With a 5 May release date, Prey is nearly upon us. And while it shares its name with a game that came out in 2006, it's a completely different beast.
The following is all you need to know about it (beware: we know a lot about it, so if you're worried about spoilers, proceed with caution).
What is Prey?
Prey is nominally a first-person shooter, although it feels more like a survival-horror game, as the ammunition for its weapons is in very short supply throughout the game.
In keeping with Arkane Studios' core philosophy, you're supposed to be able to play it however you want. To enable that, as you play, you acquire powers which can be chosen from an incredibly diverse array, letting you take weapon, hacking or stealth-led approaches. Plus, you can develop the shape-shifting and psychological powers that the aliens you meet in the game possess.
Unlike the Dishonored games, Prey takes place in a fully open world: Talos I, a space-station. Beyond the story-missions there are plenty of side-missions, which often see you revisiting areas of Talos I, and even involve going outside the space-station.
Although it's single-player-only, Prey should be a pretty meaty game: Lead Designer Ricardo Bare reckons: "It will take at least 16 hours. But we've seen players spend all the way up to 24 or 30 hours on a play-through: it just depends how much of a completionist you are."
In Prey, you play Morgan Yu, whose conveniently unisex name means you can decide whether to play as a male or female character.
At the start of the game, Morgan is in training, preparing for a stint onboard Talos I. But during a routine psychological evaluation test, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. The scientists conducting the test are attacked by an alien which had been disguised as a coffee-cup.
Morgan is gassed and wakes up in her/his apartment. Which, it turns out, was in Talos I all along. So Morgan must find out what the hell is going on and somehow negate the alien threat (which, by implication, could spread to the Earth), by exploring every inch of the space-station.
As we mentioned before, one of Prey's main points is that it lets you adopt your own play-style - and our pre-release hands-on experience with the game suggests Arkane Studios has achieved this aim much more successfully than either of the Dishonored games.
You can focus on improving your weaponry skills, scientific skills, and repair and hacking skills (there are all sorts of consoles and faulty bits of wiring to fix, and the ability to hack locked doors negates the need to find security cards). Then there are the alien attributes you can absorb, divided into Energy, Morph and Telepathy sections.
Essentially, much of the gameplay involves solving puzzles to gain access to inaccessible areas; each of those puzzles can be solved in multiple ways. Exploring uncovers access cards, or you can take more inventive approaches, such as reshaping the environment with the GLOO Cannon, which fires out great globs of a foam which dries and hardens instantly. GLOO also temporarily stops electrical sparks and puts out fires.
At times, you will have to make choices about what to do: for example, in one sequence, you find an ex-convict who was an experimental test subject, and you must decide whether to feed him to aliens or spare him. Prey has multiple endings.
Another gameplay element involves surviving encounters with the aliens - which are officially called Typhon. They come in various shapes and sizes, and you can either take them on directly with whatever weaponry you have (immobilising them with GLOO, then smacking them with the wrench is particularly satisfying if you have run out of ammo), indirectly using turrets which auto-detect Typhon - or you can employ stealth to avoid them altogether.
Prey weapons and powers
You can carry -- and switch between -- a number of weapons and active powers, accessible via a classic wheel interface (some powers are passive, affecting your stats or letting you do things you otherwise wouldn't be able to).
As far as the weaponry is concerned, don't expect railguns or chainsaws: some of it is pretty prosaic. The first one you find is a wrench, which obviously lets you melee, and can be easily replicated.
We found a pretty handy pistol and shotgun, but they had to be used sparingly due to a general lack of ammo. Refills for the GLOO Cannon, on the other hand, seemed plentiful, but when you encase a Typhon in GLOO (a much easier process for the smaller Mimics than the human-sized Phantoms), it will wriggle free after a while.
There is another weapon called the Huntress Boltcaster which resembles a crossbow but, in use, we found it hopelessly weedy - essentially, it was a toy. There are high-tech grenades, called Recycler Charges, though, which blow Typhon and nearby objects into handy constituents that can be collected and used to replicate objects.
The powers tree is the heart of Prey, and it's so huge that it will never be possible to unlock everything it contains in a single play-through - as Lead Designer Ricardo Bare confirmed: "Our goal is that you couldn't possibly find enough Neuromods to unlock every single thing. But if you wanted to complete the entire human side of things or the entire alien side of things, it's probably possible."
Neuromods - liquids that your character injects into his or her eye - are what you spend to buy powers. Basic powers might require one Neuromod, whereas more elaborate ones might cost four or more.
The powers tree is huge, and split into the categories Scientist, Engineer, Security, Energy, Morph and Telepathy: the latter three are alien powers.
Some powers have various levels - for example, the most eye-catching one, Mimic, which lets you turn yourself into inanimate objects. The first level lets you mimic small objects like coffee cups (useful for getting through small openings), the second to mimic more sophisticated objects like turrets, and the third to mimic the robotic Operators, which effectively gives you the ability to fly.
Prey characters and enemies
The only choice of playable character is between the male and female versions of Morgan Yu, but Morgan isn't completely alone in Talos I, even though the vast majority of its staff have been killed by the Typhon. Morgan's brother Alex - a somewhat portly individual - has survived, and is able to communicate with Morgan. As is a very helpful AI called January, who functions as a sort of tutorial.
There are at least two types of Typhon - and learning about them, via scanning them with an object called the Psychoscope, is a crucial element of the game. The first Typhon we encountered were Mimics: small, black, spider-like creatures that can shape-shift, and attack you in a manner not dissimilar to the Alien films' face-huggers.
The Phantoms are much bigger and more intimidating - also black, but bipedal, like humans, and they pack a much more significant punch. Plus they have psychological and psychokinetic powers which you can acquire and counter later in the game. They are the sort of enemies which are easy enough to take down when they are alone, but when you encounter several of them, you will need the right powers and a much more tactical approach.
Prey graphics and setting
Arkane Studios developed an unusual back-story for Prey, which allowed it to set the game more or less in the present day, but on an elaborate, functional space-station. The story goes that Prey takes place in a parallel universe, in which John F Kennedy's assassination was averted, so rather than fizzling out, NASA's space programme continued to gather pace through the 1970s, 80s, 90s and beyond. Although Talos I is run by a private company called TranStar.
Talos I itself often exhibits a visual trait common to Arkane Studios' games (especially the steampunk Dishonored 1 and 2): Art Deco design influences. For a space-station, it often has a curious Gentleman's Club-type feel to it, as a result.
Graphically, Prey is mightily impressive: it's very crisp and high-resolution, and generally acts as a pretty decent advert for Crytek's CryEngine, which was used to make it.
In April, Arkane Studios and publisher Bethesda Softworks ran a number of events designed to get a demo version of Prey in front of members of the public; those events were teamed with films that the development team cited as influences, most notably Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
We persuaded Lead Designer Ricardo Bare to open up about his team's and his personal influences when making Prey: "The artists watch things like 2001 and other films. I like Moon a lot, and it has a lot of elements that resonate with our game very strongly. But other sources of influence for me personally include a lot of scientific literature, because our game is very heavily themed, at least in the background, around neuroscience.
"It feels like it's one of the frontiers of science right now. And then, I do a lot of reading of classic sci-fi stories, like Solaris - even before watching the movie, I read the novel. I read a Robert A. Heinlein story, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which is a really cool tale about a colony on the moon, AI and stuff like that."
If you pre-order Prey, you will get the Cosmonaut Shotgun Pack for free, which gets you Morgan Yu's family-heirloom Margrave shotgun, three Neuromods, two Medkits, a Fabrication blueprint for the shotgun and its ammo plus what is cryptically described as: "A unique upgrade to help players preserve their limited resources."
- Order the PS4 version from Amazon.co.uk here or Amazon.com here
- Order the Xbox One version from Amazon.co.uk here or Amazon.com here
- Order the PC version from Amazon.co.uk here or Amazon.com here
Prey videos and trailers
If you're keen to have a look at what Prey is all about before deciding whether to buy it, you're in luck. Bethesda Softworks has been extra-diligent when it comes to creating videos showing pretty much every aspect of the game.
Here's one that explains the history of TranStar, the company that runs Talos I:
Here's an extended gameplay walkthrough, narrated by Arkane Studios' Creative Director, Raphael Colantonio, and Lead Designer Ricardo Bare:
This video shows the Mimic power in all its glory:
While this one focuses on the Typhon aliens:
Entitled "Only Yu Can Save The World", this video looks at Morgan Yu's powers, abilities and weapons:
While this one is all about weapon and power combos:
A closer look at some of the powers in Prey:
This is how the Neuromod system works:
A focus on gear, gadgets and weapons:
And finally, an exploration of Talos I itself: