"I can wander around, take different jobs or try to find ambient activities going on in the world," says project lead Chris Rhinehart - another studio co-founder - of the RPG-lite level of interaction and exploration. As we scan around we see an alien outlined in green being given a vicious shoeing by some local thugs.
"I could intervene and shoot these guys," says Rhinehart. "Maybe he'd give me some money. But it's my choice, so I'm just going to move on and let them beat the hell out of him." You can talk to people on the street and, as Rhinehart demonstrates simply by unholstering his gun, threaten or simply shoot them.
He then shows off the shoulder barge move by dashing into a gangly fellow leaning on some railings and sending him toppling into the misty depths on the other side. Well, he knew the risks. "If you play like a jerk the cops will come after you," Rhinehart warns.
"If you activate that security system, the best answer is to flee. It's time-based, and they're likely to give up if you get far enough away. There are escalation systems too - when it first triggers they'll be lower level cops that come out, but if you continue to fight, higher level cops teleport in and chase you. And if you continue to escalate it, rival bounty hunters eventually turn up to take you down."
Instead of messing with the fuzz, we head to a strip club to see if there's anyone to shake down. As you do. A quick scan matches one of the patrons with a bounty... seems he's wanted dead or alive, and since he's engrossed by the gyrating holographic dancers, we take the opportunity to sneak up behind him and draw our gun.
Clearly he isn't as distracted as he seems, quickly firing a few desperate rounds in our direction and diving for the door, sending customers screaming from his path. We give chase, using the deft parkour system to carve a few metres off our pursuit.
"The enemy will choose the best route at that moment," says Rhinehart. "He doesn't necessarily have an end-point. He has an I-want-to-get-the-hell-away-from-you point. He's just fleeing."
And, unlike Assassin's Creed's flighty fellows, he won't conveniently stop and wait for you to catch up. "We can mess around with that for difficulty," says Rhinehart, "but stopping along the way feels very artificial to me. If the game's going to help you out, it needs to do it in secret under-the-hood ways. So, the enemies can end up escaping."
That's not going to happen here, though. Killian has a good number of gadgets to assist in fighting, pursuing and subjugating his quarry - in this case he fires off some bolas (ropes ending in heavy balls) which whirl around our target to send him sprawling.
"You've got the wrong guy!" he hisses, struggling in his bonds. We disagree and shoot him through the head. Dead or alive, the pay's the same.
You're not limited to big conkers for gadgets, either: expect grenades, shoulder-mounted rockets (very Predator) and even an anti-gravity blast to send enemies leaping from cover. There are currently around twenty, but Bisenius anticipates a few more.
Some targets must be taken alive, as with our next quarry, whom we select from a menu of available bounties. Obviously, your prey get tougher as the game progresses. The worst types have henchmen you must either dispatch or dodge and some have sneaky alien abilities such as teleportation that render your gadgets useless.
THE END IS NOIR
Our new target leads us on a merry chase, though his henchmen give us the chance to see just how fluid and empowering the combat is. During one ambush, we leap up onto a mezzanine ledge and dangle there, using it as cover to dispatch the goons above - before leaping out, throwing ourselves into a skid and chunking the remaining enemies with our shotgun.
It's pacey, thrilling stuff. This is not another space war to fight from behind a box. "If the player wants to hunker down and blindfire, he can," says Rhinehart. "But we want to encourage you to move and run from cover to cover, so we actually make you a little more powerful while you do that."
Prey 2's shaping up as an extremely dynamic sandbox: full of variety, rich in choice, crammed with diversions and slathered in a thick coat of noir-ish sci-fi intrigue. With such fluid action and a sprawling open world, Prey 2 sits right at the top of the food chain.
Will 2011 finally be the year the old corridor shooter gets hunted to extinction?
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