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In Prey, every inanimate object is probably trying to kill you

Problem solving and survival with alien superpowers

Prey, Arkane Studios' revival of the 2006 alien-packed shooter, has an interesting way of making you afraid of the enemies that will hunt protagonist Morgan Yu through the Talos 1 space station: By hiding them absolutely everywhere.

During the debut gameplay reveal at QuakeCon 2016, Arkane's Raphael Colantonio and Ricardo Bare gave a play-by-play of some of the key features for the title, which was revealed earlier this year during Bethesda's E3 2016 press conference. The game, they explained, tasks Yu with surviving an environment full of hostile aliens using tools, weapons and special abilities granted by "Neuromods" as cleverly as possible.

The Mimic can shapeshift into virtually any object of the game

The game's core directive — to survive the alien threat — is made all the more difficult by the special abilities the aliens themselves possess. One enemy, a Mimic, resembles a small, four-legged, shadowy insect; at least, that's what it looks like in its alien form. The Mimic can shapeshift into virtually any object of the game, which led the gameplay demo handler to blast every inanimate object they came across as they made their way through the space station. If you get too close to that suspiciously placed garbage can, it might just grow claws and attack. So might that can of soda on the ground, or that weapon pickup you were rushing for.

Evening the odds against Mimics and their larger, much more powerful kin are Neuromods, which give Yu a slate of powers and customization options — the game's main RPG layer — that he can use for combat, traversal and abstract problem solving. Some are granted by manmade technology, but some are adapted from aliens themselves. The prime example of those alien-inspired powers is the Mimic's ability, which Yu can utilize to also transform into any object. In the demo, he targeted a coffee cup sitting on a counter, transformed into an identical cup, then rolled through a narrow gap in a barrier to access the area beyond.

The customization layer offered by Neuromods resembles similar upgrades in action-RPGs like Deus Ex and Bioshock, but with a decidedly Arkane flair for infinitely creative combinations. In one sequence, Yu transformed into a nearby ball of scrap metal to stealthily roll past a room of patrolling bots, then blasted his much smaller frame up onto a higher platform utilizing a kinetic blast Neuromod. It's arguably not the quietest way to clear that room, but just as in Arkane's Dishonored, it seems that the path forward is always up to you to invent, with a blend of combat, stealth and cautious traversal.

Neuromods can also be passive modifiers, as well — one showcased during the demo was Leverage, which allows Yu to lift and throw bigger, heavier objects. Like many abilities in the game, Leverage can be upgraded through multiple tiers; we saw Leverage 3 in action, which allowed him to pick up and launch a metal crate the size of a dumpster at an equally massive alien.

the path forward is always up to you to invent, with a blend of combat, stealth and cautious traversal

Neuromods aren't the only way to get around the station. Weapons may be rare, Colantonio and Bare explained, but they can be invaluable when things go south. We saw a couple of firearms in action, but the far more fascinating weapon was the GLOO Cannon, which launches a quick-drying foam adhesive, able to freeze enemies in place, deactivate traps or create ramps and platforms on walls for Yu to traverse.

The game's economy is based around salvaging components that you can feed into Fabricators, which can craft the tools you need to explore and survive the Talos 1. Collecting those components doesn't have to be a chore, though; you can also just use Recycle Charges, which you throw like grenades into cluttered rooms then watch as every nearby object gets sucked into a singularity and reduced to spare parts. (This also sounds like an excellent way of finding out which of those objects are also aliens in disguise.)

The gameplay demo wasn't exceedingly long, but what was there painted a picture of what Arkane is trying to accomplish with Prey. Even with the small handful of tools and abilities showcased during the demo, I can't stop thinking about the dumb stunts I'm hoping to pull off once I get to explore Talon 1 myself — provided I don't focus all of my attention on shooting every ash tray, desk lamp and coffee maker that enters my field of view.