Prey is a strange thing. The original ‘vertical slice’ we saw of ‘Prey 2’ half a lifetime ago looked great, an awful lot of people were suddenly hyped to play the sequel to a game not a huge amount of people had played. This was seemingly a massive surprise to the publisher, so surprising they scrapped it, abandoned Prey 2 completely for years, dropped the number, and have now brought it back as a different Prey game, developed by Dishonored creators Arkane Studios
There’s currently a demo available on PS4 and Xbox One, it’s essentially the whole game, more or less, with various areas being locked unless you buy the game. Slightly confusingly the demo doesn’t end when you hit the pay wall, you can continue playing and exploring the environment. It’s an interesting way of doing a demo, I reached the ‘end’ of the demo fairly quickly, a locked door I was told explicitly I wasn’t allowed to go past, but was allowed to, after turning the game off feeling I was done, return to the game and explore more of Prey’s world.
It’s a confusing experience. Narratively that’s deliberate, you’re not meant to know what’s going on, but in every other way Prey left me unsure what to make of it. The levels are open, as you’d expect from an Arkane game, but whereas in Dishonored it felt like you were always being directed, here I was always 2nd guessing my movements. It’s not like you’re getting lost, it’s not that big an area and there’s a marker on the screen, but I was skipping areas, feeling like I was missing out. I guess at least it gave me something to do once I got to that locked door.
One of the things that had stopped me exploring was Prey’s difficulty. It’s not impossibly hard or anything, but there’s an awkwardness to the early sections of Prey. You’re mainly facing off against small crab-like enemies called Mimics, they flash about, disguising themselves as items in the environment. It’s a really cool concept, we’ve spent our gaming lives picking through every bin, every art-deco ashtray, and now they’ll probably kill us. The problem I was having was that they always seemed to appear on my blind side. Fair enough, that’s what I’d do if I was them, but I’ve seen footage of other people playing and seeing the mimic dart in to an item, then taking advantage of their own trap and laying waste to them. I never managed to take advantage of them nor my environment like that, bar one time when a larger enemy’s route was taking it past an exploding barrel.
Part of the problem, I think, for me at least, is that I primarily play this kind of game on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. Playing on the PS4 there’s a lag to the camera movement, something that’s apparently going to be fixed in time for release. The aiming also feels strangely digital, maybe this is me not being as good as I should be, or used to be, with a controller in a first person game, but enemies were easily darting around me. I’d eventually nail them, particularly with the Goop gun, but I was having a hard time not taking damage. Without wanting to sound like a PC snob, I can’t help but feel that the increased speed of movement with a mouse, and the larger FOV that tends to accompany playing on a PC might have a beneficial effect on my experience with Prey
In some ways the Prey demo is exactly what a First Impressions post should be, a question mark. There’s enough good ideas in there to get me interested, there’s enough flavour of the weapons and skill trees to know there’s more to Prey than you see here, and it’s clear that the world Arkane have built is detailed and filled with opportunities. Ultimately though, I can’t tell you what I think of the game or if Prey is for me