Is 'Prey' A Horror Game? Yes But It Depends On What Scares You

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You aren't entirely alone in the latest Prey demo Bethesda

Is Prey a horror game? The latest joint venture from Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softwork has all the trappings of a sci-fi horror spectacle. Everything is suspect. Viscous, jet-black Mimics twist and slither themselves into near-perfect hiding spots disguised as everyday objects. Bend over to pick up a medkit and BAM! a Mimic lunges instead. Jump scares are everywhere in Prey , but is it a horror game?

So far, I’d say yes.

I’m 12 hours into Prey , and it’s not the jump scares that have been giving me shivers. It’s the story. It reminds me of my favorite scene in John Carpenter’s The Thing .

If that scares you, then you’ll consider Prey a horror game. (Rewatching it after playing Prey the parallels also extend to running out of ammo at a key moment).In the run up to release Prey’s creators were vocal about the game being about identity. Reality. The more you learn about the world of Prey , the more disturbing the place feels. You learn early on that the Neuromods people are using, including you, have a nasty side effect. Whenever the treatment is reversed the person loses all the memories they had after the surgery. Their new life, full of biologically enhanced rewards as the result of adding any number of character traits through Neuromods, disappears.

READ: ‘Prey’ Demo Gives You The First Hour Of Gameplay For Free On PS4, Xbox One

What makes it unsettling is uncovering the conspiracy behind people who began to abuse this power. To fuse the genetics of the Mimics into the process and play god by turning men into superhumans. Those powers are available to you as well, as you complete whatever branch of the story you trust most. It’s hard to know if your character is even real, at least, if the notes and videos and memories left behind by you are really you.

Again, this unsettling feeling created by Prey’s deliberately fractious, non-linear story is reinforced by the things you want in a good horror game. The jump scares really are some of the best I’ve had in a long time. Very well paced, it feels like everytime I stop inspecting a room before barging in I get rewarded with a Mimic to the face. And then I spend the next 20 minutes scouring each corner before moving along, trying to convince myself I’m not petrified just being thorough.

The music cannot be understated. I am really digging the 80s New Wave sound Prey has. The scoring and musical cues are well done, coming in subtle and upping your tension. And the screaming, static sound of a Mimic as it launches peaks the whole interaction which, assuming you don’t die, fades into a mellow synth pulse you barely knew was there.

Is Prey a horror game? Sure, but more importantly it’s a good horror game. This isn’t a B-movie. This isn’t a horror game that turns the tropes up to 11 and throws a creepy dead girl or hulking maniac at you. It is exceptionally quiet, isolating and foreign. You feel compelled to escape because it’s an uncomfortable place, but there’s no urgency. You move at your own pace, try to be careful and still fail. Depending on your quicksave skills, death can be a major setback in Prey . Resources are scarce, so you aren’t going toe-to-toe with every Phantom you come across. You will genuinely be scared of conflict because of its costs.

Whether or not Prey continues to be a horror game remains to be seen. So far, I am in love with every creepy moment. My biggest fear right now isn’t of some coffee cup that turns into a mind-sucking alien, it’s of a brilliant sci-fi horror game turning into an FPS shitshow.

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