Now, you can be forgiven for scratching your head and trying to remember the first Prey. Released back in 2006, it followed the fortunes of a Native American named Tommy who was beamed aboard an alien spacecraft during one of those abduction things. Rather than lie down and think of North Dakota while the probe was inserted though, our Tommy used his mysterious Native American powers to... well, I don’t really know. Presumably escape the spacecraft.
Truth be told, Prey was forgetable. It came and went, lost on the conveyor belt of sci-fi FPS titles that continually roll through the periphery of the gaming world. The problem, is just that there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish it from anything else. I mean, sure there was the whole ‘mystical Native American powers’ thing, but what it really needed was a solid, original angle. A shtick.
If I’m entirely honest, when I heard that Bethesda were previewing Prey 2 at E3 this year, I needed to look Prey 1 up just in order to remind myself what it was about. BUT – and this is the important bit – when I actually saw Prey 2 in action I could tell there was a lot more substance. It looks like as original a take on the sci-fi shooter as we’ve seen in a while.
You play the part of tough-sounding Killian Samuels, a US Marshall who is abducted by the same aliens during the same event that took Tommy the Indian in Prey 1. Rather than start the story here, though, we skip forward a couple of years, and see our hero, now completely without memory of his life on Earth, somehow working as a high-tech bounty hunter on the world of Exodus. Rather than just being a storyline gimmick, though, the bounty hunting is a significant gameplay dimension.
In the runthrough that we got to see the player was hunting the bounty on a rubbery-looking alien fugitive. Using his helmet visor the player was able to identify hostile enemies at a glance as well as targets with bounties on their heads. While this made it really simple to keep an eye on the target when he inevitably fled into the city, and on his bodyguards who were attempting to slow us down, the visor can also identify targets of opportunity, other bounties that perhaps don’t feature in the main plot but allow the player to gather money for successful collars.
Aside from the usual run-and-gun gameplay that you’d expect in an FPS, our hero is incredibly agile – platforms can be grabbed in mid-jump, low gaps can be slid through and walls can be scrambled up in pursuit of fleeing marks. At no point does this parkour-style action ever seem to interfere with the shooting, though – you can hang from ledges and shoot with just as much ease as you can when standing. These features combine to facilitate a smooth, free-moving and slick combat environment whereby you can run rings around your foes and control the battlefield.
The environment has a neon-lit Blade Runner feel to it. The city itself was described as a ‘vertical city’, meaning that it exists on many vertical levels for the player to climb, or fall from. This description certainly led me to remember Nar Shadaa, the smuggler’s moon that features in so many of the Star Wars videogames.
Once the player had his target cornered, he was able to choose his apprehension tactic based on his own gameplay style. Interrogating a prisoner may reveal the location of various goodies but could end up killing him – not a lot of use if he’s wanted alive, of course. In another section we saw the player negotiating with an information broker and his burly bodyguard. When the broker’s price seemed too steep, the hero whipped out a blaster, took out the bodyguard, and aimed his crosshairs onto the snitch, who immediately became way more talkative. This freedom of choice and of action was evident throughout the design of Prey 2.
It was a gorgeous looking game with a variety of alien species, great use of colour and a strong visual design ethos. Although system requirements have not been released, it is Game Debate’s informed opinion that this is going to require a fairly powerful machine in order to get the best results. And from what we saw, this could just be the game that will make you want to upgrade your machine. Needless to say, we will bring you the published specs just as soon as we can.
Prey 2 is my game of the E3 show and comes out next year. We’re all excited to get our bounty hunting gloves on and get our Blade Runner fix.