Tuesday, 9 May 2017

First Impressions: Prey: Opening Hour

Prey's had an odd development history, and I'm not talking about the planned but cancelled sequel to Prey 2006 in which this game bears resemblance in name alone (I never played the original so this didn't really affect me). No, I'm talking about how it was announced last E3 with a pretty awesome reveal trailer, gave off some great Bioshock vibes and then disappeared off the face of the planet for a bit. I then realised about a month before release that it was getting a release and that it was getting a demo. So I downloaded and played it. Then I played it again. Here are my thoughts on the enigma that is Prey's Opening Hour:

Note: spoilers of the opening hour will be present
I started the game first time as male Morgan on normal difficulty so as to get a feel for the game. The opening had a certain Portal/Half-Life vibe, making jokes about what players do compared to what the game wants you to do and getting pretty dark with a personality test. Playing it again, I tried some different options and was pleasantly surprised to see different responses to random things such as chucking a box at the glass. It's nice to see a company (besides Rockstar) putting that much thought into responses. Also, am I the only one who really liked seeing the names of the company and game on the skyline?

Of course, that wasn't the true opening now was it? All the way through the opening I was thinking to myself, aren't we meant to be on a space station? And we knew from the first trailer that the game plays with your sense of reality, so something was definitely wrong. Why don't those glasses break when I throw them. Ah, simulation, right. Yes, in what was a masterpiece in sudden changes of pace, we got thrown two curveballs in terms of story. Firstly, the second time Morgan wakes up and leaves the room we are suddenly shown a dead body of a person who we'd talked to the day before. Running, naturally, as far away as possible from this, I ran and broke through the window in my apartment to escape. Suddenly, the world opened up and I ran literally through the Looking Glass. I don't know why, but something about it made me stop, turn back and stand there looking for a while, which a game hasn't done for me in a while.

The atmosphere, while lessened after that initial shock, is still creepy and claustrophobic. The music building when a Mimics there but you can't see them is enough to make the heart race and seeing the ship getting battered by asteroids was almost humbling, especially the second time I played through as the first playthrough I sped run the game a bit to get the general feel of it. I made sure the second time (played as female Morgan and on Expert) I took my time, reading most of the emails and notes and I'd definitely recommend this version of playing - this is a game to take your time in!

As mentioned previously, this game changes its response depending on your actions but it also allows you to complete objectives in many different ways (like Dishonored). You can, for example, grab a key card and walk through a door or jump into an air vent and traverse above. While this isn't particularly ground-breaking for a game, especially one by Arkane, the mimicry options later on in the game (which the demo doesn't show) promise more wacky solutions to puzzles and dealing with the Mimics.

Originally, I had a mildly hard time beating the Mimics - they just seemed to swarm me, and I was left swinging wildly. However, by the second playthrough (which was on Expert difficulty) I was able to start noticing slightly out of place objects (or catch the mimics just as they are changing), and suddenly the hunter became the hunted as I figured out the best way to deal with the creatures. Do I hit them with a wrench, break them free from their decoy and shoot Gloo at them or, a personal favourite, through the object they are mimicking at them. 

In terms of weapons, I've used a wrench, silenced pistol, EMP, another sort of grenade and the Gloo Gun. The Gloo Gun is an odd contraption, shooting Gloo which can either be used to create platforms to jump on or encase enemies to freeze them and allow for a critical hit. Hitting enemies correctly results in a nice attack idea, slowing them down and taking them out, missing results in Gloo everywhere and a very disoriented player. Also, it can't stick to itself which removes the option for creating your own walkways which is a shame (even though I guess it would break the game)

Finally, I guess I should talk about the graphics. Simply put they are stunning, sometimes veering into the realm of uncanny valley with some of the textures and lighting. I mean, seriously, who knew a sink could look that good? You also have the classic stylised faces of Dishonored in the game, which I personally like as they add character to each *ahem* character. 

Conclusion: overall I was split with Prey. Half the time I was in awe with the game (especially breaking the Looking Glass for the first time) and the other half I felt a bit overwhelmed and bored at the same time. It might have had something to do with it being a demo and so I didn't allow myself to become as immersed (it definitely improved the second time around) but still. Guess I'll have to get the game just to see if it's different!

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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