After playing through the initial hour of Prey at an earlier event, we were hooked. Its story, full of themes around family, questionable morals, trust, had the potential to be ranked alongside the greats of sci-fi storytelling, from System Shock to Half-Life.
So we went back and played some more, courtesy of Bethesda, but this time it was all about the alien powers. But it was also not quite as we expected.
In lieu of our full review, which will arrive on Monday, May 8 due to Bethesda’s review policy, check out the 10 biggest take-homes we’ve gleaned from playing Prey so far:
1. There are a lot of pop-ups
We played through the first hour of the game and then at this event we were dropped back into Prey around three hours in. But even this far into the game, it seems like the tutorials are pretty constant. Pick up a new weapon, there’s an explainer; equip a new ability and there’s another.
Just trying to mess about with the alien powers caused so many pop-up tutorial windows that it became frustrating. And if you die, you are going to have to dismiss them all over again too.
It’s not a massive issue, but it was one of the major irritations for our Prey preview. If you’re going to have explainers, make them more like the BioShock plasmid videos or the Fallout 4 S.P.E.C.I.A.L explainers.
2. Much of the story is delivered through audio logs
As you can see in our video playing through the first hour of the game, the story is told through interactive cutscenes where you’re talking to your fellow Talos I people or to January your guide. But later on, you’re much more on your own so the majority of the plot is fed to you in phone calls or audio logs.
The more you listen, the better informed you’ll be about the game’s story and what happened before the Typhon attack. And there’s quite a bit to absorb even in the few hours we’ve had with the game. Anything majorly important to the story comes through automatically, but there are regular prompts to listen to other audio logs related to the area you’re in.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Very little is trying to take you out of the game and the experience you’re having. It’s also very similar to how the story plays out in other games of this type, including BioShock and Arkane’s own Dishonored.
3. There are plenty of powers and weapons to use
Like Dishonored, there are plenty of powers to get your head around, but also weapons too. Prey features a huge array of grenades, guns, melee weapons and more, and none of them would be found in your more traditional FPS arsenal. Mostly they’re parts of experiments that Yu has reappropriated as weapons or at least distractions.
Take the Typhon Lure for example. This piece of kit is something that was being used as a way of containing the aliens. But now, this weapon uses a special light to distract the Typhon until you’re ready to attack – or run.
Working out how to use your human, alien and technological abilities together is going to be one of the best things about Prey. So far, we’ve only scratched the surface.
4. Getting alien abilities is a lot of work
Another piece of important tech in Prey is the Psychoscope. This piece of futuristic, if inelegant, headgear is key to understanding the Typhon onboard Talos I. You’ll need to use the Psychoscope’s scanning abilities to learn about the various elements of the Typhon species, but also to gain their abilities. And yes, that includes the shape-shifting Mimic Matters power that lets you become a coffee mug.
You’ll have to scan multiple members of the same Typhon species, from Mimic to Phantom, in order to unlock their associated abilities. And what’s more, you’ll have to scan them while they’re alive and trying to kill you. Encase them in GLOO cannon gunge and it’ll still work, but it’ll be a much slower process.
It’s a strange mechanic for a game that has such speedy monsters and can really throw off the pace of the combat.
5. The more alien powers you have, the more at risk you are
What’s interesting is that the ship will react differently to you depending on how many alien abilities you have equipped yourself with. Dotted around Talos I are sentry turrets that you can use to help you fight off the Typhon. However, if you inject yourself with too much alien DNA, you’ll soon find the turrets turning their weapons on you.
We experimented only with two levels of the Mimic Matters and the first stage of Phantom Shift, but we were still very much of interest to the ship’s defences. Prepare yourself for resistance!
6. The toy bow and arrow is incredibly useful
Although you might wonder what the heck you’re going to do with a non-lethal weapon against a hostile alien race, don’t dismiss the Huntress Boltcaster. This crossbow only fires Nerf gun-style darts, but it’s actually one of the more useful tools at your disposal.
Using the retrievable bolts you can actually hit switches and touchpads in rooms you’d otherwise be unable to enter. There was one room that we could see through a window that had lots of useful items in, but the bars behind the glass meant mimicking our way in wasn’t an option and we couldn’t find the door code. Instead, you can break the glass and hit the unlock button on the door with your bolts. Et voila, you’re in and you can collect your foam bolt on the way out to use again later.
7. You can craft your own neuromods
In order to actually equip any of the alien or human powers, you’ll need neuromods. These tools are the things you use to modify Morgan’s brain to give you new powers, but the more advanced the power, the more neuromods you’ll need.
You’ll find them scattered across Talos I, but handily you can actually make them yourself too at the Fabricators. In order to create them, you’ll need materials that you can get from breaking down scrap at the Recyclers, but most of the components you need are fairly easy to come by.
It’s definitely a useful trick to know because we know you’ll want to nab yourself as many powers as you can, ASAP.
8. You’re not alone on Talos I
Although most of your fellow Talos I crew members have been taken out by the Typhon, you’re not totally alone on the ship. In our preview session, we discover a man trapped in a transparent cell with the pulsating force of the Typhon brain pulsating behind him in another sealed container.
The man begs you to free him from the cage, taunting you with access codes for a nearby armoury in exchange for his freedom. But you don’t have to. On the touchscreen panel in front of the cage is the option to send in a small pack of Mimics, just to see what happens. It turns out this man is a test subject and one with an incredibly repulsive criminal record.
By releasing the Mimics, you’re sentencing him to death and will watch the life sucked right out of him. You’ll get precious resources in return, but January will question your ethics and morals somewhat. We never found out what happened if you let him live…
Morality and trust seem to be huge themes within the Prey storyline and no doubt there’ll be more difficult choices like this to come.
9. Your mimic powers won’t protect you
Mimic Matter might be the most highly-anticipated of Prey’s alien powers and although becoming a mug or other household items might be fun, it’s not a useful trick against the Typhon. While experimenting with the Mimic Matters power, a swarm of Mimics entered the room and started looking for fresh meat – a.k.a us.
We were hiding in a microscope at the time, hoping that the Mimics would walk right past us. But, apparently, Mimics know when a fellow Mimic – or someone with those abilities – is lurking nearby and launched an attack that sent us leaping from our adopted form straight into the offensive.
Also, don’t think you can take on a couple of Phantoms by becoming a turret to save some ammo. It doesn’t work and you will die.
10. Being nosy can be to your advantage
Scattered across Talos I are computer terminals, safes and the sad corpses of your former colleagues. You might feel like you should respect the dead, but Prey rewards the inquisitive and the downright nosy. The computers are filled with emails that will often give you safe passwords, while bodies will sometimes have passkeys in their pockets that give you access to new areas.
What we love is the amount of detail in the emails. In one of the areas we were exploring, there’s an email between two colleagues explaining that he’s forgotten the passcode to one of the labs. But, he’s discovered a workaround. Every half an hour, like clockwork, a little Operator bot goes into that very lab using its own passcode. If you wait, you can just follow him in and then let yourself out again.
It’s the little details like this that we love about Prey. If you want to dig into Talos I and discover every nook and cranny, you can. You’ve just got to look hard enough.
Prey is coming out on PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 5 worldwide.