'Prey' promises to be 'Dishonoured 2' in space, but here's why it will outshine all of 2017's summer shoot-em-ups
If someone had crept up behind you as you finished off the last replica Delilah of last year’s supernatural steampunk stealth wonder Dishonoured 2 and whispered in your ear “wanna play that again, but in space?”, you’d have Far Reached their hand off, right? Well now you can, except blasting away at manic killer mini-octopuses instead of quietly throttling dopey royal guards.
Prey, the sci-fi first-person stealth-shooter from the same developer that brought us Dishonoured, is set to be the most immersive, pulse-pumping and pant-soiling gaming experience of the summer. Here’s why.
- It’s (virtually) all of your favourite games rolled into one
Most obviously, Prey is a sci-fi reskin of Arkane Studios’ CryEngine system to produce a hybrid of Dishonoured 2 and Dead Space. You (Morgan Yu) creep shivering through an abandoned space station (Talos I) scattered with the gruesome remains of scientists and infested by slimy critters clamouring for human blood like Fyre Festival punters clamour for rescue yachts. But there’s plenty else to jerk you back to other much-loved games: fans of System Shock, Deus Ex and Bioshock will be wracked with nostalgic spine-tingles, and the initial set of alien beasties, called mimics, are essentially Half-Life 2’s headcrabs crossed with The Thing. Dishonoured 2’s brilliantly disorientating environment puzzles return – a flick of a switch can see an entire lab area reconfigured as a heliport – and as you explore the interweaving, multi-path open world of Talos I you may also be reminded of the stealth-or-glory back-routes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne. In a year so far short on familiar triple-A franchise releases, Prey sets out to be all things to all gamers, and damn near succeeds.
- It’s May-wins-the-election scary
Though Arkane would argue that Prey is more of a psychological game than all-out horror, it still makes the average Silent Hill feel like Pokemon: Fluffy As Fuck Edition. Those mimics we mentioned are capable of hiding in plain sight, disguised as random objects such as coffee cups, stools and buckets – “be careful what you pick up,” you’re told early on and in Prey you can pick up pretty much everything (for what purpose we’ll no doubt find out as the game progresses). Get too close and they take on their true form as four-tentacled bastard squids that can multiply at will and start running in circles around you waiting to leap on your face for a death snog. And this is before we run into the prowling shape-shifters they call ‘shadows’. Honestly, you’d half expect to reach the end of Prey to find that Donald Trump has hacked your Twitter account to start a war with China – it’s that scary.
- The music will knock your head off
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When a random toffee apple (or whatever) leaps off a desk and tries to end you in a manner you’d rarely expect toffee apples to, it does it to a blast of panic-inducing music so sudden and loud that the makers of Insidious might consider it overkill. It basically makes you feel like you’re running around a living nightmare and goes on way after you’ve dispatched the mimic in question, which means you’ll spend hours crouching under desks wondering if there’s any more of the critters out there. It’s like Alien: Isolation hitting you around the head with a synthesizer made of acid.
- It’s immersive as hell
There’s background emails and books on everything from genetic engineering to cooking lying around everywhere for those deep-lore divers amongst us, but where Prey really draws you in is via the prevailing trend, perfected in Dishonoured 2, for allowing the player to decide which sort of game they want it to be. Will you sharp-shoot your way through the cargo bay like no-one’s bored of Line Of Duty or will you take a stealthier route to your goal by finding hidden paths and making staircases to hard-to-reach areas with the bizarre gloop-shooting GLOO gun, a weapon that seems pretty impractical both for stopping mimics and light space station repair?
- You don’t know what you’ll be by the end
At the start of Dishonoured 2 you’re basically a helpless innocent with a cane-sword; by the end you’re a supernatural assassin transforming into rats, teleporting across palaces and summoning phantom clones of yourself to disorientate your enemies. With its sprawling RPG upgrade tree that allows you to modify your character as you wish using things called Neuromods which you inject into your eye (no, we didn’t choose to play on the ‘Peter Doherty’ setting), Prey has similar potential to change drastically as a gameplay experience as you progress. At first you’re taking on the horrors of Talos I with nowt but an apple and a wrench to your name; within a few hours you could become a master hacker unlocking keypads, a barrier-destroying strongman or, we’re told, a sci-fi psychic learning to use the powers of the various aliens you encounter yourself. So you learn to become a mimic, then transform into a small object to sneak through a tiny gap, or a non-flammable object to roll through fire.