This week, movie theater chain Alama Drafthouse Cinema, iam8bit and GameStop teamed up with Bethesda Softworks, Arkane Studios to bring the latest version of their upcoming first-person action-adventure game, Prey, to the media and their fandom. The San Francisco stop represents one of four stops on the “Influences of Prey” game-and-a-movie roadshow, which also include Austin, New York and Los Angeles. We’re taking a look at the San Francisco stop.
The event occupied a large room past the main lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse, in the foyer leading to the theatres. But that was a hallway and an adjoining room, which solidly fit about two dozen high-end gaming PCs with headphones and a choice of keyboard or joypad for interfacing with the game. In the interior room, behind the row of a very mellow bar which was going to get jam-packed once the gaming public was let in. Appetizers were unobtrusively served against a wall at the far end of the barroom.
After the lower-key media portion of the event, which concluded with a Q/A session with Arkane Studios lead designer Ricardo Bare, the gaming public queue was let in. Posters, notebooks and drink tickets were handed out as attendees filed in. In the hallway, gamers had a chance to apply to win a custom-skinned Xbox 1 or PlayStation 4 console by filling out a tongue-in-cheek psychology or employee quiz, which plays a part in the first act of the game.
Between the food, drink, meet-and-greet, a photobooth and mini-games, one might think there would be enough time to actually play the game. In fact, players had about 2 hours of game time before the darkly campy 1997 science fiction flick (and a source of influence for Prey), Starship Troopers, started in the adjacent movie theatre. At some points, the lines to play the opening parts of Prey on the PC were stacked several people deep. While the movie tickets were separate from the Prey community event, it seemed that the majority of the folks attending opted in to see the movie too.
As the event itself alludes, the game is a tip of the hat to many different pop culture sci-fi sources. Taking place in a re-imagined world of Prey, in a decidedly futuristic version of 2032, the protagonist Morgan Yu (who can be either male or female), quickly lands in a world of hurt. Recruited by his brother, from his high-rise apartment to TranStar’s research labs prior to joining him in space at the Talos 1 station, the game’s hero quickly discovers the world is not quite what it seems, starting with the realization he’s living in a simulation on Talos 1 and this new-and-far-less-pleasant world is under assault by the shape-shifting, spidery Typhon.
Further into the game, deeper into the lab environment where this demo takes place, Morgan has access to a greater variety of weaponry and items called neuromods. Neuromods provide the means to hack into various items, recycle alien organs into more useful items, and so on. Neuromods go hand-in-glove with the skill trees, which allow the players to develop their skills with their pick-ups.
The weapons at this stage of the game have evolved quite a bit beyond the the wrench Morgan starts the game with, into a range of weapons, from a pistol, shotgun, crossbrow, and in the “fun but useful” category, the GLOO cannon, which shoots hardening glue in quantity that has all sorts of uses.
As in the start of the game, this selection of the game is also a sort of sandbox, which allows players to take more than one pathway. No strictly linear game play here. Whether Morgan uses a mod to hack a way in through an open door or finds a well-hidden hole in the wall, players are offered a wealth of options to solving their problems, which should add to the replayability.
Expect a demo of Mogan Yu’s mind-bending misadventures in space coming up soon to download and play in advance of the game’s launch. Prey is scheduled to for worldwide launch Friday, May 5, 2017 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.