‘Prey’ gameplay stands tall in hourlong demo

“Prey” never feels like a rip off of the game that clearly inspired it.

Arkane Studios had quite a year in 2016, having released “Dishonored 2” to critical acclaim in November. The development house’s next release on May 5, “Prey,” will have a tough act to follow.

But if the first hour of the game is any indication, the upcoming release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC will stand tall on its own. amNewYork had the opportunity to play through a portion of “Prey,” which will be published by Bethesda Softworks, from the beginning last week, and here are a few thoughts on the experience. Note: Some light spoilers on the basic premise of “Prey” follow.

‘BioShock’ in space

The comparison risks being categorized as lazy, but it’s unavoidable. “Prey” feels like the acclaimed “BioShock” series that took Xbox 360 and PC by storm in 2007.

“Prey,” which is itself a reboot of a 2006 first-person shooter, dumps the player into the shoes of Morgan Yu — either male or female — in a facility that is not what it seems. Morgan is aboard the space station Talos I, which has been overrun by hostile creatures. Ammo is scarce early, and a trusty industrial wrench — in an overt nod to “BioShock” — is the best means of defense for awhile.

Although similarities between the two games are numerous, “Prey” never feels like a rip off of the game that clearly inspired it.

Jump scares

Without much in the way of self-defense early on, there’s a sense of tension and fear about what lies around the corner. This is augmented by the most prolific enemy of the first hour: Mimics. These enemies resemble a big, shadowy, four-legged starfish that strikes quickly with its tentacles.

And, as the name implies, they can disguise themselves as any object. After my first encounter, I found myself swatting the wrench at every chair and coffee mug I could see, testing what was real and what wants to kill Morgan. Several times, my fears were warranted and my pre-emptive strikes saved me from a sneak attack. The tougher, more humanoid Phantoms were easier to bring down with the limited shotgun ammo I came across.

The Mimics evoke the same fear of what might be a malevolent alien as seen in the classic John Carpenter film “The Thing.”

Unravel the mystery

Other than sheer survival, the driving force in “Prey” is discovering why Morgan is on Talos I and what went wrong. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?

A man code-named January helps guide Morgan in the early going as the protagonist discovers he’s been deceived and experimented upon. It seems his brother, Alex, also is involved judging by the emails, notes and recordings that are scattered throughout Talos I.

I’m being purposefully vague about my experience, but suffice to say I’m interested in the direction of the plot. Raphael Colantonio, the game’s creative director who joined reporters at the demo session via Skype, estimated “Prey” holds anywhere from 15-40 hours of play. It will be interesting to see how the narrative sustains over that span.

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