Hands on with: Prey
- 16 February, 2017 01:55
Back in 2006 there was a well-received first person shooter set on a space station called The Sphere. This is not that game.
Nor is it the sequel to that game, which was officially cancelled back in 2014 after spending too much time in what's known as 'development hell.'
No, this Prey, developed by Arkane Studios for Bethesda, is a different beast altogether.
If you want to find some connection, you could call it a spiritual reboot - Bethesda's Pete Hines has said that Prey is the result of breaking down the franchise to its core concepts and building it back up.
So yes, you will find yourself on a space station and, yes, you will encounter aliens, but if you're still stuck on that trailer from 2011, stop living in the past and embrace your brave new world.
And bravery is what you'll require. While not a horror in the same vein as, say, Dead Space my short time with Prey provided plenty of atmospheric jumps and what the French would call haute tension. But let's not get ahead of the action here.
Welcome to Talos 1
In Prey you play as Morgan Yu, desperately unravelling the secrets of the Talos 1 space station with nothing more than an ever increasing arsenal of high-tech weapons and strange abilities supplied by cutting edge 'neuromod' technology.
It's a familiar concept, but Arkane put the hard yards into keeping the tropes as fresh as possible. A role-playing-game-style upgrade-tree system for your abilities let you customise your particular Morgan for the style of play you're after, from big, brassy and bombastic through to slippery, stealth artist.
Without going into too many spoilerish details, the opening level design offered a big space with branching paths for various ways through -- ever changing and with various goals.
Right now you might be thinking "this sounds really familiar." And if you've played Dishonored and its sequel (Arkane's previous hit franchise) then yes, despite the sci-fi setting you'll find a lot of similarities.
A complaint could be made that this is Arkane playing it safe, but I think that would be ungenerous. Dishonored 1 and 2 were rightfully well-loved games -- certainly high on my personal list of faves -- and if my short time on Prey hit some of the same notes then I'm definitely not complaining.
Beyond that, the overall aesthetic was highly appealing -- I appreciated both the twists and turns of the storyline and the almost art deco feel of the design of Talos 1. It was almost a little like Philip K Dick re-writing Bioshock. Well… almost.
Until I get some more serious time with Prey -- which won't be until it launches May 5 -- I won't' offer too much in the way of verdicts except to say this: I was disappointed when my hands on time was up and I'm looking forward to playing more.
Prey launches May 5, on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.