Have you ever stared intently at a cup because you’re absolutely 100% sure it wasn’t there a minute ago? Have you ever considered a bucket deeply suspicious? Have you ever adamantly informed your friend/lover/partner/parents/dog that the alarm clock is actually an alien life form capable of mimicking any inanimate object? if you have then congratulations, you’ve probably enjoyed some bloody good drugs. But if you haven’t and want to experience this life of constant paranoia, then Prey is the game for you.
Coming from the minds of Arkane and launched in 2017, Prey is a first-person shooter mixed with RPG elements that sadly never managed to get the audience it so richly deserves. You kick off in a simulated time loop before breaking out and discovering that something has gone horribly wrong and now there are strange, black, goopy aliens running about the place. The most basic versions of these are Mimics that dart about the floor and which can take on the appearance of objects. It’s a fantastic game play concept because suddenly everything in a room becomes something sinister, an attribute I had never even once considered applying to a freaking chair before playing Prey.
But even once the novelty of glaring at a cup in case it’s an alien has worn off, Prey remains a fantastic and engaging experience from start to finish. Arkane are maybe a bit too afraid of letting you be ambushed every five seconds by a seemingly innocuous object, so there are sound cues that let you know a Mimic nearby has transformed, or something on a table will be wobbling and so on.
But there are tougher aliens to battle, and the RPG mechanics are excellent. There are multiple ways to progress through areas and a bunch of tools to play around. Take the glue gun, for instance; you can use it to create pathways up walls and other absurd nonsense. Or you could just glue a Mimic to the floor. That’s fun, too.
The game is quite slow-paced at times, but I find that to be a good thing. You have time to explore, to experiment and to mess around. And the deeper you go the more enjoyable the mystery behind everything becomes, even if I think the big twist is kind of obvious.
There’s an emphasis on stealthy exploration, reinforced by how unforgiving Prey can feel in its opening hours. A lot of enemies are best avoided, even once you’re a bit more powered up. Finding creative solutions and managing limited resources are vital to succeeding, giving Prey a different feel. In a lot of ways it’s like a spiritual System Shock sequel in the same vein as BioShock. Take your time, explore, find the different routes and when in doubt, pick-up a turret and carry it with you wherever you go.
Or in other words, play Prey like you’re…well, Prey. Yes, you can muscle your way through and beat the shit out of everything like an ape that’s just discovered steroids, but to get the most out of Prey it’s better to play like the meek little scientist you are. Y’know, roleplaying. In an RPG. isn’t that shocking?
Arkane are fantastic developers and Prey is just one more game that proves it. Give it a go and enjoy the feeling of never trusting anything in your house ever again.
Did that box just move?