PAX ’11: Prey 2 Live Demo Inspires Hope
While Prey 2 was unfortunately not playable at PAX Prime 2011, Bethesda was running a live demo every hour during the event and I managed to sit in on a full session of it. Few sequels in recent years have caused as many questionable glances from fans as Prey 2 has done with what seems to be a vast departure from the first game in every single aspect. It might not have been the most popular game but it was very well received and has a dedicated fanbase, to say the least.
Well let me put your fears to rest as much as I can: Prey 2 may be bigger and different than the original game, but a large departure it is not. Read on to see why I think you should give this one a chance. Oh, and Tommy? Well let’s just say don’t count him out, as it was confirmed that you’ll run into him at some point in the game.
The first thing about Prey 2 is something that everybody knew right from the announcement of the game, as it raised the first objections from fans. Players will be taking on the role of Killian, an Air Marshal on a flight that gets taken down as the aliens attack. You might remember this from the live action teaser awhile back. The reasoning behind this was to show that there were other things going on simultaneously with Tommy’s adventure in the first game, and that his encounter wasn’t some isolated incident.
To save you some wordy exposition, Killian gets captured by slaver aliens and taken to Exodus, a tidal locked planet where the same side always faces the sun. What we’ve been seeing takes place in a city called Bowery which is on the border of that planet between day and night, so it’s stuck in an eternal dusk setting. We’re told that when the game takes place, Killian has been stuck on Exodus for quite a while: possibly years.
As Killian started wandering around Bowery, some of the more obvious differences between this game and the first becomes very apparent. While Prey is what our own Scott Lipowitz would call “the last great corridor shooter” this one definitely has a more open world feel to it. That phrase has a strange connotation attached with it to certain gamers, but let be clear that from what I saw of the game that seemed to be a very good thing.
To go along with the new open world setting, Killian has a set of moves that is best described as Mirror’s Edge. It’s not LIKE Mirror’s Edge, it IS. Once again that’s very much a good thing. The free running looked just as fluid, complete with the little touches like Killian reaching his hand out on-screen to indicate when there’s a jump he can make. One tool he has that Faith didn’t however is when he’s hanging from a pipe, he can actually hang on to it with one hand and shoot over it as cover.
Of course running around anywhere you want is all good and fine, but not without something to do. To that end in the intermittent years Killian has taken up working as a Bounty Hunter on Exodus. The game showed him being tasked with taking down a specific target who was wanted dead or alive. As the player advanced towards his goal he made ample use of a scanner function which highlights everyone in the area and colors them with a distinct aura to give you information about them. Green is peaceful, yellow are potential threats and red are actively hostile towards you.
As the player wandered around he kept encountering different groups of yellow-tinted aliens, often they turned out to be somebody who wanted to talk to you about something or were attacking another party. At one point he intervened on the victim’s behalf and attacked the harassers, which ended up in a battle with their friends. The game relies heavily on cover for it’s combat, but not in a way where it’s your only option.
The player eventually caught up with the man he was looking for, but he was protected by a bodyguard. Deciding to keep things going, Killian capped the bodyguard in the head. The man instantly took off running and the player had to hustle to keep up with him and take him down. After a long chase through the city streets, the player used one of the many gadgets in his arsenal to take him down: electric bolos, which wrapped around the target and incapacitated him.
Pissed off that the man made the capture so difficult and reminding the crowd that he WAS wanted dead or alive, he left it up to us. Capture or kill. Well you know how a rowdy crowd can get, so kill it was. The player promptly executed the man and was rewarded for completing the bounty.
Afterwards the player wandered around some more just talking to people and checking things out at which point one thing was pointed out to us: the gun is always holstered by default. This was because the design team thought it was strange that in most first person shooters you’re always pointing your gun at NPCs while talking to them, even if it is kind of pointed away from them. This is something I always found strange as well and it’s neat to see it being acknowledged. Shortly afterward the player was given a new bounty target, but this one was only wanted alive.
On his way he ran across a strange marking using the scanner which appeared to be the scene of an assault. There were dead bodies all around similar to those of the group he encountered earlier. Above the pool of blood was a glowing line which turned out to be a DNA trail that Killian was able to follow in a sequence that was very similar to Batman doing the same thing in Arkham Asylum. Eventually he found the second group and once again entered combat with the assailants. This series of active random encounters and the fact that the friends of the first group still held a grudge really made the game world feel alive.
Getting back on the trail of his selected mission he found the man he was looking for located inside a bar. Investigating around the outer edge, he found a man using the scanner that was the bounty’s lieutenant, and decided to take him hostage to try and make things easier. As he entered the bar, he found out that some people just don’t care about their trusted henchmen, as the bounty promptly shot his man in the head and his team opened fire on Killian.
The bounty took off running, and Killian had to work to keep up with him. Just as he got close, the bounty actually teleported a short distance away which definitely upped the ante. At one point he teleported far below where they were current standing, and I was wondering how the player would make that long fall and survive and then they showed us: hover boots. HOVER. BOOTS. So rad.
After a long battle trying to keep up, Killian eventually cornered the bounty at which point he of course started pleading for his life. However he wasn’t slinging empty promises, and offered to pay you to let him go. The thing is, he offered you more than the bounty on his head was worth. So now it was up to you: piss off the person who put out the bounty and lower your reputation, or capture the man and lose out on some extra money?
The person playing decided to capture him, at which point he was put into a stasis field and the player was offered the chance to interrogate him for more information. You can do this as much as you want, but there is a risk that the criminal can die during this process so to ensure things went speedily during the demo he just captured him. As the bounty was whisked away, the player got a call from the what seemed to be the bounty’s brother, and he was not happy. A giant alien crashed through a wall and attacked the player, with the screen blanking out as he punched.