Prey Impressions: Step Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly

I was working my way through a dimly lit access way on Talos I, trying to get to the Security station. The rumor was that there was a weapon there that could help me against these bloody Typhon, aliens that look like 3D oil slicks with the morphing ability of the mythical doppelganger and the lightning quick speed of the Flash, without the one-liners.

My wrench was out as I crouched to move slowly and carefully through the hidden area of the station. The station was silent, except for the distant thudding of a patrolling Phantom somewhere above me. My heart raced as a broken vid screen hissed into life, and I turned toward the threatening voice of the station’s computerized warning system. I heard a pop behind me and the sound of rolling metal, a trashcan that was now a writhing ball of tar intent on eating my face. I swung wildly, landing a few good blows, all the while feeling my TranStar-issued bio suit lose integrity as it was whipped and ripped by ichor-like tentacles.

A final blow forced a death screech from the mimic. I sat down at a table to catch my breath, the access way lights flickering. And then the coffee mug lunged at me out of the darkness.

I screamed and scared my dogs half to death, then cursed as I reloaded my last save. My canine companions cautiously laid back down at my feet.

Welcome to the futuristic sci-fi world of Prey, where nothing is as it seems and death could be around every corner. Death has been a partner - for me at least, even on a normal setting. I am dying more than I have in a first-person action game in some time. I’m not a bad player, but Prey renders me helpless as I fumble my way through a station where I’m not sure if my brother and fellow TranStar exec has betrayed me, and I have to stick needles in my eyes to have any hope of defeating this alien menace we have unleashed upon ourselves.

Truth be told, I’m not sure if I am enjoying Prey or if I am determined not to let the game beat me. The game is part survival horror and part action RPG, melded in the schizophrenic molds of the original System Shock and BioShock. I’m pretty sure that developer Arkane purposely mimicked a SHODAN-less homage, especially since there is even a reference to Looking Glass embedded in the game. I love those games, and I do love Prey so far, while at the same time hating it for the crap-your-pants scares that would make Wes Craven cry.

The story pulls you in 20 different directions at once, with nary a living soul in sight. My only companion is a disembodied voice offering hints and directions reminiscent of Atlas’s “would you kindly,” but without the zombie-like obedience. And as I dodge aliens that can kill me with a thought and piece together my moth-eaten fragments of memory, I’m gathering everything that’s not nailed down in the hopes of keeping my weapons operational, my health above death, and finding enough junk to fabricate it into useful resources. You will become more familiar with Talos I than your own dimly lit bedroom as you weave back and forth hunting through departments for clues, all the while keeping a watchful eye for the boogeyman under the bed.

Yes, Prey is not your typical game. It aggravates you to the point of madness with its enemies, while at the same time drawing you in and pushing you screaming into the next room looking for answers to what's real and what’s not. I’m Morgan Yu doing the best Douglas Quaid impersonation from Total Recall, piecing things together in a familiar place that has become very alien.

Prey is messing with my head - in a good way. All the elements of a great game are there, while driving me mad with its complexity. For all my jokes prior to Prey’s release of being Dishonored 2.5 and Emily Kaldwin actually being a Typhon, I can say I was wrong, despite the surface similarities of some abilities. From my early agonizing hours limping through Talos I afraid of my own shadow, I can tell Arkane has lovingly crafted a horror-filled action title that would make players hunger for a hug from a Deep One rather than open that door down that dimly lit corridor, where a spider-like mimic may lurk.

"'Will you walk into my parlor?' said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there."

Thank you for the nightmares, Arkane. And this is only the beginning.

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