Mugs are no longer safe. Their ceramic shards scatter around my feet whenever one appears in my eyeline. Stemming from an unpleasant experience in Talos 1’s Employee Orientation room, playing Prey for the first five hours has already taught me that inanimate objects can’t be trusted under any circumstances, no matter how benign they look. That’s not all, either. Prey’s learning curve is so subtle you won’t realise it. Nevertheless, to save you the time, I’ve come up with a handful of tips for anyone looking to experience this jumpiness for themselves. I promise you can trust whichever screen you’re reading this on. It’s definitely not a mimic. Definitely.
1. Use your psychotronic scanner as night-vision goggles
Your fancy scanner does a lot more than just spot mimics, give you perks, and research Typhons. Okay, that's quite a lot already, but still. Popping it over your eyes also gives you night-vision, to a certain extent. So if your flashlight battery runs out simple tap that R3 button and use the greyscale of your psychotronic scanner to navigate the perilous environment of Talos-1. As long as its laser lines don't become too distracting, it's a great way to make sure you're never caught in a panic when your torch runs out and oh god what was that noise MIMIC THAT'S A MIMIC ARRRGH. Not that something like that ever happened to me. Nope.
2. How to spot mimics: trust your gut
Here’s some advice to last you the entire game: trust your gut. The key to spotting mimics is to look around you and make good use of your scope (that isn’t a weapon scope - it’s a general zooming-in ability you have). If there are two of an object where there logically shouldn’t be, such as two chairs behind a single desk or two buckets by a ‘wet floor’ sign, then get your GLOO Gun ready. Or you can go straight in with the wrench (you’ll waste a lot of bullets if you go straight to gun) and try to catch a mimic by surprise. You deal extra damage if you take out a mimic when it’s disguised, so it’s worth sneaking around rather than charging in. Remember: paranoia is Prey’s eventual endgame. Don’t fight it.
3. Gloo gun + shotgun = Dream team
Like Bioshock’s dream combo of electro bolt + the wrench, if you combine the gloo gun with the shotgun you’re pretty much set. Spend weapon-upgrading kits on boosting every aspect of the shotgun and you’ll be thankful for it. Phantoms certainly won’t, though. At first they can seem intimidating - they are reanimated corpses after all - and their attacks do a lot of damage, especially in the first couple of hours. Freeze them with a GLOO Gun, get out your shotgun and don’t stop firing. Quick note: when they fall to the floor they’re not dead, so don’t be fooled by their prone position. Pump ‘em full of even more bullets.
4. Water coolers give you HP back...slowly
For when you're absolutely desperate to inch your health bar up so that phantom waiting around the corner doesn't one-hit you again, take a look around for a water cooler. These mundane office hydration stations might be, well, mundane, but each sip restores a staggering 1 hit point. Yes, it's small, but when you have zero medkits left and need to get to the next checkpoint, you'll be happy you read this tip. It'll take a while to get to max health if you're very close to death, but each second is worth it.
5. Watch the detection bar on the mimics
Be aware of how stealth works. There’s no opening and closing eye like in Skyrim: instead, a bar above the Typhon’s (the name for the alien species mimic and phantoms belong to) head will fill up from the middle outwards, turning from a deceptively-calm blue to a flashing red once you’ve been detected (crouch to go into stealth mode - standing upright will mean they’ll launch themselves at you pretty bloody fast). If you see a light blue rectangle in the distance, it’s indicating a nearby Typhon. Back off as quickly as possible - when the bar disappears, you’re hidden again. Mimics disguised as ordinary objects won’t display this bar, though - so get ready to start thwacking things if you get suspicious. Because you will.
6. Upgrade the GLOO Gun asap
The GLOO Gun is the best weapon in the game if you like your breathing space. It incapacitates enemies, giving you plenty of time to either wrench the smaller mimics to oblivion, or get out your shotgun to take down the bigger phantoms. Upgrade the gloo gun as soon as you can so it takes less GLOO to freeze enemies. You’ll get more out of your ammo, plus when you take on a phantom it takes almost no time at all to make them stop moving - and they’re particularly deadly, so you’ll be grateful for every extra second you get.
7. Turn the torch on when you’re hitting mimics
Mimics are black. You know what else is black? The eerie shadows caused by all the general devastation that ravaged Talos 1. I lost sight of a mimic a fair few times because they blend into the darkness. As soon as you start fighting one, flick on your torch (you’re already detected so you my as well) so you can see what you’re aiming at. Mimics also have a tendency to jump, skitter around, and even stretch upwards to twice their height - so prepare to mix up your tactics.
8. Hoard your neuromods at the beginning
The first four hours of Prey throws a ton of neuromods your way (I counted at least 14). You use these gadgets to purchase perks, so it’s worth doing the optional mission to find an extra handful in Yuri’s office (though you’ll have to defeat a phantom to get to them). Don’t spend them as soon as you get them, however - if you wait until you stumble upon a few more, you can easily unlock the highest perks in the game very early on. Five hours in and I already do 250% extra damage when I’m sneaking. Biding your time is so worth it.
9. Act like a gravedigger and find as many corpses as possible
Don’t ignore corpses. In fact, try and find as many as possible. They aren’t just called ‘dead scientist’ or ‘dead security worker’ - each one has a name. Every body you find will be automatically ticked off a roster in the security stations. Locations are helpfully listed alongside each name so you can hunt them down. Or, if you’re not into rinsing locations till your eyes bleed, you can tag each person, giving you a mission objective and a waypoint to help find them. I’m betting that something special will come your way once you tick all of them off.