E3 2011: Prey 2
If I told you I had been excited to see Prey 2 at E3, I would have been blatantly lying. Several years back I played, and even, enjoyed the original Prey, but the game failed to leave much of a lasting impression on me. In fact, I bought and played the game on a whim, during one of Steam’s regular sales. Knowing that Prey 2 had very little in common with Tommy’s story of alien abduction, I failed to see the point in continuing the oddball franchise. However, after watching Human Head’s demonstration, I may still not completely grasp why what they’re making is a Prey game, I do know that I want it.
Given the fascination with science-fiction characters such as Boba Fett, it’s surprising it has taken this long for someone to make a true intergalactic bounty hunting game. Playing as Killian Samuels, a US Marshall based in the extraterrestrial city of Exodus, Prey 2 explores the other side of the predator/prey dynamic. Killian believes he’s the only human on the entire planet, that is, until he runs into Tommy. Supposedly the original protagonist plays an important role in the sequel, which Human Head Studios is billing as an ‘Alien Noir’. Little was revealed about the actual plot of Prey 2, but the developers assured those in attendance that it would match up thematically with the alien abduction story of Prey.
Kicking the demonstration off, Killian recovers, finding himself in the middle of an airplane’s wreckage, ablaze. The Marshall is attacked by several alien goons, allowing the developer playing the game to show off Prey 2’s handy cover mechanics. Like Bethesda’s recent FPS, Brink, Prey 2 features some handy traversal mechanics, ones you might expect from an Uncharted title. Killian can slide into cover, pop out and easily vault over small obstacles. All of that is pretty common, but he can also grab and scale ledges in first-person, hang and pop out to trade shots, which triggers immediate visions of Mirror’s Edge.
Arriving in Exodus proper, Human Head started to speak about Prey 2’s central design philosophy: choice. Exodus is a completely open world, and as a bounty hunter working on contracts, the game structure allows the player to pick and choose their assignments, along with their approach. The city of Exodus, according to the developer, is an ‘awesome place to be a criminal’; therefore, it’s also an awesome place to be a bounty hunter. My impression of the city was that they had taken Omega from Mass Effect 2 and turned it into a fully realized, seedy locale – not a bad thing at all.
Moving about the city, the developers showed off the different reactions NPCs had to Killian, depending on whether or not his gun was holstered. Other games such as Fallout and Deus Ex have employed similar NPC behavior, but the results are still very effective; a distressed reaction from an NPC goes a long way to create a believable open world, where even small actions have minor consequences.
Like many other open world titles, Prey 2’s Exodus is filled with non-essential bounties and ambient events. During the demonstration, Killian stumbled on a pair of muggings, the first time the developer decided to ignore the beating, and the second he intended to help the victim; sadly, he acted too slowly and was only able to avenge the victim’s death. Assuming he had saved the alien in time, the developer said that the player would likely have been rewarded with a small sum of money for their troubles.
As a bounty hunter, Killian has an impressive array of twenty gadgets at his disposal. The first shown in the demonstration was a scanner, which the developer turned on inside an alien strip club. The scanner assessed the life forms in the area, showing which characters had an open bounty, also noting whether the potential target was wanted dead or alive. Picking an alien near the bar, the developer attempted to subdue his mark peacefully – but that wouldn’t have been terribly exciting. The target tried to flee, but was quickly taken down by Killian’s electric net device, which also instantly transported the bounty to its intended recipient.
Next, the demo showed us one of the central story missions, which are necessary to progress Prey 2’s narrative. As a bounty hunting game, again, you’re after someone. Reemphasizing choice, the developer spoke with an informant to obtain some extra intelligence about his mark rather than proceeding directly to the target. The informant didn’t want anything to do with Killian, so the developer blasted the thug’s bodyguard, sending him over a balcony and to his implied death; the informant became more cooperative.
With the intel, Killian made his way towards the target, knowing he’d encounter some heavy resistance. Along the way he was ambushed by some local street thugs, which allowed the developer to show off more of Prey 2’s ‘agile combat’. Finally, confronting his bounty, the demo concluded with an exhilarating chase through Exodus. Platforming and combat were mixed in, requiring the developer to think quickly and remain within a certain distance of the fleeing alien. Another one of Killian’s gadgets, the hover boots, were utilized, allowing Killian to descend quickly and safely from some of Exodus’ higher perches.
Closing on another successful capture and then, the typical, over-the-top enemy entrance associated with most demo endings, I came away extremely impressed. I’m not quite in love with Prey 2’s gritty, ‘alien noir’ art direction, but the freedom Human Head seems to be striving for in Exodus looks extremely impressive. The game has been announced for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, and is lined up for a 2012 release. Here’s hoping the choice is ours, come 2012.