A sequel to Prey from 2006 has been a long time coming. Everyone who finished the original, and hopefully enjoyed it, anticipated a follow-up in the not too distant future. That was six years ago, and before it was revealed earlier this year, our hopes were dangling on a very thin piece of string. E3 changed all of that, and we were fortunate enough to be guided through a demo of Prey 2 by a project lead. Human Head Studios really didn't want to continue the story in a predictable manner, and their intentions were made clear last week.
For Prey 2, they wanted to look at a different side of the predator/prey relationship, with you as the predator this time. The original's leading man, Tommy, has stepped aside and made space for Killian, who was abducted from the plane seen in the original Prey. During the introductory level shown in Los Angeles, he's escaping the destroyed plane on an alien structure overlooking Earth. Killian eventually runs out of luck. He blacks out and awakens on the world of 'Exodus', unaware of how he got there and his memories of prior events have vanished. Truly lost in space. We're told that he's a bounty hunter, and at some point during the unfolding story, Killian will bump into our favourite Cherokee - Tommy.
Both stories are somehow linked, but that's where the similarities end. On a mechanical level, Prey 2 is completely alien (excuse the pun) to the game before it. This is an open world adventure, and the atmosphere of Exodus has more in common with film noir. One side of the planet will always be facing the sun (reminiscent of Coruscant from Star Wars), while the other half is constantly dark and cold. We spent time on the dark side, and it's teaming with aliens that you can interact with. They live normal, albeit probably crime-filled lives. However, be wary of generalising too hastily, as the citizens are crucial to the structure of Prey 2.
The gameplay is quite different too; Killian can sprint, take cover and fire from behind cover - abilities that were unavailable to Tommy in Prey. Also, the heads-up display has been stripped away for the sake of immersion. By default, your gun is not raised, you have to take it out. This action threatens aliens, so you an use this to your advantage. It's a key part of Prey 2, and how you make yourself known on Exodus will impact the route taken during the story. Players decide what missions to take, when to accept offers and when to bust skulls. After all, every man has the right to freedom.
Prey 2's influences stretch beyond open world role playing games, and into a galaxy far, far away (yeah, we just said that). A game developed by DICE in 2008, Mirror's Edge, was an unlikely source of inspiration. Killian can vault over objects, jump over long distances, peer around while hanging off ledges, slide between cover, and shoot while hanging as well. His hands appear on screen to indicate whether or not he can grab a ledge, or land a jump. Human Head Studios is calling it agile combat, whereby the traditional shooting elements are combined with fluid, parkour movement.
The game will be substantially deeper than Prey, and Killian has the option to upgrade over twenty-nine gadgets. One gadget allows you to colour-code non-player characters, e.g. make them green if friendly or yellow if not. The gadgets will only work relative to the chosen enemy; some will be immune and can only be tackled with a specific tool. We didn't get an opportunity to see what else was out there in Exodus, but that was of less importance anyway. The open world is the real hook; Killian's spare time can, and should, be spent wisely. He can intervene in muggings for a reward, he can identify and target those who have a bounty on their heads, and if you chase them, different aliens will have different reactions, like running or fighting. There's a multitude of choices, and your decisions will be based around morals. Killian can play as a good guy, or be evil and randomly push people off railings.
Exodus itself is built to be very vertical, sort of like the design in Crysis 2 where you really had to worry about what was happening above and below you. Agility allows Killian to scale to great heights, and to get back down; or if he's feeling lazy, glide with his hover boots. The final mission seen at E3 had Killian targeting a military style alien who can teleport. A chase ensues. Afterwards, Killian takes a lieutenant hostage, but it doesn't work so he executes him and continues to run. There's potentially room to further develop the moral aspect of Prey 2 in these situations. When the action sequence ends, Killian reaches the alien by using some anti-gravity wave grenades, so the world gets turned upside down. It's a fond reminder of what made the gameplay in Prey so enjoyable, and it's good to see the head spinning mechanics carried over.
When Killian catches his bounty, the alien is held in an energy bubble. This is where it becomes interesting because you now have a few decisions to make. First, he offers you more money than his bounty to let him go, then depending on your choice, you can interrogate him for more information at the risk of killing him, or send him straight back to your client. Basically, combine Mass Effect with Mirror's Edge, throw in a stylish open world, and you have Prey 2. It's an entirely new direction for the series and looks almost nothing like the old game, but still manages to retain certain aspects while linking Tommy's story from his 2006 outing. Human Head Studios has undertaken the enormous task of balancing several different genres, and we'll find out if they've been successful next year.
Prey 2 will be released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.