Some games have heavily anticipated sequels. At this point, it’s never a surprise when a new Halo, Mario, Call of Duty, or Uncharted is announced. They’re hot properties and the people behind them want to keep that train rolling. This can only be good for consumers to have more of a thing they enjoy, but it’s probably a little rough on the developers. They’ll want to try new things, but they can’t deviate too much from the original formula or they’ll lose their fans. But on the other hand, some games come and go, and no one ever expects a sequel to come, or no one thinks it will happen by this point. These are generally games that do ok sales-wise, but garner modest but dedicated followings. These are lesser series like Monolith’s Shogo, Bubsy, or long-dormant ones like Earthworm Jim. Games like these, if given the chance for a sequel, have a lot of leg room. It’s been so long since their originals that the expectations are pretty low. Sure, a certain core spirit remains, but on the whole there is a premise and a platform on which developers have a lot more freedom to deviate and tinker. Enter Prey 2, a game that has less to do with the first game than a Final Fantasy entry does with any that comes before/after it.
The first Prey followed a Native American Indian named Tommy Hawk, who was abducted by aliens that had no idea he would go on a gun-toting, portal puzzle-solving rampage. This sequel follows a U.S. Marshall by the name of Killian Samuels. An airplane he was on that was heading toward Ohio was abducted, and he wound up being the only survivor. You control Killian trying to fight his way out of airplane rubble and his newfound surroundings. It doesn’t last long, and he’s eventually knocked out cold by some mean Covenant Elite-looking creatures. This is the first demonstrated in this game, and it shows some serious potential to deliver on the sense of discovery the developers mentioned.
The next portion shown flashes forward to about 25% into the main game. Killian has become a bounty hunter in his new home, and has adopted the native technology, which includes a pretty huge variety of gadgets and weaponry. He now finds himself in the City Center, a seedy Blade Runner-esque downtown area, on the trail of some plot-based bounty that was not revealed to us. This City Center area, it’s important to note, is HUGE. The demonstration goes through a lot of areas here, and shows a whole lot of details that can contribute to finding bounties, catching bounties, and just plain survival.
Surprisingly, a huge part of this game isn’t running down corridors and shooting at guys until you reach your bounty and shoot him down. Instead, it’s just actually tracking your bounty. In one example of a contract the player took on, he was given a general waypoint of where the target could be, or at least a clue. Before arriving, an NPC showed up suggesting that the player talk to someone else nearby for some information. The player chose to look into it, and found an alien with a bodyguard asking for a few credits too many to divulge where to find the target. Instead of paying (which wasn’t possible anyway), the demonstrator blew the bodyguard away with a shotgun and then pointed it at the alien’s head to force the information out of him. It worked, but the guy said he’d call in a favor sometime. Basically, by being a threatening bastard, the player unlocked a future mission. The game is apparently filled with moments like this where different choices can be made.
Another interesting thing was that having your gun out is actually not normal in these portions of the game. By default, you don’t see your gun in the corner. This was explained to us in two reasons. First: most people tend to not carry their weapon out and pointed forward at all times; it was a matter of realism. Second: there is more impact in holding a gun to someone’s head when you don’t have it out and pointing everywhere to begin with. This also worked well in the beginning sequence as the player gains his bearings (like Killian himself) and soaks in the scenery of a foreign alien world.
And what missions you choose or don’t choose (he ignored a guy being mugged outside a bar) is just the start of it. The player finally found his way to the bounty, and a scan showed that one alien just outside the place was the target’s captain. Knowing this, the player gunned down the surrounding thugs, and then held the captain hostage as he made his way to the room where the target was otherwise relaxing. It didn’t work, as the target just blew the captain’s head clean off. Guess they didn’t get along. This started a big chase across a lot of the city center that involved a lot of combat, and a lot of gadgetry. How you handle these also affects your reputation. In simpler terms: how messy do you get when you take your target down?
About Killian in action, he is quite nimble. He can jump to and climb ledges, and even jump to higher or nearby ones while hanging. This is to say nothing of his hover boots that slow falls and increase jump distance, which prove handy when you’re leaping about rooftops of a seedy alien city. These acrobatics also come into play during combat, as Killian can not only take cover behind conventional chest-high walls and crates (all in first-person and looking very convincing), but also hang from a ledge and pop up to deal out some surprise attacks.
He also has a huge variety of gadgets at his disposal. An infrared scanner helped identify the target’s captain, anti-gravity grenades made some henchmen easy targets or easily avoided, and a Ghostbusters Ghost Trap-style snaring device for his bounties.
There were a lot of play mechanics at work in the Prey 2 demonstration. There’s a little sandbox feel in the exploration and just managing to find tasks and missions to do, acrobatics not normally seen in first-person shooters, choices that can affect things from reputation to what missions open up to you later, cover mechanics, and of course simple ol’ shooting and dodging. None of these are new on their own, but if Human Head can tie all this together, as well as present a believable alien world, then they may well have something truly special on their hands. This is one sequel that is going in a wildly different direction when compared to its predecessor, and for that it has my undivided attention.