A Halloween Review: Prey
Jake finally plays a scary game. Yes, there was high pitched shrieking.
There were a couple of moments in my recent game playing that reminded me that video games can indeed be art. One was when Michael in GTA V is drugged, and you play a quick level as he hallucinates that he's falling through the night sky towards the city lights of Los Santos. During the descent he hears the voices of people he's let down while he's simultaneously reminded of the potential beauty of his world, which he has chosen not to appreciate. The other was the opening of Prey, right before I realized it wasn't a straight up shooter and began panic-swinging my wrench at everything destructible.
That is why I'm drinking coffee all day. Because in Prey, if you see two of anything, there's a decent chance one's an alien, just waiting for you to come too close.
Allow me to explain. Prey starts off by introducing you to a beautiful future, full of clean lines and cans of green tea. After a helicopter ride that gives you a title sequence in the slickest way I've literally ever seen a game pull off as of this writing, it introduces you to the hook. There are aliens here. Aliens that were hiding in plain sight. They can turn into literally any object, and if you don't kill them first they will murder you.
This second bit, the bit with the aliens and the shape shifting and whatnot, this is when I started screaming. The game goes from chill, possible cyberpunk introspective experience to "here's a dude dying vie living coffee cup" in under two seconds. Within ten seconds of that, I had a wrench in my character's hand. There are few rooms that I have since entered in the game that weren't first worked over thoroughly with said wrench.
Let me get this out there: the best part of Prey is actually not the aliens. The best part of Prey is the problem solving. They go the traditional Bethesda route with this one; if a door is locked and you want in there are a dozen ways to make it happen. Make yourself strong enough to move boxes and climb into the room, break a window and shoot the "unlock" button with a toy gun, hack the lock, find the key, use acrobatics, make a bridge with a hardening foam gun, and there are actually more.
This turns what would be a pretty straightforward "explore the disaster zone" experience into it's own beast. Of course, my favorite way to solve all the problems presented was the shotgun.
Everybody talks about the plot twist to this game. Because I think people should play the game I will refrain from spoiling anything, but I will say that I can't imagine how someone is surprised by it. I didn't even really feel like it was a twist. Maybe in a dramatic irony sense, like; it's a twist for the character, sure, but we the observer had ample clues to what was going on.
That said, this is a nearly perfect game. Not perfect, but very nearly so. From the beginning when you are presented with a classic personality test involving your choice to push a fat man onto a railroad track, jump there yourself, or do nothing, you are being asked to think about what this game was built to make you consider. What is the value of empathy? What is moral? Ethical?
The game is beautiful, but it is also smart. Add in the fact that it's had me jumping at shadows all October and you've got yourself a must buy. Prey, ladies and gentlemen. Now if you'll excuse me, I have more coffee to drink.