They say that imitation is a form of flattery. If that’s the case, then BioShock must be blushing about now. After spending an hour with Prey, which goes on release this week, we can safely say that imitation is exactly what the game is shooting for.
Prey sets a familiar scene — all the action takes place on a space station where alien research has gone wrong, leaving many of the scientists dead and only you to fix the situation.
This scenario imitates countless films and games before it, but in this case there is a twist: the aliens themselves are obsessed with imitation. Called Mimics, they are creatures that can take on the shape of objects around them, making for some clever and tense gameplay. (Hang on … was that chair there a second ago? We could swear it wasn’t.)
Aside from sci-fi tropes, Prey pays heavy tribute to BioShock, System Shock and story-driven first-person gaming in general. That’s no surprise, considering some of the development team created BioShock in the first place, but the DNA was perhaps a little too conspicuous in the gameplay we saw.
Prey delivers its story in the very same fashion as BioShock, via recordings you pick up on your journey and through guiding voices who speak in your ear at choice moments. There’s nothing wrong with this delivery, but it will be very familiar to fans of the ‘Shock’ series and may feel a little linear to modern sensibilities.
The choice of abilities is very reminiscent of things we’ve seen before too, including the options to focus on combat, stealth, hacking and alien powers, all of which allow you to play the game in a fashion that suits your sensibilities.
Where Prey seems to rise above imitation is in the writing, always crucial to a story-driven game. The writing we experienced was primarily split between emails, scientific logs and character dialogue, all of which was excellent.
In our time with the game, we began to slowly began to piece together a picture of what went wrong on Talos 1 and it left us wanting more. The voice-acting and characters were good enough that we wanted to keep playing just to hear their stories resolve.
Prey doesn’t hide its origins — this is clearly a game following in the footsteps of BioShock. But during our short visit to Talos 1, we saw potential for more than just mimicry. Should sci-fi fans give it a shot? Copy that.
The best form of copy is newspaper copy, of course, but comic books share the same inky DNA so we’ll give them a pass too. There have been some crazy stories in comics over the years, which is exactly how Injustice: Gods Among Us created a universe in which the Joker can fight Wonder Woman in hand-to-hand combat and stand a chance of winning.
In the Injustice universe, Superman becomes a despot after being tricked into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis. As a result, various superheroes and villains from parallel universes fight each other to solve the problem.
In truth, both the combat system and plot to Injustice: Gods Among Us were pretty entertaining and we’re excited to play the sequel in a few weeks. This time around, the story centres solely on the alternate universe in which Superman was a despot.
Batman is trying to piece together society in the aftermath of Superman’s defeat, but a new threat arrives in the form of Gorilla Grodd and Braniac. There’s also a new gear feature that lets you upgrade your character’s equipment.
Finally, gaming sometimes follows in the footsteps of the film industry but last weekend was a little different.
The Tribeca Film Festival in New York held its first video games event and featured Ken Levine (creator of BioShock, for some nice symmetry with Prey’s release) and Hideo Kojima, father of Metal Gear Solid.
Kojima, renowned for his love of cinema, spoke of how his parents would not let him go to bed until he had screened at least two films. In his teen years, he would watch films seven times a day — once for acting, once for cinematography, and so on. He eventually turned to games as they were cheaper to make than films at the time.
Thankfully for us — he’s a true original.