Tuesday 17 September 2019

Maybe I'll Prey

Exciting news! I bought a new game! I say “new”, it’s Prey, turns out it was actually released more than two years ago but I’m just so plugged-in and up-to-speed with games these days it had totally passed me by until Melmoth tipped me off. I think I’d seen bits and pieces about it around release time but assumed it was something to do with the 2006 Prey, whereas it’s an entirely new game that just shares the name and a broad theme. It owes far more to the System Shock series; possibly the closest spiritual successor yet, involving (spoiler warning for the first five minutes!) a space station, a lot of whacking stuff with a wrench, and (spoiler warning for a bit later though it’s massively telegraphed) psionic abilities. System Shock was a real formative gaming experience, it and its various successors comprising some of my all time favourites (System Shock 2, Deus Ex, much of Bioshock), greatest disappointments (Deus Ex: Invisible War) and Pretty Decent Games If Not All Time Classics (Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bioshock Infinite).

As well versed as I was in the genre it’s been a while, and it needs adjustment coming from other games. Destiny 2 is very much a “shoot first, ask questions later” game, and the questions are generally along the lines of “I appear to have used up all my ammunition doing a lot of shooting, have you got some more?” and “I wonder if I can find some bigger guns to do some more shooting with?” I think my first stint in the original Deus Ex was just after something more action-oriented, maybe Unreal Tournament, and needed similar adaptation to a much more cautious style. Most of my fights in Prey are Izzard-style Prince-Charles-bodyguard-type flailing along the lines of “AAAAAHHHH GET IT hit it with a bucket RUN, CHARLIE, RUN ruffle its hair up they hate that I’M COVERED IN ALIEN BEEEEEES, AAAAHHHHH” that finally end with me collapsed in a corner at 10% health having expended half of my total ammunition supplies, furiously assembling a fruit salad to recover health.

It doesn’t help that, as is customary in such games, there are a variety of skills you can invest in to boost your ability to hack, repair, sneak, fight and such, and my primary focus has been on the hacking and repairing side of things to ensure that, one way or other, I can open as many doors as possible. I’m tormented by every locked supply cupboard I pass, in case it contains untold riches or devastating super-weapons; of course most of the time they just have some cleaning supplies, maybe a few rounds of pistol ammunition (that I wouldn’t have needed if I’d focused more on combat skills). Nonetheless I’m enjoying the change of pace, carefully scouring every inch of every office rather than sprinting along with a couple of team-mates unleashing devastation upon wave after wave of mobs, piecing together what’s been happening both in the immediate past and further back in the alt-history setting. Far Cry 5 rather bogged down, parcelling out little chunks of story over a whole lotta map-mopping, something that Prey (so far) managed to avoid; it’s also (so far) avoided the power-creep that many games suffer from, where the early portion of the game is tense, combat is nasty, brutish and short, and every round of ammunition or rusty weapon is to be cherished, but by the end you’re toting a Gatling thermo-laser in one hand and an rapid-fire atomic howitzer in the other. If anything, despite finding a couple of promising looking weapons, combat is getting tougher, I think I’ll probably need to spend a few neuromods on those neglected combat skills before too long. I’ve popped an order in for Shadowkeep, the new Destiny 2 expansion as it moves over from Battle.net to Steam at the end of the month, I imagine I’ll be ready for a bit more furious shooting by then, but Prey has really rekindled my appreciation for single player story driven games in the meantime.

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