Thoughts on Prey’s Opening Hour demo

Prey’s Opening Hour demo is now available, but is it any fun?

Since its unveiling at last year’s E3, Prey has been on my radar. Created by one of my favorite developers, Arkane Studios, the game looked to totally rebrand the original Prey that fell pretty flat when it released over a decade ago. Plus, Bethesda had teased, announced and cancelled a true sequel way back in the early 2010s. Finally, I’m happy to report that based on the Opening Hour demo, it seems like the duo are set to deliver a fantastic reboot when Prey comes out May 5, 2017.

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I won’t talk plot spoilers, but right from the get go, Arkane sets up Morgan Yu, the company he/she (you can pick your gender) works for and even your reality to be tested. With similar design and tonal direction you’ve come to expect from the developer, Arkane’s demo hooks you into its narrative from the start. The early sections the demo feel entirely reminiscent of the much-praised Clockwork Mansion level of Dishonored 2. Areas shift around you and can create some serious illusions and navigation puzzles.

Unfortunately, along the way, I found that Opening Hour (at least on Xbox One) had the same wall and object blurriness that Dishonored 2 had on the platform. While it’s better than jaggies that come from poor aliasing, it’s still a bummer to have the picture look muddy from time-to-time. Of course, on other platforms this might be reduced or nonexistent depending on the power of your machine.

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Similar to Dishonored, Arkane is also bringing the “play your way” mentality to level exploration in Prey. The two areas available in Opening Hour give you a loose objective, say “Reach this room,” for example. Getting there can mean finding a key card, finding a password or wiggling your way through some vents that will give claustrophobic gamers some serious nightmares. On top of that, the way you choose to get to your objective will impact the enemies you’ll come across.

The Opening Hour demo features two different types of enemies. The most basic ones are the Mimics, which are spider-like and can turn into any object in a room, making looting a dangerous affair. They’re more of a pest than anything else, but if they get a jump on you, they can cause serious damage. The other enemy type, Typhons, look like hulking shadow humans that occasionally have elemental damage associated with them. They’re nowhere near as stealthy as the Mimics, but they’ll kill you in short order if you’re not careful.

As for weapons, I stumbled on a silenced pistol, a shotgun, a taser projectile weapon, the GLOO gun and even a toy crossbow that could shoot foam darts and distract enemies. You also have a wrench which can be used a blunt weapon when out of ammo. By far, the coolest weapon in the demo is the GLOO gun, which you can use to stick enemies in place or even build bridges and walkways using its giant hard foam ammunition. It’s a hard thing to articulate in text, but in motion, the way you use the Gloo gun to solve environmental puzzles reminded me of the brain-bending level designs in Portal.

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Which leads me to probably my least favorite (but also most reasonable) label people have placed on the Prey. “Bioshock meets Portal” and “Bioshock meets System Shock” are both phrases that have been thrown around. Sure, Prey has elements from those titles, but I think what people might mean to say is that the gameplay and story triggers similar feelings to these older classics. Prey conjured up the same sense of wonder I had as I descending into Rapture in a bathysphere, but Arkane’s world feels largely its own. It doesn’t feel like another take on a popular artist’s work; Prey feels like you’ve entered another game that feels iconic from the moment Morgan Yu wakes up.

Prey Opening Hour evoked a sense that I was playing a modern classic that we’d be talking about for the next decade. When the game hits shelves, Prey could crumble under its own ambitions, but for now, I’m happy to report, I’m in love with Arkane’s latest venture.

Prey Opening Hour demo is now available on Xbox One and PS4. The full game will hit retail and digital storefronts on May 5, 2017.

 

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