This article contains early-game spoilers for Prey (2017) and for the side story, “The Cook’s Request.”
Prey, the 2017 game from Arkane Studios, has been burning a hole in my backlog for a year since I first picked it up, and I finally cracked it open. I got completely immersed in its world and systems, already thinking about a second playthrough build and story path before my first one is even done. There are tons of great stories you can uncover as you delve deeper into Talos I, but one that shook me out of my gamer autopilot was when I first encountered the “chef” in the Crew Quarters.
Although I had seen all manner of twisted alien Phantoms and even encountered the Nightmare already in Prey, this balding NPC, who introduces himself as Will Mitchell, exuded pretty bad vibes from the beginning. I figured I would still hear him out since he may have some goodies to offer, and I was trying to spare crew members when I could. I’m not saying everyone with a stern resting face and a Slavic accent is automatically sketchy, but the performance by the Ukrainian actor Ilia Volok does a great job of seeming pretty off, yet just barely welcoming enough to not write the request off completely. But who knows? Our protagonist Morgan Yu has had their memory wiped more than a couple of times, and sometimes chefs are just a little tortured.
The chef doesn’t let you into the kitchen at first and demands you go to his room to pick up a cooking award, as well as kill a mind-controlling enemy nearby in the area that doesn’t seem to affect him. The crew quarters is a fantastic zone to explore. It’s filled with freaky new enemies like the Poltergeist and some great voice logs that I was initially compelled to grab because of main story objectives but ended up seeking out more from genuine interest. These stellar TranScribe performances by the voice actors gave background on certain characters in the crew quarters, like discussion of some crew playing a campaign in a tabletop RPG, Fatal Fortress 2, and an on-and-off relationship between crew members Danielle Sho (voiced by Mae Whitman) and Abigail Foy.
If you linger in Mitchell’s cabin beyond finding the clearly placed trophy, you’ll realize that your quest-giver is actually masquerading as the chef due to a voice memo revealing the chef’s true voice. Even realizing this, I boneheadedly figured I may get a reward if I go along with the quest anyway. Well, that didn’t work out for me. I even fell for the oldest trick in the book: He told me my equipment was in the next room, then locked me in a freezer to die. I even spent Spare Parts to repair the damn thing. While scrambling around in a panic as the imposter chef taunted me, I also found the frozen corpse of Abigail Foy, made more tragic by the context I knew from the voice memos. I managed to slip out of a vent with the incredible Mimic Matter ability, alive but thoroughly embarrassed that I got caught in the trap. Digging around the kitchen reveals the true Will Mitchell’s remains in the refrigerator, in a box unfortunately labeled “Mystery Meat.”
Now that he’s at large in the station, the imposter chef occasionally calls you with creepy and cryptic threats, but a station lockdown in the main questline prevented me from being able to get to him immediately. You’re tasked with taking him out by Danielle, who is stranded with low oxygen in zero gravity outside the station in a brief but memorable exchange.
The imposter chef quest weaves interestingly together with the main story because Danielle’s voice samples are needed to access the Deep Storage area of the station, which houses an important early-game sequence and initiates the station lockdown when you get there. While I was delving into Deep Storage and learning more about the story, I still had the chef in the back of my mind, looking forward to when I could roam about Talos I freely and hunt him down. You can also ignore this quest entirely if you get to the Fitness Center before the Cafeteria and get the voice code directly from Danielle instead of cobbling together TranScribes.
The chef’s true name is Luka Golubkin, a Russian murderer who chose to volunteer for the TranStar corporation instead of remaining in a gulag and became a test subject for Alex and Morgan Yu’s pre-amnesia experiments aboard the spacecraft. Parts of the experiments showed that he was resistant to alien mind manipulation, and the Neuromods forcibly installed in his mind for the tests were trying to give him Mitchell’s culinary skills. So I actually ended up as the target of someone else’s revenge quest and was played by the game like a fiddle because I was just hoping to mark another RPG task off the checklist.
I was spurned by the chef as a player and wanted comeuppance, but learning that Golubkin was turned into a guinea pig by Morgan and Alex Yu’s experiments colored his actions in a different light. Yes, he was likely a violent criminal before being tested on, but he was only on this station and able to do these awful things in the first place because of what the Yu siblings set in motion.
Even though I was conflicted, the idea of bashing him to bits with a wrench still sounded appealing. I activated his tracking bracelet from a security console and finally met him again in an escape pod on the bridge. Once again, though, I was a complete fool and walked into his trap, activating a recycler charge as I sprinted inside. But I was saved from an embarrassing retry thanks to a suit mod that saves me from an instance of lethal damage, leaving me with one point of health surrounded by scattered cubes of organic material where Luka once sat. I may have basically stepped on every rake laid out during this entire questline, but I still love The Cook’s Request for how much it consistently humbled me while I was gaining power and knowledge in this world.