Attack of the coffee cups – Steve barely plays: Prey

Prey Gameplay

Having already had a productive Saturday morning, I decided to kick back and have an hour on my Playstation, which has sadly been neglected over the last month or so.

Upon booting it up, I was immediately greeted with a chime telling me that the Prey demo had finished downloading. Having only played a bit of the original back in 2006, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I started a new game.

If you were to have told me an hour before that one of the greatest enemies in the game was a coffee cup, I might not have believed you. As it turns out, making you distrust ceramics isn’t the only trick Prey has up its sleeve…

A Prey of Sunshine

The beginning of Prey starts out like a normal day, although a slightly futuristic version. The curtains open to allow rays of sunshine to flood our sleek apartment and we wake up and immediately grab your ringing phone. Our brother, Alex – who also appears to be your boss – tells us to get our uniform on and head to the roof so we can begin your new job.

This being a video game of course, there is no chance of that happening. Instead I poked around every corner of my bedroom, sifting through emails, picking up bits of metal tubing and banana peel (if there’s one thing games like Fallout and Skyrim have taught me, it’s to pick everything up) and drinking the bottle of wine that had been left on the side. What else am I supposed to do at 9am?

After testing out the physics engine by flinging all the objects I could around the apartment and trying to block my sink with towels, I headed to the roof where a chopper was waiting for me.

Preytime is over…

After a scenic helicopter ride, it’s time to get to work. Alex – who seems to have been at the pies – gestures us towards a testing room where you are given a series of simple tasks to get us used to the control scheme. There’s even a questionnaire, which appears to be geared around finding out if we’d push a fat man in front of a train to save a group of people. Nice try, bro.

Alex did not appear to have kept to his New Years’ Resolution.

Unfortunately, the test is interrupted as an strange creature seemingly made form black fluid masquerading as a coffee cup, leaps onto the head scientist and appears to literally suck his brains out. We then see someone with a shotgun take out the assistant before the test chamber is flooded with nerve gas. What a first day!

Groundhog Prey

The next day, we wake up in our apartment with everything appearing the same as the previous morning – except some things appear to be amiss. The date is still March 15th, 2032, the emails all read “DANGER. LEAVE NOW” and someone appears to have moved the wine. Suspicious.

Nonetheless, I down the bottle.

I’m glad I did when we open the door – right outside the apartment, the friendly caretaker lady has had the same brain-sucking treatment as Mr Scientist man. To pay our respects, we do what any friend would do and steal her wrench for alien-bashing purposes – it’s what she would have wanted. Probably.

A voice comes on my phone – somebody called ‘January.’ Having never met someone called January, I immediately reach to key in ‘New phone, who dis?’ before she tells us we need to get out the apartment. Instinctively, I smash through the window with my trusty wrench and am amazed at what I see…

There goes the deposit…

It’s all a simulation. The apartment, lifts; even the helicopter ride. I find a console which has been simulated the sound of pigeons outside and realise I’ve been living a lie.

Things soon go from bad to worse. As I enter the same test area, I see the monster who killed Mr Scientist man is still at large. January tells us this species is called Typhon cacoplasmus, AKA a ‘mimic’. New species or not, I hit it with my wrench until it’s Typhon splatmus and move on, now feeling very weary of my surroundings…

Don’t trust the coffee cups in Prey

The mimic’s main ability, we soon find, is to well…mimic any miscellaneous object in the game. Stationery, bins, lampshades; they can be nearly anything. It keeps us on our toes, trying to stay vigilant for anything out of place.

Having seen what rogue coffee cups can do, I hit every single one I came across, and couple of times this revealed enemies hiding and gave me bonus sneak damage. As an unfortunate side-effect, I now have an innate fear as mistrust of coffee cups. I’m also no longer allowed within 50 yards of a Costa coffee shop.

As we move through the world, it is soon revealed that things are even more different to how I’d imagined. The next area of the game shows you are in fact in space, while there are more dangerous enemies lurking about. Even more intriguing, there are clues littered around the game’s terminal that your brother may be responsible, leaving me desperate to piece things together and advance the story.

Another great thing about Prey is the variety in ways you can approach it. Rather than being limited just to guns, you have a Gloo Cannon to freeze mimics, a stun gun and many more weapons to defeat your enemies, as well as a host of powers from neuromods. It not only allows you to customise a character to fit your play style but also lends multiple ways to approach levels. Can’t find a keycard? Just make a glue bridge and climb onto a pipe and let yourself in. Or hack a computer. It felt a lot like Dishonored or Deus Ex and left me wondering how many areas I might have missed on my first playthrough.

The only criticisms I have are that the combat can sometimes feel a little clumsy – especially when cycling through weapons – and after a while tying to sneak up on mimics felt a lot less rewarding. Once you start facing multiple enemies, all hopes of rooting out those pretending to be furniture go out the window and it soon seems more efficient to run around the room so they reveal themselves rather than unmasking them. Perhaps this is something that changes at higher difficulties, but it soon began to take the fun out of a more subtle approach.

Nevertheless, I was really absorbed in the futuristic, simulated space world before the game prompted me to tell me the demo was finished. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with regards to the story, and I’m curious to explore some more and find out what the hell is going on.

Just don’t trust the coffee cups.

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