[NM] Demo Impressions: Prey

(Editor’s Note: All screenshots from Playstation 4)

The date, March 15 2032. The place, my apartment. I am Morgan, waking up to start my first day at a new job at the TranStar Testing Facility. After fiddling around with a few things in the apartment, I grab my suit and head to the roof where a helicopter awaits. As the pilot takes off, the game transitions into a vehicle for smooth synth music. Just for giggles, I decide to see if I can jump into the helicopter’s blades. I can, they kill me instantly.

You start off Prey as Morgan Yu, gender-neutrally named protagonist going through a series of confusing and likely annoying personality questions at the TranStar Testing Facility. As you might expect being that this is a science fiction game, you’re walled off from the other characters initially, something goes wrong and all hell breaks loose in the facility. You’ll see this “twist” coming the moment you step into the first room, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything of importance. To go further with the story after this point would be a major spoiler, so play the demo at your own risk.

First impressions with Prey make me feel like I’m playing a game developed by the Deus Ex folks at Eidos Montreal for the Mirror’s Edge universe with some System Shock thrown in for good measure. Rather than throw you into a sandbox and have you play with the encounters placed around the map, Prey follows the vein of Deus Ex, throwing around enough toys to play to most preferences. Want to be an awesome hacker? There are turrets, locked doors, etc aplenty. Want to go in guns blazing? You have that option. Sneak around using stealth? Absolutely. You very quickly come upon items like the wrench, GLOO gun (freezes enemies in place) and oddities like a foam crossbow that fires bolts that don’t do damage but are probably helpful for distractions.

Mimics are the primary antagonist of the game so far. The more populous group you’ll come across are capable of scurrying off and changing into objects in the scenery. Larger enemies roam around the map, and at this early stage it is clearly best to leave them alone. Your GLOO Gun doesn’t do a whole lot to help and they are capable of taking your out from afar.

Skill upgrades are handled by neuro mods both in plain sight and hidden around the map, giving the game more of an emphasis on exploration and less so on killing everything in sight to maximize your experience gain. Neuro mods can be used to customize Morgan to your play style, emphasizing stealth, weapon proficiency, or healing, among other things. Players of Deus Ex will be familiar with using the system for minor upgrades like lifting heavy objects or allowing Morgan to extract more resources from downed foes. Weapons are similarly upgraded through weapon upgrade mods (go figure) that are found separate from the neuro mods and again encourages deep exploration.

Prey is best played at a slow, methodical pace. Explore the map too fast and you’ll likely miss the crafting materials and notes scattered around, sticky notes with pass codes and important information. I also enjoy that mimics will show up in rooms that you’ve already cleared, rather than guiding the player through an all-too-predictable shuffle of entering a room, triggering the traps, and then having it be safe forever.

I walked out of the Prey demo with a few issues, most pressing being that controlling Morgan feels like pushing a wheelchair up a hill made of pudding. Slow and sluggish, both in movement and in turning, with some serious input delays on the Playstation 4. It’s like someone put Morgan into one of those padded training suits that you see the police use with training dogs, and you’re expected to keep up with said dogs who are now on rocket powered skates. None of these problems appear to be present on the Xbox One version, so if you have both systems, you’re probably better off on Xbox. There is no knowing how the PC version will run, Bethesda hasn’t released a demo.

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