I’ve had a passive eye on the new Prey game for quite a while now. Having played the original back in 2006 and enjoying it quite a bit, naturally I was curious of this reboot. It should come as no surprise then, that when I heard a demo of the opening moments of the game was just released, I absolutely had to check it out.
The beginning moments of Prey do a good job of presenting you with what initially feels like bog-standard world building. You wake up in your futuristic top-floor apartment to a beautiful but ultimately forgettable skyline. You are quickly established as being a scientist. I say this because shortly after waking up you get a call from a science guy telling you to put on your science suit, get in the science chopper, and come do some SCIENCE.
What this ultimately ends up boiling down to is a tutorial cleverly disguised as a bunch of “experiments”. This part is pretty hilarious, as it basically involves a bunch of lab coats watching you from behind glass telling you to do simple tasks, then berating you under their breath. “Hide somewhere in this room that only contains an office chair… oh wow, he’s actually trying to hide behind the chair. Interesting.”
“The game throws a lot of clever things at you in such a short time.”
Quickly, and almost as if on cue, things go horribly wrong. Scientists begin to die, and your chamber gets gassed, making you collapse in a heap on the floor. You then wake up in your apartment to the same alarm, get up in the same way, and hear your smart clock state that it’s the same day as yesterday. Wait… what? Things don’t stay familiar for long though, because when you walk out your front door, an engineer who was previously on hands and knees fixing some futurey wall electronics is dead. You pick up their wrench, get a phone call from a mysterious stranger, and are told you need to get out of the building. Now.
Now anyone who has played Bioshock will likely be rolling their eyes by now, but this was the only obvious nod to the series I experienced thus far, so I was able to let it slide. This is partly because the way you’ll go about escaping the building is easily the best and most unique aspect of the demo. Considering this is supposed to be the actual beginning of the game, I’ll skip over describing this moment, as I feel it’s an experience best left unspoiled.
Once you make it back to the labs, you are introduced formally to your primary foes: the Mimics. These little buggers are essentially amorphous blobs of walking tar that can change their form
s to look like everyday objects. This immediately adds an interesting aura of tension, because this means that any object in the environment, ranging from a coffee cup to a medkit (yes, a medkit), could potentially be a tar monster from hell. Probably one of the most clever examples of this was when I was ascending a staircase.
As I turned a corner to climb the next set of stairs, a metal trash can slowly clunked down the staircase ahead. After slowly creeping up to see what kind of tomfoolery was afoot, I saw an identical trash can standing properly on the landing above. Right in my way. I chuckled a bit and said “Nice try,” as I whipped out my shotgun and blew the impostor away. It not only made me feel smart, but it also embedded the concept in my mind in a way that telling me never could.
After progressing further and hitting the brick wall where the demo ends, I left off feeling impressed in some places, and disappointed in others. The game throws a lot of clever things at you in such a short time, that once the rules are established, I can’t help but wonder, “is this all it’s going to be?”. The combat generally feels okay, and although they try their best to make the enemies seem intimidating, it kind of falls flat. Part of this is due to the music flaring up in odd places when there is no action, and taking a very long time to die down.
For example: When getting back to the lab, they attempted to build tension before getting to the first real enemy encounter. After entering an open room the obvious danger music spiked up and reached a fever pitch, but nothing happened. I’m not sure if this was a bug, or if something was supposed to attack me, but I ended up wandering around for several minutes going “Where’s the monster? Is it attacking me? Is it hiding? I don’t see anything.” This isn’t the only instance that this happened, so I eventually became numb to the musical cues, and they ended up being more of a nuisance than anything.
All of this being said, this is just the demo, but I can’t say it’s left me with the best first impression. I can see a lot of interesting concepts and mechanics shining through, but I’m terribly worried that it may get bogged down in the end. We will have to see where things go when the game releases on May 5th, so expect a full review of the game soon.