Forget 2011, that Prey is dead. This is new, new Prey, and it looks to be one of the most interesting triple-A announcements in recent years… you know, apart from 2011’s Prey announcement.
Related: here are the best first-person shooters that are already out and can’t be cancelled.
With development being headed up by Arkane Studios - those geniuses behind Dishonored - Prey is an immersive sim set aboard a retrofuturistic space station orbiting Earth’s moon. Players control Morgan Yu, whose gender the player can select, who awakes to find he only has a horde of menacing aliens for company. Menacing aliens who can turn themselves into cups of tea and office chairs.
Prey release date
Bethesda given Prey the exceedingly broad release date of 2017, and seeing as they’re a publisher who routinely experiment with how close to release they announce their games, that could be early or late 2017.
If, after the Dishonored 2 debacle, you're worried about the launch performance of Arkane's latest, they'd like to reassure you. Co-creative director Rafael Colantonio says in an interview that Prey will be "really flawless when we ship" on PC, thanks to lessons learned from their last title, plus more QA time and a different, better-understood engine.
Prey is set in 2032, in an alternative timeline where John kennedy was never assassinated and went on to invest heavily in space program. 69 years on and one of Kennedy’s space stations is still in orbit around Earth’s moon. It’s a vessel that’s been renovated countless times, leading to a clash of styles and designs from different eras all bolted on top of one another. It’s aboard this space station that protagonist Morgan Yu finds himself.
A video posted on Bethesda’s YouTube channel gives greater insight into the events leading up to the game, and reveals the origin of the space station - Talos I - as well as the two purposes it serves: containment and research. You can watch it below.
The game’s reveal trailer also hints at a setting on Earth itself, with a Groundhog Day-style first-person sequence playing out in a skyscraper, although this is probably just contextual.
Prey story details are still very scarce. Here's the premise: in the year 2032, you mysteriously awaken on Talos I, a high-tech space station, and it's quickly clear that all is not well. The station is deserted but for a number of extremely hostile aliens called Typhons, which possess the ability to hide in plain sight, taking on the appearance of everyday objects like potted plants and monitors. Think Garry's Mod Prop Hunt, but scary. The only aim is to survive, but we’re assuming making it back to Earth will also place fairly high on Yu’s list of priorities.
We also learn in the reveal trailer that Morgan Yu is or has been the subject of experimentation, not by the aliens on board the Talos I, but by his fellow man. The exact nature of these experiments in unknown. Players can also pick the gender of Yu at the start of the game. Both versions are fully voiced, but it’s not known whether gender will play a role in the narrative of the game yet.
In an interview with Game Informer, Arkane shared more about Prey's story. It will apparently be pretty dark - no surprise there, based on initial impressions - and whether or not it will have a central antagonist will depend on your point of view.
Surviving and evolving are central to the gameplay of Prey. Players are faced with the task of fending off their alien adversaries aboard a non-military space station, which will involve using crude objects found around the environment and any light arms they come across.
We also know that Prey will involve mastering some of the alien abilities, like being able to embody inanimate object around the space station. In a Gamescom demo this ability was shown coming into its own by the player embodying a mug in order to slip through a tiny gap, before resuming their human form on the other side.
Like with Corvo’s mask in Dishonored, you’ll be able to customise Morgan Yu’s abilities and powers to better suit your style of play. To do this you’ll have to find Neuromods, small devices which allow Yu to learn Typhon abilities. One small caveat though, these devices involve injecting yourself in the eye, which we’re guessing will be fairly harrowing in first-person.
Also like Dishonored, the player will be able to approach gameplay however they wish. Don’t fancy the next room? There’s probably an alternative route, although you might miss out on some useful resources.
Prey will also feature a number of spacewalks, where the player will be able to explore the exterior of Talos I in a spacesuit, using thrusters to move about and having to monitor their oxygen supplies at all times.
Prey will also feature a number of gameplay elements that focus on survival, with weapon degradation and a "trauma system" confirmed for the game - think leg-breaks from big falls and severe burns from, well... hot things.
There will also be human survivors on the station, but they will be rare. Once you encounter them, they can be killed by aliens (or by you...) and the game will keep going, so their role isn't essential to your progress (as in, say, Half-Life).
As if Prey’s RPG, stealth and survival elements weren’t enough to slake your gameplay thirst, there’s also a crafting component that you’ll have to wrap your head around - though with Arkane in charge it’ll surely be seamlessly integrated and easy to understand.
Not much has been revealed about it outside of the extended gameplay trailer, which shows the player collecting resources via their Recycler Charge, and using them with blueprints at a Fabricator. The machine starts modelling the object (much like a 3D printer) and spits it out for the player to use. In the trailer the only craftable object is a propulsion system for zero gravity areas… you know, like space.
Prey neuromods and abilities
Seeing as the Talos I is a research facility, we assume there won’t be much in the way of conventional firearms lying around the ship, other than light arms like pistols and shotguns. We also know that Morgan will be able to harness some of the alien abilities, which we expect to make up a significant chunk of his or her arsenal. Other weapons will likely be sourced from the technology already present in the facility à la Half-Life.
The most talked about feature in the game, Mimic Matter allows the player to turn into and control objects around the space station like chairs and plates. While in this form the player can move around, awkwardly rolling or twisting, in order to navigate the environment or presumably deceive enemies.
You can also use Mimic Matter for stealth, turning yourself into a small object, rolling by your target unseen and then resuming your human form. If you chain the ability with Superthermal - by using it on yourself - you can send the object you’re controlling high into the air, giving the player additional routes to raised platforms and ledges.
This ability creates a force field that lifts all objects on the ground up in the air. Really, the name says it all. Hop on top of a crate to and use it to reach a new area or zap a horde of Typhons up in the air for a xeno skeet shoot.
This is essentially a psychic Fus Ro Dah. All you have to do is activate the ability and watch everything is sight fire backwards violently. Bliss.
This ability comes from the Telepath Typhon type, and as such it lets you control humans. And you don’t need us to tell you why that’s fun and useful.
This ability places a floor-based trap that when triggered, fires a beam of plasma that deals massive damage to everything caught in it.
If you spot an alien about to leap into a chair or cup, activate Psychoshock, which disables alien powers for a short duration, leaving the inky black critters vulnerable to your shotgun blasts.
Where Leverage is for picking up and throwing heavy things at unsuspecting aliens, Remote Manipulation is about calmly and accurately shifting items about from afar, presumably to access new areas.
This handy ability lets you pick up huge objects and hurl them at great velocities. It takes some time to pick the object up in the first place, but it’s a useful tool for clearing a path or killing an enemy.
And what about specific firearms? Here's what's been confirmed so far:
Every good sci fi game has that one seriously cool gun everybody wants to get their hands on, for Prey that gun must surely be the GLOO Cannon, which fires instantly setting glue. While that’s great for arts and crafters, it can also be used to stop enemies in their tracks, letting you then swap out to a pistol and shatter the glue sculptures before they’re able to escape. The GLOO Cannon is also a tool for environmental exploration, letting you create ramps up walls or cover steam vents and fires so that you can pass by unharmed.
Grenades are fun and all, but they’re also rather messy. Not the Recycler Charge though, which can be thrown into a tat-filled area, before consuming all the chairs, filing cabinets and scraps of paper in sight and turning them into material you can use in crafting. Prey’s Recycler Charge can either be used to get rid of obstacles that might be blocking your path or as a weapon that effectively gobbles up any enemy in its range.
Disruptor Stun Gun
Now, you’re probably wondering why on Earth you’d need a stun gun to take out aliens. Turns out, some aliens can possess humans - the Disruptor Stun Gun is your morally approved way means of disabling possessed people. It’s also effective frying droids.
Prey enemy types
Here are the aliens that’ll be haunting your every step through the Talos I...
These are the little adorable babies of the Typhon family. Except these little babies only appear in packs, and explode upon reaching their target.
We’ve heard and seen plenty of these guys: they’re small, they look like spiders, and they can disguise themselves as floor lamps.
Phantoms are fellow crew members who have been consumed by Typhon energy, and as such they can do things like hurl lightning at the player, control fire and breathe clouds of toxic gas. They’re also the most common enemy type in Prey, so good luck with that.
As the name suggests, this fiendish enemy can turn itself invisible. And to make matters worse they’re territorial too, which means they haunt single locations.
Telepaths serve as Prey’s mini-bosses: they have an army of possessed humans at their disposal, and can mete out massive damage with psychic energy blasts.
There might only be one Nightmare in the game, but it’s an enemy you don’t want to stumble upon. This behemoth of black tendrils will almost certainly kill you given half a chance, and spends the entire game searching you out. Because it’s a Typhon, it’s can track you down more successfully the more neuromods you use. So try not pump too many superpowers into your eyeballs.
We might not know that much about it, but there are plenty of trailers for Prey. First off, the official gameplay trailer, which comes in two flavours - male and female - both posted below.
To see some of the abilities and weapons in action, like Mimic Matter and the GLOO Cannon, watch the below Gamescom gameplay teaser.
You also can’t go wrong with the E3 2016 reveal trailer, which gives some idea of the tone and psychological horror we can expect from Prey when it launches in 2017.
Finally, there's an extended gameplay trailer with commentary from Arkane. This is a juicy one, showing off new weapons, abilities and enemies.
Is Prey a sequel?
Apparently not, despite the setting and gameplay characteristics it shares with the 2006 original. “Prey is not a sequel, it's not a remake, it has no tie with the original,” said Prey’s creative director Raphael Colantonio at Bethesda’s pre-E3 show, “you have to look at it like a reimagining of the IP.”
Original Prey setting
Before all this new, new Prey nonsense, there was another new Prey, which got canned. Thankfully though, we have a couple of lengthy design documents that were leaked long ago to glean further potential details from.
This leaked design document suggests three possible settings, all in the future. The first is a dirty, mechanical world at a time period one month before the events of System Shock, suggesting Prey would be a literal canon System Shock game.
The second brief looks at a retrofuturistic world based on 1950s New York City, with futuristic elements layered over traditional architecture, and characters dressed in sharp suits. Films like Dark City and Brazil are mentioned as influences.
The third option presents a sleek, lived-in future that evokes some of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s architecture, as well as the cleaner, futuristic worlds of Minority Report and the recent Total Recall film.
The final design discusses a forested/jungle island, much like Crysis 3’s overgrown city setting.
Original Prey gameplay
A second leaked document covers what the team had in mind for the sequel’s gameplay.
With System Shock clearly in mind, the game is much more of an immersive sim with character building, environmental interaction, and a distinct focus on challenge, as opposed to the fairly run-and-gun nature of the original Prey.
Survival is highlighted as a key element, with the player required to eat and sleep well should they not wish to get sick. In an ‘adapt to survive’ idea, the player may also be able to alter their DNA to include alien abilities such as chameleon-like invisibility and sticking to walls (presumably to allow wall-walking like in the original game).
Weapons are suggested to comprise of melee, ranged, and psionic, with combat purposely difficult to help raise tension. Choice and consequence seem to be emphasised in order to make the game highly replayable.