Prey Is Back... But Why Are We All Excited?
Prey released way back in 2006, developed by Human Head Studios, and many loved it. The graphics, gameplay, where it was set, and even the story were all amazing. While most of these elements have aged in the past 10 years, Prey still plays really well.
Prey resurfaced a few years back, as a sequel being again developed by Human Head Studios. It's a shame Prey 2 is no longer a thing, but with Arkane Studios now at the helm of the Prey reboot, I jumped back into the original. But what makes it stand out?
Looking to the other side of the Sphere.
Prey does new things with the old tropes, even now
Let's brush over what has aged -- with textures and poly counts Prey is no longer up to scratch. But being around 10 years old it still looks solid, especially in the architecture and design of everything. The walls still look disgusting -- they are slimy and organically grotesque, with some of the 'doors' opening with a horrible squelch. They are animated amazingly to create a vomit-inducing effect.
The plot has been seen many times before, and many times since, but with a slightly different twist. You are a Cherokee named Tommy. Aliens abduct you, your girlfriend Jen, and your granddad. Using your ancestral powers, you can spirit walk, which allows you to walk over spirit bridges, pass through force fields, and use your spirit bow. Familiar story elements, of chasing your loved one and alien abduction, are mixed with an oft-underserved spiritual element from Native American culture.
Yes, I am walking along a wall.
The gameplay is pretty standard, until you start to manipulate gravity, walk along the walls and ceilings using specific walkways, and even become a spirit. There are some boxes which will transport you to other places, sometimes within the same room, sometimes into another area. There are even portals -- unfortunately you cannot create them, but they can appear anywhere, on roofs, walls, or the floor near you, with some you can pass through.
You gain new and unique weapons, each of which works differently from the last, but is also as interesting as the last. From the more standard assault rifle type weapon, which has an alternative fire where it turns into a more sniper rifle type weapon, to a gun where you have to charge it using energy stations of fire, ice, or lighting, and which element you charge the gun with changes the range and how it actually fires.
Gravity is pulling me towards the wall, so it is now the floor.
Gravity, space, and mind bending
Let's talk a bit more about gravity, and portals. We all know what gravity is I assume, where you stick to a ball because of it's size, density, and pull. It's rare to see a game which uses gravity, both realistically and gamifies it.
There are walkways where you stick to the surface, and so can walk across walls and ceilings -- but don't jump off because you will fall. There are even sections where you can shoot a gravity manipulator and change the direction of gravity. Both of these mechanics create really interesting puzzles, where you use your spirit form to activate objects and move your physical self. The realistic gravity comes in the form of mini-planets, where you literally walk around them. Some areas have many of these little planets, and even a spaceship you can fly around in.
The portals, teleportation boxes, as well as mirrors are some of the best reflections/projections in games. (And remember Prey was released before Portal.) You can see through the portals, the other side being just as clear as if you were there. The reflections from mirrors are the same, a perfectly mirrored image of Tommy appears at the beginning of the game.
The plane crash which was the be the starting point of Prey 2.
Prey sticks in your head because it takes tropes and does interesting things within them
To this day, many of the things Prey does are unique. How many games use portals? Or allow you to manipulate gravity? Or even have tiny planets you can walk around? Yes, there are few, like Portal with...well portals. And LawBreakers has gravity manipulation, along with a few other games (some of which, notably Inversion, were also very mediocre games which didn't use a cool mechanic in very impressive ways).
Prey remains a memorable game by mixing things you are used to seeing, with new things. I, for one, can't wait to see what Arkane Studios come up with in their Prey reboot.