Prey: The First Hour — Demo Impressions — “Ugh!”

I loved the first Prey.

It was a fun fast-paced corridor shooter with lots of cool portal effects, clever level designs, and a Native American protagonist.

The game was saved from the ashes of 3D Realms by Human Head Studios, and it was a breath of fresh air. The gameplay was tight and fun, and the graphics still hold up today thanks to the use of idTech 4.

Human Head started working on Prey 2 after the first game was out. We got an amazing E3 demo of that game.

And we even got a cinematic trailer for that game from Blur Studios.

Unfortunately…

The game that’s coming out next week is not that game.

Bethesda cancelled Human Head’s Prey 2 after it had some development issues. We may never know why this happened, and Human Head seemed pretty darn publicly pissed off about it.

The whole thing was then handed to Arkane studios, the makers of the Dishonored games. And they made a whole different game just called “Prey.”

There’s a free demo available now on the PS4 and Xbox One, and I think it seems bad.

Image for post
Image for post

I can tell that a lot of talented people worked on this…but the final product is not very fun.

The new Prey casts you as a selectable male or female character on-board a space station. The intro has some clever twists in it thanks to nice writing supervised by Chris Avellone.

Eventually you discover the station is overrun by aliens called mimics. They look like little goopy black spiders. They can turn into ordinary objects around the levels.

The environments are filled with interactive objects, in part so that any of them could potentially be a mimic. There’s all kinds of stuff to pick up and knock over, and some of it can even go with you in your inventory.

The concept that any object could be an enemy is potentially cool…but in practice it’s kind of annoying and spoiled by the game’s ridiculous audio design. More on that in a moment.

Prey is trying really hard to be the next BioShock or Deus Ex. It has audio logs. It has computer terminals. It has a big box that pops up and tells you you can “Play Your Way!,” and find different ways to open that locked door or go through that vent.

The problem is that those other games exist. And they’re super good.

There is no fun in this game. The combat is not fun, at least in the demo. You have a wrench and some other tools, and you have limited stamina. You hit the little goop spiders a few times and probably take damage in the process. You run around and collect items for some reason. Repeat.

Think of a game like BioShock, or Dishonored, or Deus Ex, and then take out the fun and the nuance of all of its elegant combat systems. Bam, you have this game.

Maybe the combat gets better outside the demo! But they should have put their best foot forward. This is possibly someone’s first exposure to the game…don’t show them the clunkiest parts of the combat.

Graphics seem pretty great, thanks to the use of CryEngine tech. I don’t love the way the flashlight looks and it doesn’t make a ton of shadows bounce around the room. Oh and the mirrors don’t work, they’re just blurred over.

But you can flush toilets! So that’s something.

The sound design is really bad. Across the board. Levels are totally off on everything. The music is way too loud. Every time there’s a monster nearby, horror movie music starts BLARING out of the game, and it doesn’t go away until you’ve killed the monster. This is a profoundly bad choice, and ruins all the tension of a coffee cup or a chair in the room possibly being a goop monster.

I couldn’t quite make it to the end of the demo because of this. I know I could have just turned the music down, but I’m not going to make excuses for their bad decisions.

The opening, the writing, and the story seem potentially interesting. I was drawn in for about 15 minutes…until the game devolved into hitting goop monsters and loud music. I instantly stopped having fun, and I could see where the whole thing was going to go, and how it was just low- rent BioShock.

I’m sure that this game will have its ardent defenders. Normally, I can understand that, even for the most niche of titles…but it’s hard to defend this game when so many better examples of the genre exist. Heck, Arkane themselves made better games of this type in Dishonored 1 and 2.

Go play one of those other games and enjoy them! Go play last year’s criminally under-loved Deus Ex Mankind Divided. I bet you can get it for cheap now.

Or, if you want to see how to badly demo an upcoming game, download this free Prey demo. Maybe the game gets way better after the opening hour. If so, I wish they’d shown me part of that instead.

I don’t want to smash weird goop monsters for 20 hours, good writing or no.

Now I’m gonna go back to imagining a world where the original Prey 2 existed. I’m still down to play an open world bounty hunter space adventure!

Please Click the Heart if you liked this! Do you disagree with me? Please write a response and tell me why, I really tried hard to like this and I just couldn’t. Maybe with your help I’ll see the good here!

Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store