Prey becomes hunter as Killian Samuels collects bounties in Human Head Studios' sequel to one of the most overlooked games of this generation.
Slowly I regain consciousness. I find myself surrounded by burning rubble and as I look towards the sky it's starting to dawn on me. Earth. I can see Earth through two enormous windows surrounded by some sort of brown, organic material. Someone's idea of a sick joke? A bit further away there is a smouldering plane wreckage and parts of buildings. What's happening?
I reach for my gun... still there. And I head out to try and get a handle on the situation. I run into the ugly son of a bitch I have ever seen, but as there are few problems in this world that can't be solved with a bit of violence I dispense of him and splatter his alien brains all over the place. Fresh ugly bastards appear from portals that pop up. A wild chase commences, and although I have no idea what this place is or where to go, I do know I want to come out of this situation alive. But there is just no way to escape the numerous aliens who seem to have trapped. They catch up to me and with that it's lights out.
That's the story of our protagonist - Killian Samuels. From our point of view things the just got a lot brighter as Human Head turn on the lights in the small theatre. We've just played the first level in the upcoming Prey 2, the sequel to one of the best and sadly most overlooked games of this generation. They won't reveal what happens after the first level and the rest of the presentation will revolve around what happens a few year into the adventure on the alien planet Exodus.
This is an ad:
The start of Prey 2 is played out in parallel to the original. The best indian in the world (probably), Tommy, makes an appearance in Prey 2 and there is plenty to signal that this is a sequel to Prey. However, you will not play as Tommy this time around, but as sheriff Killian Samuels, who is abducted by aliens at the same time as Tommy. But unlike Tommy who was hellbent on destroying the alien facility, things have taken another turn for Killian who instead works as a bounty hunter on Exodus. Human Head compares it to Prey being the story of Luke Skywalker, while Prey 2 is the story of Boba Fett. This time around you are the hunter, and the aliens are prey.
When you meet the folks from Human Head Studios it's immediately apparent where their ambitions lie. It's almost like talking to Valve or Blizzard. To them it's completely uninteresting to just push out a sequel - it has to innovate, move the series along and hopefully change the whole genre forever. Prey was released back in 2006 and it won't be until 2012, six years later, that Human Head are finished with the sequel. Chris Rhinehart, co-founder of Human Head and project lead on Prey, explains that they made several attempts to create Prey 2, but that it never felt right. The project has been stopped and restarted multiple times.
The lights are turned of and we're treated to a level on Exodus. In typical Half-Life fashion the cutscenes are witnessed through the eyes of Killian and you're never taken out of first person view. The main character never utters a word. This is your adventure and you're free to dress Killian up with any personality you see fit. We control Killian in a world that reminds us a lot of Omega from Mass Effect 2. There are civilians, plenty of buildings, strip clubs, casinos and things to climb.
Unlike the original game Prey 2 is completely open ended. You can go anywhere you want, talk to anyone and take on missions. Killian is as agile as Faith from Mirror's Edge and easily leaps between buildings, swings along pipes, and jumps up on walls. If Killian's hands are visible it's a leap you can make. A nice solution to avoid frustrating falls.
This is an ad:
The planet is full of life and people. With a simple press of a button you can filter out people who aren't of importance to you. We pass bar fights, strip clubs and residential areas until Killian accepts a mission to capture a gangster. Easier said than done, as it turns out he employs plenty of guards. In order to gain access to his building we need to get passed a door with voice detection, and we solve this by holding a gun to the head of a guard and force him to allow us entry. Well inside there are plenty of fierce opposition left to gun down.
Killian is just as agile with guns as he is without them, and you will be able to move quickly in and out of cover. There is also an evolved version of the cover system from Killzone so you can shoot enemies from the safety of cover. The action is very fluid and it reminds us of Vanquish as Killian slides around, jumps obstacles and rolls into cover. Our mark has no intention of getting caught and as all of his guards have been taken care he flees the scene, and we're forced to chased him down, in what can only be described as a parkour chase. And to make matters worse an obese boss steps in to interfer.
He's ridiculous fat and he is as strong as he is nauseating to look at. If you have played the first Prey you will recognise how aliens have fused humans with machines. But even if you manage to come out of this encounter alive and catch up to the mark your mission isn't over. He has no interest in being dragged off to your client and he's willing to pay you a great deal of money to avoid being handed over.
This money can in turn be used to upgrade your equipment. How about getting a couple of shoulder-mounted guns to gain an edge in combat, or perhaps the ability to suspend your enemies in mid-air just to shoot them down and end their days. There are tons of options here, but you cannot equip them all at once, so you will be forced to make choices based on your preferred play style.
As your abilities grow stronger you will unlock new options. Old locations where you thought you'd found all the secrets may have more in store for you. Each location is on the scale of Assassin's Creed II, according to Human Head, and you travel to each location by train. And while I only experienced the Omega-inspired level first hand, a saw concept art of deserts, major cities, overgrown areas and cave systems. Prey 2 is an expansive adventure and Human Head estimates that it will take no less than 15 hours to complete.
Simply put Prey 2 feels fresh. It has the movements of Mirror's Edge, the freedom of Mass Effect, the gun fights of Killzone, a loot system similar to Borderlands and the skill system and weapon upgrades reminds us of Bioshock. On top of that Human Head have added plenty of original ideas that creates a game with its own unique style.
It's obvious that Human Head wants to direct our attention to the smallest details of Prey 2. Usually developers focus on discussing bigger concepts, gimmicks or similar things, but Rhinehart wants to talk about how they have worked hard to eliminate small frustrating or illogical gameplay elements.
One such area is checkpoints, another area is the artificial intelligence in escort missions, and a third example of this is that you don't have your guns out when they're not used. Placement of non-playable characters is another area they have given a lot of thought, and all weapons use the same ammunition so we're not forced to discard our favourite gun when it runs out of ammo. There are however different types of ammo, such as explosive or incendiary rounds. And your weapons can be upgraded, and thus you can keep your favourite gun throughout the game and just continuously update it.
With every word Rhinehart speaks it becomes more apparent just how ambitious Human Head have been, and the challenge that lies ahead is to make sure all of their good ideas make it in the final game. Something Lionhead's Peter Molyneux has learned the hard way after promising things early on in development that they later could not realise. Something that helps in this regard is that fact that Human Head have opted out of any sort of multiplayer component.
"Why would you want to play Prey 2 online when there is Halo? We would rather make a really good single player adventure," says Rhinehart. A fresh take on the situation as way too many developers spend time and resources on lacklustre multiplayer mode that no one ends up playing. There will however, be downloadable material, but this is also an area where Human Head has big plans and it won't just be extra missions that you'll be able to download.
With that the presentation concludes. What we've seen has wet our appetites even if this is a completely different game than Prey. It's an extremely ambitious game with lots of good ideas and when time comes for its release next year, it could very well be a much needed boost to the entire action genre.