Nearly 10 years ago, Bioshock was released on the Xbox 360. It was a low-key release, but one that was bolstered by a demo that garnered a great deal of word of mouth hype. It started you off in a plane crash, resulting in impressive fire and water effects as the fire lit up the water as you swam to safety. Safety was a relative term though, as you were then thrown into the world of Rapture. It was creepy and unsettling, but the entire experience made you want more – and sales for the game wound up exceeding any initial expectations and resulting in one of the decade’s most-revered franchises. Fittingly, Prey, like Bioshock, is inspired by System Shock and is one of the few games of the past five years to actually make use of a demo to show off the experience for players.
Since Bioshock’s debut, demos are a rarity period. Most games that would have used them before just dole out “betas” that are just for marketing. They’re a great way to entice people to pre-order a game – and are effectively a way to get people to pay for a demo since you usually need to put down $5 to pre-order a game. They do allow for some server tests to be done, but they have still led to games having iffy launches anyway. Prey’s demo does what Bioshock’s did before and sucks you into the world itself. You wake up in your apartment thanks to your alarm and go outside. Well, you can – you also have the choice to explore the world around you.
Much like the original Xbox game Breakdown, you can pick up individual items in the world, interact with them, and absorb yourself into the game just a bit more than you otherwise would. No matter if you do that or don’t, you’ll leave and possibly chat with a worker. They get a bit…ify when you’re super-chatty, but maybe they’re just nervous. Some folks just aren’t very talkative. You’re told to go up on the roof where a helicopter whisks you away to training and you see a variety of billboards and skylines – including a makeshift credits sequence of source hyping up the game and the developers.
You meet your brother who seems a bit angry, and training seems to go well, except that one doctor really wants his coffee and he’s pretty persistent. He’s a bit of a jerk though and…holy crap! NOW HE’S GETTING ATTACKED BY A TENTACLE MONSTER. Well, this is a strange turn of events and then…you are awoken once again by your alarm. Hmm…there’s no lighting anymore. That’s probably bad. Definitely probably not a good thing. Oh, and the worker is now dead and the door that led to an elevator before now leads to nothing. Just a spontaneous changing of the world. Happens all the time. Now, you’re kind of stuck and getting a rather panicked voice telling you that you need to escape. However, there’s no really obvious way to do that.
Hmm…perhaps this newly-acquired pipe will help. Much like Half-Life 2 and System Shock, a trusty pipe can solve many problems. It may not solve world hunger, but it can sure smash a window and reveal things. Things such as the window and that gorgeous view being a sham. It was just a facade and now you’re in the same simulation area you were in before. What in the world is going on? There’s a lot of stuff to interact with and you now have enemies. You can either bop them with a pipe or grab the GLOO gun and blast away. You still feel helpless – but far less so now that you have some firepower.
Still, what is happening and what’s to come? Well – those questions can only be answered by the full game. This gives you a taste of the atmosphere, the tension, a certain level of deception between the few characters you’ve met so far, and even the branching upgrade system. Prey launches on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 5. We’ll be reviewing it upon its release and anyone who hasn’t tried out the Opening Hour demo on either the Xbox One or PS4 should do so immediately. It’s one of the best demos modern-day gamers have been able to experience, and will hopefully lead to more atmosphere-centric games getting them. Right away, you can tell that Prey is something special – and that’s not something a trailer or Let’s Play can accurately replicate. Hopefully, the final product lives up to everything the demo sets up. If nothing else, it should tell one heck of an interesting story.