Although Prey calls itself a first person shooter action-adventure game, it feels very heavily biased towards the adventuring side of the business. This is an excellent thing.
As for how I got into it – I bought the game specifically because of Mr. Fruit’s Prey video. If you want to avoid spoilers, I would highly recommend avoiding it, but the first seven minutes feature a most magnificent surprise, which may have been part of the game’s marketing – which I did not follow at all and therefore did not know about. I stopped the video at roughly the seven minute mark and decided immediately that I had to play Prey.
Mind you, I’m still fairly early into the game and haven’t uncovered a whole lot of the plot but what I’ve seen in my 3 hours of playtime has been incredibly promising. My favourite moment thus far was very early on (no spoilers ahead, so don’t worry) once you first encounter the aliens and are required to get out of your apartment.
The game wanted me to go right – I wasn’t specifically told this, but the room was set up in a way that made me think right was the correct direction. Naturally, I went left. I wandered around the small-ish area that was open to me at the time, made my way to an upper level and fiddled with some controls, opening and closing some doors in the area. As a result, when I went back down and proceeded to go right – also triggering a couple of snippets of dialogue and one or two tiny combat encounters, leading me to believe that ‘right’ was the intended path – I learned that I had locked myself out. The door that I needed to go through? I had sealed it shut.
I couldn’t get back upstairs to the controls either. After I fiddled with the doors I jumped down instead of taking the stairs, and the stairs were beyond the sealed door. Welp, I thought, I broke the game. But it also occurred to me that perhaps Arkane had accounted for someone like me. And sure enough, after some poking around, I realised I could hop up onto some shelves, from there to a set of pipes, and then followed the pipes back to the controls and freed myself.
It was a glorious moment.
The fact that Prey allowed me to lock myself in an area and subsequently use the environment to get out was an incredibly satisfying experience. Thus far, it’s also what I like most about Prey. The combat – what little of it I’ve experienced – feels like an unnecessary distraction. I’ve gotten my trusty wrench, the Gloo Gun, a pistol, and a toy crossbow. They’re all tolerable to use; this isn’t a great FPS experience and I don’t think it’s supposed to be.
Prey really shines when it gives me an area to play in, a bunch of locked doors, and a Gloo Gun that lets me build me own staircases. It shines when I find a neuromod that lets me acquire a new skill and demands that I figure out what my priorities are – do I want more health and stamina, do I want to swing my wrench more effectively, do I want to hit more headshots, do I want to be able to repair broken equipment, or do I want to be able to harvest alien organs?
Each decision brings something new to the experience. My last upgrade was Hacking II, for example, which I chose specifically to unlock a password-protected PC that I had been forced to leave untouched. Hacking it, in turn, let me open a couple more doors and access a subsection of the level that I never realised I could get into.
For those that like this sort of thing, Prey is an slow, measured game. Ammo feels scarce, so I can’t run around firing my pistol at every shadow. Health packs are precious, as are suit repair kits. I’m hoarding Methuselah apples and other assorted fruit for when I run short of other restoratives. I reposition turrets and set up ambushes so that if I get jumped – and I get jumped a lot by goddamn mimics pretending to be coffee cups – the turrets will save me the trouble of swinging my wrench. I meticulously read every email, every Post-it, every book and magazine I can find. I’m always mentally marking things that I can interact with but don’t yet have the skills for, so I can come back and mess around with them later.
Prey feels more intricate, involving, and richer in its first few hours than most games feel across their entire lifespan. If the rest of Prey, however long it is, is as entertaining as the first few hours, then Prey might be well worth the money that you’ll spend on it. Expect a full review soon – ‘soon’ meaning once I have explored every shadow in every corner, opened every dustbin, and unearthed all of the secrets that Talos I is begging me to discover.