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2012's Most Wanted: Prey 2

Idle chatter amongst colleagues many moons ago turned up a great idea for a feature.

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The concept of "poor games, great sequels" proposed titles whose core concepts were flatlined by awful final products, and could do much better with a heavy redesign. Funnily enough, Prey was one name that came up.

Not that the original was a poor game. The sci-fi FPS was a solid story-driven shooter at the dawn of this console generation, following escaped alien kidnappee Tommy into the bowels of the vast sphere-shaped alien vessel on a revenge and rescue mission.

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Trippy spiritual projection and chip the size of an anal probe on the protagnist's shoulder aside, the main sell of Prey was the concept of portals as gameplay mechanics, preceding Valve's own take by a year. Static though they were in the game world, combined with changeable gravity they made for Escher-style navigation across the craft.

Despite good reviews, and likely because of Portal's presence so soon after, Prey's legacy to the genre was prematurely stunted, and it disappeared into the void. Hence its appearance in our discussion.

Prey 2

Reason then that announcement of a sequel by way of an ambiguous live-action trailer brought curiosity rather than excitement. You'd have to skip ahead some months before the buzz really started. A month after that, and you'd have caught me catching flies with my open mouth. I'd just seen a gameplay presentation of what Human Head Studios conceived as the future of Prey.

Event presentations - be it TGS, E3 or Gamescom, as it was here - for press are trailed by months of polishing and refinement as studios lift a self-contained vertical slice of gameplay (so called because it lets you see all the layers of game mechanics) from the game proper to demo. Its a teasing scorcher reel, but truer for the medium than a cinematic-style trailer because its a better representation of what we'll be playing.

Therefore we expect it to be good. But what surprised with Prey 2 was the excessive shift in gameplay. Gone were portals, variable gravity (so far), alien vessels, linear pathways, singular-minded alien threats. Instead: open cityscapes, parkour leaps across mile-high drops, restraining bolt weapons, tracking devices and federal marshall turned hard-assed bounty hunter.

Its all played out in a vibrant and blue-hued city, that not for the various alien species the studio shouldered and shoved through in the chase of a particular troublesome bounty mark, could have been futuristic Tokyo for all its neon lights and bustling night life.

Prey 2
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