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E3 2011: Prey 2 - Better Than You Never Imagined

Previews - Multi Platform

Written by Jayce Diaz
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Of all the games at E3, I'll admit that Prey 2 was near the very bottom of my expectations list prior to the event. Having nothing to go on but CG trailers and magazine covers that totally felt out of place in comparison to the original Prey, I assumed the latest entry in the series to be more in line with the generic, faceless shooters that get dished out on a monthly basis.

Oh, how wrong and stupid I was to assume that. Not only is Prey 2 absolutely stunning, but it has more to do with the original than you might think, while maintaining a completely unique feel, even from other shooters.

One of the first things developer Human Head Studios did during the presentation is explain just how Prey 2 connects to the original game. Clearly, they were intent on showing that this isn't just another case of "different game with the same name", an affliction that has plagued the industry on numerous cases. In Prey 2, players take the role of Killian Samuels, a U.S. Sky Marshal who was onboard a commercial flight when it was abducted by the gruesome invaders you faced off against in the first game. In fact, you actually see this happen in Prey 1 through the eyes of former protagonist Domasi "Tommy" Tawodi, though you have no idea that Killian is on the doomed flight. It turns out that Killian was the sole survivor of the abduction, and tried to fight his way through the wreckage.

This is where the in-game presentation started. Killian awakes in the midst of the flaming plane wreckage, and begins his escape attempt. Armed with only a pistol (In case you didn't know, Sky Marshals are authorized to carry weapons on a commercial flight), he does his best to take on the alien hordes while trying to get away, but is eventually overwhelmed and knocked unconscious. Flash forward a few years, and Killian awakes on a distant planet, under some very unique circumstances. Since the plane crash, he has been working as a bounty hunter in a massive, criminally-infested alien city and is damned good at his job. He has no memory of how any of this happened, and must uncover the clues to explain the past while finding and eliminating various alien threats. An interesting footnote here is that Tommy does in fact have a role in Prey 2, though Human Head wouldn't say exactly how. But his inclusion means that this story has more ties to the first game than we think.

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Arguably, the biggest star of the game isn't any one character, but the environment itself. The game takes place on the planet Exodus, which is tidally locked, meaning that it doesn't rotate around its axis. In other words, one side of the planet is always hot, and the other side is always cold. The city we're in happens to be near the center, where the weather is pleasant enough to support life at the expense of the sky being in an eternal dusk. Artistically speaking, the team at Human Head is going for an aesthetic they call "Alien Noire"; The city more or less looks like a foreign, neon-lit city that has seen its share of problems and faded glamour. It is a vertically-built city, meaning there are multiple layers of buildings and locations that the player can climb to, making it not only a wide space for the player to explore, but a tall one as well. It reminded me of a very well made version of the Omega station from Mass Effect 2, only much, much more impressive and alive (and a lot less orange).

I mentioned that the player can climb; this is a complete understatement. In Prey 2, the bulk of travel is done via parkour-inspired elements like climbing pipes, leaping from building to building, and jumping railings and trains. This type of movement has been explored with previous games like Brink and Mirror's Edge, but Prey 2 easily outclassed anything I've ever seen before with just how smooth and enjoyable it was to get from one elevated place to another. They even added futuristic mechanics like hoverboots, which allow the player to glide across long distances and safely land from a large fall. What makes this system so paramount to the gameplay is that you'll be spending a LOT of time chasing down perps through crowded nightclubs and busy streets. The two chase scenes we saw were completely exhilarating, and excitement of the chase was almost palpable. This speaks for one of the design properties of Prey 2; in the first game, you were taken, held prisoner, and hunted down... you were the prey. In Prey 2, Human Head wants to give players a chance to be feared. You are now the hunter, and there is quite a lot of prey to be hunted.

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Prey 2 is also an open-world game, and players are free to explore, take on side missions, push people off of ledges (and deal with the consequences), and really get a feel for the game's dark, heavily populated alien setting. In one example shown, Killian was walking along a platform when he came across a gang of aliens beating on a smaller alien huddled up on the floor. Killian could have helped the victim, which could possibly lead to a mission, or simply sat back and watched as the bigger aliens beat him to death. In the demo, he just walked away and let the violence continue. Other side missions aren't as subtle, with NPC's literally approaching you with optional quests to take on. The main missions will come in via the bounty hunting, though it's all pieced together to form the overall story.

The last bit I want to talk about is the weaponry. Killian has quite an impressive arsenal of futuristic guns and gadgets, from anti-gravity grenades to a holographic visor that can point out targets of interest and even gauge how likely they are to be become aggressive. Your guns are holstered until needed, though you can take it out at anytime just by aiming down the sights. This is a good design choice, as you are interacting with a wide spectrum of NPCs in the game, not just the guilty ones. It'd be odd to wave a gun around the face of an informant or someone you just saved. We asked about the guns from the original Prey and whether or not they'll make a return. Unfortunately, they weren't allowed to comment on such matters. Even still, it looks like what we have access to more than fills the void. All in all, there are around 60 upgradeable gadgets and weapons, making the selection quite large as it is.

We've still got some time before Prey 2 lands on shelves. With an anticipated 2012 release, it's going to be quite the challenge to wait for such an awesome-looking game. I just hope more information is released soon, as I just can't wait to explore the world of Exodus myself. For now, check out these screenshots and let us know what you think!

Prey 2 is being developed by Human Head Studios, and Published by Bethesda Softworks. It is scheduled for a 2012 release on Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows PC.

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