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quakecon 2016


Putting The Alien Back In Science Fiction
by Andrew Reiner on Aug 04, 2016 at 12:43 PM

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Platform PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher Bethesda Softworks
Developer Arkane Studios
Rating Mature

When Arkhane Studios debuted Prey at Bethesda Softworks' E3 press conference earlier this year, few details were given, but the brief footage that was shown was enough to make us sympathize with a character named Morgan Yu. the trailer hammered home the repetition in his life by showing his daily routine numerous times. The one thing that changes day to day is his health. On each subsequent visit to the bathroom, Yu's eye is redder. The last time we see him, it's blood red, and we can see the concern on his face. We then see that he's the subject of some kind of experiment, trapped within a sprawling white chamber. Three silhouetted men view Yu from the window, welcoming him back again. This tease mostly told us that Arkane Studios was doing something dramatically different with the Prey franchise, but we didn't really know what – outside of the brief glimpse of Yu blasting aliens that appeared to be made of smoke and goo.

Just an hour ago, Raphael Colantonio, the president and co-creative director at Arkane Studios, and Ricardo Bare, the lead designer of Prey, took the stage at QuakeCon 2016 to give show attendees an exclusive first look at Prey's gameplay in action. The demo, which ran for roughly seven to eight minutes, again confirmed that Arkane is divorcing itself completely form the original 2006 Prey game created by Human Head Studios. It reminded me of BioShock, partially from the aesthetic of a utopian setting crumbling by playing god, and the player harnessing those destructive powers to be a force in this dangerous, yet beautiful world.

The first shot we see is of Yu awakening on a space station named Talos One that is orbiting our moon. Yu's surroundings are rich: gold statues, gold engraved floor, and the signs of a rich society are all present here, but so are a retro science-fiction design. Everything looks expensive, but it also looks old and from another age. "Because of the open-ended nature of the game, you can pretty much go anywhere on the space station you want," Bare adds. "Right now, our mission is to find a scientist named Doctor Calvino.

Yu who awoke on the floor, and appears to have recently been in a scrap, is equipped with an object that resembles a lead pipe. That's all he has. He turns away from giant bay windows that give a good look at deep space, and accesses a staircase. After ascending a few stairs, a gold trashcan rolls down. Yu nervously swings at it, and makes contact, but the only thing that happens in the trashcan's trajectory is altered. We soon learn that he did this because enemies can turn into ordinary objects. Anything in the environment could be an adversary laying in wait. As terrifying as this sounds, the first enemy we see is a tiny four-legged spider, again appearing to be made of that gooey smoke substance, that Yu easily dispatches of with one swing of his club.

We then get a good look at the aftermath of mankind's experiments on this space station. Human bodies are littered throughout the hallways. A female voice over the loudspeaker brings a red alert warning, which was apparently not heeded fast enough. Yu loots one a body and finds a pistol. "There are many solutions to puzzles," Bare says. "Weapons are one of them, but weapons are rare." The pistol looks fairly ordinary by today's standards, but includes a digital display revealing how much ammo is let. Yu has 10 rounds.

One of which he fires into another trashcan, an action that brings a big laugh from the QuakeCon crowd. This game is apparently going to make us jittery around trashcans. Yu then stumbles upon a regally designed glass case holding a strange looking device, which Bare says is a "Neuromod." Appearing to be an item that players will be tracking down throughout the course of the game, the Neuromod delivers an RPG-like element to the game, allowing players to enhance Yu's traits, such as science, engineering, and security, among a handful of other things. To activate the object, Yu must insert it into his eye, which you see from the game's first-person perspective. The Neuromod is linked to the experiments done on what Colantonio calls "aliens," a varied group that we quickly get a good look at.

The enemy that can transform into things is called a Mimic. The first of which we see is standing bipedal with glowing white eyes and a shimmering black body. We are then treated to a look at a puzzling weapon called the Gloo Cannon, which Bare says has "many many uses." The first shot from the Gloo sprays a foam-like substance on a handful of spiders, immediately freezing all of them in their tracks. Yu then dispatches what appears to be a napalm shot to incinerate all of them.

The search for Calvino comes to a locked door. The only opening a small six-inch hole in a teller's window. Yu uses one of his powers which, like the alien type, is called Mimic. With the power activated, Yu looks at the counter in front of the window and highlights a coffee mug. With the press of a button, he amusingly transforms into the coffee mug. In a rare moment of goofiness in the demo, the mug bounces up and down awkwardly a couple of times, almost looking like it's trying to walk, and then rolls on its side through the opening in the teller's window. Yu then deactivates Mimic to turn into a human again, now in a position to progress deeper into the station.

The Gloo Cannon's foam can also be used for traversal reasons. In one example, Yu sprays foam on a wall diagonally from the floor to a balcony, creating a path he can walk up. In this new area, he uses another power dubbed Kinetic Blast, which creates a disruptive field that slows time around him. He uses the delay wisely, by unloading shotgun blasts into a group of enemies moving like snails.

As the demo goes on, we see different sections of the ship, most in dire need of repairs or cleaning. One such hallway is blocked by gas pipes that have caught fire. Yu again uses the Gloo Cannon's foam to snuff out the flames and create passage for himself. Most bodies he comes across offer loot, although whoever was playing the demo often chose to run past them. Minerals and other things can be collected and united in a device called the Fabricator, which Yu comes across to generate an object of desire. in this case, he needs a Zero G Propulsion System for, you guessed it, space walking.

When he departs the station, we see that its hull is just as beaten up as its interiors. And yes, bodies are floating among the debris. Yu uses the Propulsion system to navigate the exterior of the hull, and reaches an airlock that almost appears to be hidden. It'll be interesting to see just how open this world is, as it looked like Yu could go anywhere in space.

In the new environment Yu's Neuromod for Leverage has been upgraded to level three, allowing him to pick up heavy objects, such as a giant cargo container. More impressively, he tosses it forward with an incredible force, almost looking like The Hulk. In this short demo, we only saw a few powers in play, but they all look like they can be used for multiple functions. Bare says throwing things will allow for passage in certain areas.

The last shot we see is in a giant alien beast, which needs to hunch down a little bit in an area that must have ceilings that are 20-feet-high, sprinting at Yu. Bare says that the sound of upgrading Neuromods can alert enemies like this one.

The demo concluded to a roar of applause from the QuakeCon crowd. I too was impressed by the creative look of the action and powers. Part of me still wants to see what the cancelled Prey 2 would have been, but this new direction by Arkane Studios looks equally as intriguing. Prey is currently slated to launch at an unspecified date in 2017. Put it on your radar, folks. It looks good! You can get a brief look at the gameplay in action in the new trailer.

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