I'm currently knee-deep in Prey, and loving it. It has all the delicious layers of a wonderful immersive sim—of the System Shock and Thief lineage that's given us the Deus Exes, BioShocks and Dishonored games—with multiple paths through levels, valid ways of solving any given scenario, and plenty of story detail in every incidental email and audio log. Shoutouts to my girl Danielle Sho, a queer lady going through a bad breakup who just doesn't want her head shrunk, man (she may also be in on a conspiracy, more on that when I actually finish the game).
But what I didn't expect was to fall in love with a weapon. The singular, weirdo GLOO gun that exemplifies several of Prey's best traits.
For me, combat in games can be a chore. A means to an end so I can soak in more story detail, or explore, or see how far I can jump around the scenery once everything trying to kill me is silenced. Immersive sims are actually the one genre I tend to enjoy combat in a bit more, since I can do things like hack turrets to fight for me, or set traps (BioShock 2 is yet to be topped in this aspect). Head to head fights though? They can get rote and frustrating for me.
Not in Prey, my friends, because of one piece of gently goofy sci-fi tech. You get the GLOO gun very early on, and learn to use it to freeze enemies—like the skittery asshole mimics and the initially terrifying phantoms—before bludgeoning or shooting them to death. If you can generally aim in their direction, you can GLOO them up and make quick work (unless they have friends, of course). That's when I prefer a recycler charge, so I can turn my enemies into nice, usable parts.
I was even initially skeptical (and spoiled, because the demo I played gave me the shotgun super early, and I loved blasting phantoms with explosive containers and a well-placed shotgun shell), and I still hate mimics. I ate a lot of shit in my first few hours with the game, since you are (fairly realistically) very weak on normal difficulty.
But since finding GLOO's more interesting uses, I've never taken it off of my favorites.
You can use GLOO as a shield, keeping psychic blasts and shitty mimics at bay. You can lure jerks into a room and seal the whole damned thing up so they can stay in there forever and yell just think about what you've done. You can even make your own self-contained fortress (iGLOO?) and hang out in there while you formulate a better plan.
But best of all, you can use GLOO to climb the walls!
For someone who favors exploration over combat, the ability to mess with the world in this way—essentially creating ladders wherever I damn well please—is intoxicating. It's encouraged in a few areas: a dark hallway in psychotronics with broken rafters hints strongly at the possibility, and some of the GLOO'ed up windows and doors can be climbed, giving you a better view.
I love that the designers trust the player—and the mechanics they've laid out for us—enough to just go wild with it. To make our own fun and fuck with the systems in potentially unexpected ways. I'm sure speedrunners are already breaking Prey in fascinating ways, using GLOO to cut corners.
I'm still in the early areas of Prey—being so eager to see every detail and mess around after I've cleared a stage of threats is one of my great pleasures in this genre. But after my initial skepticism over combat, I've fully embraced this weird, creative, player-choice-inclusive vision.
Now, excuse me while I make myself a GLOO stairway to the stars.