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Prey 2 Looks Great, Almost Nothing Like Prey
by Brad Shoemaker on
Losing portals and gaining a big open-world city environment seems like a fair trade, don't you think?
Prey 2 is set in the same universe as the first game, but even then, it's far removed from the weird organic alien spaceship where Prey took place. You're Killian Samuels, a US Marshall who's abducted by the same aliens during the same incident that started off Tommy's adventure the first time around. But where Tommy spent all his time orbiting the Earth, Samuels ends up on a faraway planet called Exodus, a sort of grungy alien melting pot that's populated by all the races from the first game and a bunch of new creatures you've never seen before. Prey 2 starts out with a short, linear shooting sequence that depicts Samuels' initial abduction, but then quickly jumps forward a number of years, after our hero has integrated himself as a bounty hunter into Exodus' strange urban society.
It's after that jump in time happens that you realize how different Prey 2 is from the original game. If the first Prey was comparable to a linear corridor-crawling shooter like Doom 3, Prey 2 is much more similar to free-form open-world games like Red Dead Redemption or Infamous (Human Head even cites Red Dead as a very direct influence here). The game is essentially a first-person shooter set in an open hub environment that's full of side missions, ambient character events, multiple pathways, and other stuff to occupy you when you don't feel like advancing the main storyline.
== TEASER ==
Exodus is tidally locked with its star, which means that one side of the planet always faces toward the star, and the other side always faces away. In practical terms, Human Head has used that premise to create three separate urban hub maps on different parts of the planet. Naturally, one is on the day side, the other is over on the night side, and the third is located in the in-between zone of perpetual dusk and potentially weird weather patterns. I only got to see one of those nighttime hubs, but it instantly evokes dingy future-city classics like Blade Runner, with a lot of neon signs and associated puddles to reflect them.
Plenty of various alien races milling about, too, which is where Samuels' new occupation as a bounty hunter comes in. Human Head is emphasizing "player choice" as a major component of Prey 2, and to that end you'll be able to roam around each hub city as you see fit, looking for things to do. If you see an alien getting beaten up or mugged, you can intervene and help him, and he might pay you off afterward. Or you can help out the aggressors and see what they do. Or you can murder everyone involved! You move around Prey 2's world with your weapon holstered by default, and simply drawing and pointing a gun at most NPCs will elicit some sort of reaction. They may feel threatened, they may run, they may attack you. The point is, Prey 2 aims to create the sort of living, dynamic world you see in games like Red Dead or one of publisher Bethesda's own shooters, just with more traditional first-person shooting action at its core.
Like those games, Prey 2 has one linear story thread that spans a sequence of missions from beginning to end, but there are other things to occupy your time too. In addition to the short, randomized world encounters you'll see here and there, you can pull up the "bounty wire," which is basically a virtual job board, to see what side missions are available. Once you take on a bounty, you'll have some choice in how you want to carry it out. In the demo I got to see, the player met up with an informant under the pretense of paying for the location of his target, but it was just as viable a strategy to kill the guy's bodyguard and then point your weapon at him to force him to cough up the info for free (though it was said that actions like this may come back to haunt you later in the game). Other than, say, a guy expecting reparations at some point after you screwed him over, the game won't specifically track your morality or anything, so you're pretty much free to be as good or bad as you want, as long as you can accept the consequences.
Samuels seems like an awfully capable guy. By the end of the game he'll be packing more than 20 upgradable utility gadgets, everything from shoulder-mounted rockets to hover boots to an assortment of grenades that do everything from popping enemies up in the air to imprisoning them in an electric cage. There are plenty of upgradable guns as well that fall into five basic categories, though again, you won't always have to use guns to solve specific missions. Lastly, Samuels will rely heavily on a multipurpose visor that lets you turn on different vision modes for specific situations. You could simply saunter into a bar and engage a mode that scans every character in the area, identify which ones are friendly, which are hostile--and which have an outstanding bounty on their head. Then it's a pretty simple matter of walking up and arresting the target to make a quick buck, unless they decide to fight you or run away. The visor has a neat-looking low-light mode as well, and one that lets you track a DNA trail when you need to figure out which way a target has escaped.
You can't talk about a demo of Prey 2 without mentioning its parkour, or urban traversal, or whatever you want to call it. Basically, Samuels is really good at climbing up and vaulting over ledges and obstacles, so you won't be too constrained by the cities' simple walls and barriers. On the ground you can slide into cover, pop up to shoot over it, and vault over it like in many other shooters. But you can also slide under low-hanging obstacles and keep running, or jump up and climb your way up a sheer wall if it has the right handholds. You can even use the top of a ledge as cover and fire over that if you want. It looks like much of Prey 2's urban environments are built with this kind of quick movement in mind, which ought to come in handy when you have to chase down some of your nimbler bounties. One of the targets in particular in the demo I saw was able to teleport short distances to escape, and it was all the player could do to keep up with him, even using all of his sliding and climbing abilities to their fullest. Open-world games are largely about giving the player mobility, and I'm glad to see Prey 2 retains that aspect, whether it's a first-person shooter or not.
In talking with some of the Human Head guys, I got the feeling that they're nearly as tired of linear corridor shooters as I am, so it's nice to see they decided to do something other than make yet another one. Granted, this sort of open-world action game is one of my most favorite types of games to play, but even given that fact, I think Prey 2 looks especially promising and I'll be really interested to see if it makes good on all those promises when it releases sometime in 2012.