Hands-on: Fighting aliens in Prey one week before release

With just a few days left until their adventurous sci-fi first-person shooter Prey is released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, the good people at Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios held an event at The Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles, during which journalists had an opportunity to play a through previously unseen part of the game.

Here's what we saw when we tried to make our way into the G.U.T.S. of the game. 

Fighting the Typhon

For those unfamiliar with Prey, the game has you trapped on a space station overrun with gooey aliens called the Typhon. Turns out that some people, including you, have been experimenting on them, and now the aliens are getting their revenge.

As for the demo, it takes place about three hours into the game, and began with me standing outside the door to some laboratories that were locked until I found something called a Psychoscope. Searching some nearby locker rooms, I noticed a large hole in the floor. Being far braver in games than I'd ever be in real life, I dropped down to see what was there. Not surprisingly, it was some aliens. Mimics, specifically, which are small, fast, and can take the shape and look of any small-to-mid-sized object. They can be a mug, they can be a lamp, THEY COULD EVEN BE THE CHAIR YOU'RE SITTING ON RIGHT NOW.

They can also, thankfully, be stopped by using what's called a GLOO Cannon, which shoots a glue-like substance that quickly hardens. Not only can it be used to extinguish fires and neutralize broken electrical panels that are shooting painful arcs of energy (both of which I also did during the demo), but it can also temporarily freeze those little Mimic monsters (though you do have to smash them before they thaw to kill them).

This is where I first ran into problems with the demo. If I had an alien freeze gun, but then had to smash the frozen aliens to kill them, I'd smash them with the butt of my gun. But you can't do that in Prey. Instead, you have to switch from the GLOO Cannon to your wrench. Which, admittedly, isn't difficult, but still seems like an odd and unnecessary step.

After dispatching the Mimics I found the Psychoscope, which is a helmet with a camera on it that allows you to scan things in the game. This is especially helpful because if you scan one of the aliens, you can then use the alien's powers. That means I could be the chair you're sitting on right now.

Psycho therapy

Having found the Psychoscope, I made my way into the labs. There I was able to scan some trapped Mimics and other kinds of Typhon, got to rifle through some of my coworkers' offices, and generally got my butt kicked. In part this is because the Typhon are tough, but it didn't help that, during combat, I often found myself accidentally turning on the Psychoscope, which you do by pressing in on the right thumbstick. This, coupled with a lack of health packs, meant that I died a fair amount during my time with the game.

Even so I still managed to explore quite a bit of the laboratories and learn more about the Typhon (I won't spoil any details of this narrative-heavy game). I also learned a bit about myself and my fellow scientists when I came across a guy in a glass cage. I was told that I could set him free and he would give me the code to a weapons locker, or I could let him rot.

Later I came across a similar cage that had a dead human body in it, and was told that I needed to finish the experiment that had been going on when all hell broke loose, as this would unlock another door that was sealed for safety reasons when the experiment began. So I did, only to have it unleash a Typhon called a Weaver that, like the broken electrical panels I had GLOO-ed earlier, shot arcs of hurtful energy everywhere. Good thing I had gotten the shotgun out of the weapons locker.

After destroying the Weaver, I continued to explore the labs, but I came up empty in terms of getting any further, which was somewhat indicative of my playthrough. Because we were tossed into the middle of the game, as opposed to getting there on our own, I felt a bit lost and overwhelmed by it all. I'm sure most of the game's complexity will make more sense when I play the game for real and can ease into things, but being tossed into the middle left me confused.

Developer details

After our brief time with this part of Prey, I and the other members of the media had the opportunity to ask the game's Lead Systems Designer Seth Shain a couple of questions, starting with some spoilery story questions that I won't repeat here. This was followed by inquiries about how you can recycle things you find in the game, converting them into health packs, ammo, and so on by using a Fabricator. "You can also make what we call neuromods," Shain said, "which is what you use to level up. In fact, we feel that a normal player will have a lot of trouble getting through the game if they don't craft their own neuromods."

Shain then explained that while Prey is made by the same studio as Dishonored, and the games are somewhat similar, Prey isn't as sneaky. "It's decidedly more of an action game," he noted. "In fact, I challenge anyone to get through the game without killing anything. I don't think it's possible."

Finally, I asked why, when using the GLOO Cannon on Mimics, you have to switch to your wrench. "The practical answer is that there's not enough buttons on the controller," Shain conceded. "But also, from a design standpoint, being able to do that would devalue the wrench. You wouldn't need it. And we wanted the wrench to be a part of the game, we wanted it to be more than just this back-up weapon you use when you don't have any ammo."

For more, read our impressions of the opening hour of Prey.

Prey will be released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 5.