May 5th may be a day marked on your calendar to celebrate Mexican-American culture (or at the very least queso and margaritas at a Mexican restaurant of your choosing), but for Austin’s Arkane Studios, it’s the day their ambitious new game “Prey” arrives.
The new game, from the same studio behind the well-regarded “Dishonored,” is not really a sequel or reboot, but it shares the name and came from the intellectual property of a 2006 alien-abduction shooter.
A week before the game is released, gamers will get a chance to play the opening hour in a free demo of the game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to be released on April 27. (There’s no Windows PC demo expected on that date, but “Prey” will also be available on that platform on the 5th.)
In the windup to the big release, Arkane invited press to come check out that first section of the game at The Highball, as well as a later level in “Prey” called “Psychotronics” that takes place on a destroyed section of what appears to be a space station.
Here’s some of my notes from that play-through:
- The game starts with the familiar video-game trope of waking up and exploring your environment to learn who you are what the game is about, but with a twist. For one thing, you must choose a gender for your character, Morgan Yu at the outset.
- As you might expect from an Arkane Studios game, the environments and characters are incredibly detailed and nearly any object in the game can be picked up and examined. You could, of course, ignore a lot of that and try to run and gun through the game, but the design feels as if it’s insisting you take your time, hunt for clues, and really explore each room for hidden items and messages. The studio described it to me as more of an intricate “Immersive simulation” than a straight-ahead shooter.
- The “Mimics,” little oily black alien creatures that can disguised themselves as everyday objects, are genuinely creepy and apparently aren’t programmed in a scripted way. So that means even the game’s designers were sometimes surprised when Mimics popped up out of objects such as coffee cups or weapons.
- “Prey” clearly has a lot of cinematic influences (as this Alamo Drafthouse tie-in would suggest), but if I had to guess at some of its video-gaming inspirations, it reminds me of “Dead Space,” some of “Half-Life” and in some of its alternate-history backstory, the “BioShock” series.
- From where I spent most time in the game, I didn’t get a chance to experiment much with weapons or abilities you’d have later in the story, but when I was called upon to take some shots against alien creatures, it felt like I had a few options in order to handle the situation. “Prey,” I was told, is meant to encourage experimentation and different playstyles, not unlike a game such as “Far Cry” or “Dishonored.”
I’ll have more to say about the game and how Arkane Studios approached it closer to the release date. Can’t that long? If you’re not above spoilers, here’s 35 minutes from early in the game:
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