Naming conventions often make no sense. By now you’ve probably heard that Prey 2 takes very little from the original Prey, but still bears the series name. So why not call it something else? Presumably it’s because Human Head Studios was commissioned to make a Prey sequel and is now locked in to using the name; even after changing so much that it’ll be nothing like the original.
That’s a decision I’m fine with. I’ve nothing against the original Prey, but I’m always in favour of a sequel mixing things up to avoid becoming formulaic (a fate that seems to have befallen Assassin’s Creed after one follow-up too many). Ok, yes, the usual approach is to tidy up your original game with a tighter, brighter sequel and then start throwing a load of new ideas around in a third game, but if the Prey series wants to shake things up early, so be it.
The other reason I’m fine with Prey 2 being completely different is that it looks like it’ll be a hub-based, first-person shoot-n-parkour game with bounty hunting in the streets of cramped, sci-fi hive cities. Who the heck wouldn’t want to play that?
You’ll be playing as Killian Samuels, which is fortunately the only aspect of the title that sounds snooze-inducing. Prey 2’s planet Exodus has three main zones, located on the dark, light and in-betweeny areas of the world. Think of these as a bit like the hubs in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (I’ll be making a few comparisons to other media throughout this piece, Prey 2 is obviously not going to be shy about cherry-picking neat ideas), with both main storyline quests and side-issues housed within them. Human Head say that you’ll be able to traverse between each zone (as they become available), so even though the main narrative is linear, it’ll be up to you when to follow it and when to just mess around with other objectives.
Those objectives will involve bounty hunting, and lots of it. These will be a mix of so-called ‘ambient’ bounties, the usual kind of wrong-doing that you might just happen across in your wanderings around the streets, and narrative-crucial bounties that you’ll pursue to advance the story. Naturally, these alien hoodlums won’t just come quietly (even if you ask politely), so you’ll be chasing them around the gangways and architecture of the Necromunda-esque hives.
That chasing will be done parkour-style (think Mirror’s Edge) and, from what’s been shown off so far, looks pretty spectacular. Human Head has stated that the flight paths taken by bounty targets will be randomised, so you won’t just be able to learn a set route and pursue on auto-pilot. Instead you’ll have to clamber, leap and slide your way around the structures, reacting to where your quarry is heading (and possibly deal with any bodyguards or awkward cops who get in your way). If it’s a plot-vital bounty, allowing the target to escape will send you back to a checkpoint. If it’s an ‘ambient’ pursuit, the fleeing criminal will just be lost.
How you handle yourself out and about town will also factor into the bounty encounters. Prey 2 plans to include a reputation system that’ll change depending on your actions. Push too many random people off balconies (yep, this is something you can do) and your meter will creep closer to ‘big jerk’. Be a honourable law-keeper who saves all the space-kittens (to my knowledge this isn’t something you can do, sorry) and you’ll nudge much closer to ‘lovely chap’. At times, your bounty target may offer you greater rewards to simply let them go, which will no doubt factor into your reputation as a bringer of justice.
Of course this title is set to be a shooter, not just a chaser, so you’ll have all manner of guns and gadgets at your disposal. Human Head has promised a wide selection of firearms (without actually putting a number on that yet) and around 25 different gadgets, from temporary shields, to nifty gravity bombs that can lift enemies from out of cover. If the developers can integrate fluid gunplay with some natural-feeling parkour sequences, Prey 2 should be quite a treat to play.
While it’d probably be a mistake to get too carried away with how ‘open world’ the game will be (it’s confirmed that the plot, at least, will not feature any divergent points), it sounds as if the hub-like zones and side-missions will provide a fair bit of player freedom. The decent number of gadgets and guns means that you won’t be able to own everything in a single playthrough, so different playstyles will be encouraged too. At almost every turn Prey 2 looks to be nabbing successful bits from a host of other games (even a pseudo-detective mode in the style of Rocksteady’s recent Batman titles has been mentioned), but it’s fusing them together to create something that, if it works, could be something more than a bit special.
Prey 2 is due for a 2012 release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC