Previews

E3 2011's Most Anticipated: Prey 2

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CITY SLICKER
But it's not all shooting - this is not Far Cry 2's tirelessly hostile world. There's an RPG-lite flavour to the hustle and bustle, with a strong emphasis on the hustle: the alien city shown during our demonstration was The Bowery, a seedy hotbed of strip-bars, backroom deals and sin that exists in a perpetual twilight.

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Advertising blimps float above the flickering neon-lit streets, which instantly recall the wet, steaming alleys of - what else? - Blade Runner. With so many dodgy denizens on the make, it's no surprise that Samuels' services are in high demand, as he's asked to capture fleeing debtors or simply settle their tab with a few bullets.

Samuels can pick up bounties in one of two ways. He can simply walk into an area and scan it - the HUD outlines nearby lifeforms and identifies them. Stumble across a wanted man, and Samuels can take on an impromptu mission. There are plenty of other randomised world events in which Samuels can choose to intervene: maybe some poor chap is getting roughed up by thugs - lend him a hand and he might bung you some cash.

Equally, you may decide tussling with heavies isn't cost-effective. There are easier pickings to be had; poke your gun into a cowering civilian's face and they will keenly part with their money. The other way of getting work is to call up a handy menu of available jobs on your HUD.

These are generally meatier, multi-part affairs than the impromptu chases. The one we witnessed saw Samuels tasked with taking down a local mafioso - but without a fix on his location we need to first coax a lead from an information broker.

The guy drives a hard bargain, but he's more compliant after we blow a hole through his bodyguard's face - which, incidentally, also demonstrates just how flexibly the world reacts to the player's freedom.

HEADHUNTER
It turns out that the target is hiding in a grubby little club downtown. We are able to gain entrance by taking a nearby gang member hostage and walking him at gunpoint through the locked doors.

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Things become messier shortly thereafter, with our inhuman shield rapidly punctured by his fellow gang members. The chase spills out across the city. Our bolas don't work, as this target can teleport short distances - so we chase him until he has nowhere left to run, dispatching the goons that flood in to protect him along the way.

Finally, at the edge of the spaceport, facing a sheer drop or incarceration, he begs us to let him go. He can pay us double what the other guy is paying, he says. We could accept his offer - sometimes you may even choose to kill the original mission giver - but in this instance we decide to stand by our word.

Fizzing bonds pin the goon's body in the air, while a portal emerges from behind and swallows him whole, whisking him away to our paymaster's lair. It may seem strange that a game that first made its name with portals, would then consign them to such a small bit-part in the sequel.

But it's to Human Head's credit that, after that delirious, freeform chase, it doesn't feel anything like a disappointment. Few other videogame series dare to depart from the known formula - Prey 2 does that and then some, tying it all together in an ambitious open world.

At a time when the bleating herd of shooters seems content to simply follow in Call Of Duty's supremely linear footsteps, Prey 2 could well turn out to be a killer.

[Words: Xbox World 360]

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