmmm, interesting.)
A Mimic Says What…
The sound design might be the early favorite for MVP of Prey. The audio queues are used to good effect, building – and sustaining – tension throughout. There was one particular battle with a Mimic, even after I defeated it, the music was sustaining the tension as I frantically moved around the room, afraid I was going to encounter another one.
The tension remains palpable throughout, giving you very few actual breaks, in much the same way Deadspace did. There’s always something lurking around the corner, or on the coffee table… You must keep your eyes peeled at all times as the Mimics – an alien baddy – can literally be anything in the environment. If you don’t want to get surprised, you must pay attention to the littlest details – a quick shimmer of a desk chair, a coffee mug that wasn’t there a second ago, or an extra couch where there shouldn’t be one. I think I smashed every coffee mug, chair, and lamp that I saw in the first two or three rooms I was in.
24 hours later, I’m still thinking about Prey. After playing through the demo, I’m really stoked about this game. The look, the feel, the action – everything – is really, really good. Other than a few minor sound glitches (which I’m attributing to the demo itself) I see very little wrong with this game, at least in the first hour. I only wish MORE games would do this prior to launch. It’s nice to get into a game before buying it – I’m WAY more likely to buy this game when it comes out later this week than I would’ve been without playing the demo. I realize that, for some games, a demo like this might spoil too much of the story but Prey does a nice job of giving you the foundation of what the game and story will be about while also teasing enough to make you compelled to keep on playing. Like a good book, this first chapter got its hooks into me and I’m looking forward to exploring further into the world of Talos One.