Preview: Prey – TranStar VR
Prey is getting two VR updates, and VRFocus has already been hands-on with the first.
Last year’s reboot of Prey was met with significant critical acclaim, and Bethesda Softworks are looking to increase the lifespan of the title with a brand new downloadable content (DLC) pack, known as Mooncrash, coming soon. Free to all owners of the videogame, the new DLC will include two virtual reality (VR) components; the multi-player orientated Typhon Hunter and a single-player experience, TranStar VR.
While Typhoon Hunter wasn’t playable at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), TranStar VR appeared it what seemed to be a near-final form. There’s no telling at what point in the videogame the vertical slice VRFocus experienced took place; but given the ease of interaction and the lack of threat it’s likely to be very close to the opening section.
The entire sequence takes place in a large room, which will appear familiar to anyone who played the original release. All the basic utensils of the world of Prey are contained within – recycling machine, fabricator, looking glass – and they must be used as the same fashion as previously done in order to complete the task at hand. The demonstration that VRFocus witnessed was very light on the action; without time constraints or any imminent threat whatsoever, it was purely a case of joining the dots to reach the end.
Ahead of the player’s starting point is a piece of tech with a missing component, which the player is informed by an adjacent screen that they must find to engage the required process. Next is moving to a PC to gather information, solving a puzzle through hidden messages on whiteboards, recycling items to create blocks of specific types of matter; the same kind of puzzles as seen in the original Prey but with far less obvious signposting.
The experience culminates as the player finds typhon energy littered throughout the space which, upon collecting a certain amount, things take an unfortunate turn. It’s the first instance of any kind of obstruction that the player will encounter, and is remains very limited in such a way even then.
As interesting as the potential for a Prey VR experience could seem, TranStar VR has some significant issues at present. As stated throughout this preview, there is neither reason nor rhyme for completing the objectives in front of you. There’s no time pressure, no risk of failure and no opposition. All of the objectives feel somewhat disjointed; while it’s often very appealing to find a videogame which doesn’t attach obvious signposts to each and every interaction in the modern industry, it’s also not particularly encouraging to be left without anything other than a breadcrumb trail of ‘this object goes here, generates new object which goes here’. Furthermore, at present Prey – TranStar VR only allows for teleportation movement. There is no smooth locomotion option in the E3 2018 preview build.
Whether or not Prey – TranStar VR will find reason and perhaps even tension in later areas of the videogame remains to be seen, however at present it feels like a step backwards into the type of VR experience that early adopters were witnessing back in 2015. Given Bethesda Softworks VR output to date it’d be hard to bet against Arkane Studios, but at present the hopes rest upon the shoulders of the as-yet-unseen VR multiplayer mode, Typhon Hunter.