It’s okay if you don’t remember 2006’s Prey. Not that it wasn’t memorable: a first-person shooter in which both you and your alien foes often walked on the ceiling, Prey definitely left an impression. No, it’s okay if you don’t remember it because Prey 2 looks at its predecessor’s defining characteristics: wonky gravity, teleport portals, spirit walking – and throws it all out. And we’re thrilled. Why? Because now you’re a free-running, sci-fi bounty hunter packing Batman-style gadgets and supervillain-grade artillery, stalking targets through an open world inspired by Blade Runner and populated by aliens like those you’d find in Mos Eisley’s cantina. Walking on the ceiling? Lionel Ritchie did that. This is a whole new level of awesome.
Prey 2 actually begins during the exact same event that began the first Prey. In that game, “The Sphere” – a monstrously huge, matter-consuming alien mothership that abducts whole buildings instead of just the occasional cow – sucked up main character Tommy, his girlfriend, her entire bar and his grandpa. But it also grabbed a jet airliner, which you may have seen in the live action teaser trailer for Prey 2…
That guy with the gun? That’s your character in Prey 2, US Marshall Killian Samuels. Shortly after the events of the trailer, you awaken inside The Sphere, the flaming wreckage of your plane strewn across several city blocks’ worth of shattered concrete and rubble. You set out to explore, but you’re quickly knocked unconscious by the aliens patrolling the area. And it is at this moment that Prey 2 leaps off the rails, turning an already unusual train ride into the Great Space Coaster.
When you wake again, Killian has been fast-forwarded years into the future and catapulted through space to an entirely new planet - Exodus. Though details on how you got there and what’s been happening are fuzzy (not just to the player, but to Killian himself), it’s apparent that you’ve found a new profession: you’re a bounty hunter, tracking targets all across the game world just like Deckard from Blade Runner or comic book killing machine Lobo.
And what a world it is. Exodus is tidally locked to its star, which means half of it is stuck in perpetual nighttime, the other half bathed in constant daylight. You’ll see both extremes during the course of the game, but the section we’re in now is a gritty, gaudy red-light district in a city on the night side, so most of the illumination comes from the neon signs clinging to every building. The developers call this atmosphere “alien noir”, and then immediately point to Blade Runner (which we promise to stop mentioning now) as their biggest influence. It looks and feels fantastic.
As our tour of the city begins, the game’s new features begin tumbling into view faster than our demoer can explain them, like clowns spilling out of a tiny car. First is the open world itself, which offers us a random event almost immediately; in a dim corner, several thugs – tan-skinned aliens with flat heads and four beady eyes – are mugging a smaller, frog-faced fellow lying on the ground. We could go rescue him and possibly get a reward, we’re told. But we walk on by, so he’ll probably be lying there dead if we pass this way again later. Brutal.
The second big tent pole in Prey 2’s design is Killian’s arsenal of upgradeable gadgets, which would have Batman himself feeling envious. There will be around 20 in all, with more than 40 upgrades, and they’ll help you sculpt the game to match your style. For example, if you like sneaking, there will be gadgets that enhance your stealth. If you like explosions, other gadgets – such as the shoulder-mounted mini-rockets we’ll soon see (why this is considered a gadget rather than one of the game’s 40 weapons, we’ll never know) – will enhance your abilities in that area. And there are some alien gear that we’re told is simply “crazy and bizarre”. But the gadget we anticipate using the most is Killian’s visor-mounted scanner, which shows its usefulness as we walk into an alien gentlemen’s club.
Much like Batman: Arkham Asylum’s detective mode, the scanner color-codes everyone in the room – the hues may change, but at the moment green are friendlies, red are enemies, yellow are potentially hostile (and often seen harassing the greens), and blue – well, blue are bounties. And there’s one standing right over there, so distracted by the dancers that he hasn’t noticed a hunter entered the room.
Our demoer decides to take this “ambient bounty” (meaning the game world generates them on the fly) alive if possible. So we walk up and attempt to arrest him peacefully, hoping to avoid the need for gunplay in a crowded room – after all, just as in a Grand Theft Auto game, if you kill too many innocents the in-game security forces will hunt you down.
Some bounties will surrender at this point – this one doesn’t. He bolts out a side door, but the scanner is locked on so it tracks him even through the wall. We break toward a nearer exit in a full-out run, which enables Killian to automatically push civilians out of the way and sends him busting through the door when we reach it. This cuts off our quarry’s escape route, and because he’d given up the option to come peacefully, we cap him and loot his corpse. Justice is served.
The scanner shows off another use later in the demo as we pass another spontaneously generated event. Seeing a pile of dead bodies and an attacker menacing a new target, we rush in to help. Unfortunately, we’re just a moment too late and the bully kills his victim a split-second before we can ice him. However, a quick scan of the murderer’s body reveals a DNA trail.