The Interesting Case of the Prey Demo

Horror isn’t really my thing. I have a wildly overactive imagination, my mind is already a pretty terrifying place, and so adding creepy things into that mix never ever ever ends well.

But I was strong-armed by Falcon509 to play the demo for Prey, so here we are. (I’m just kidding about the strong-arming part. It was a friendly recommendation.)

I think the most telling detail of how well this game is put together is that I played it for two whole hours before I started feeling first-person nauseous. But let’s look at what it does so right.

Building the World

Like any good horror story, Prey starts off mundanely enough. The alarm beeps, the character wanders around the apartment, checks some email, and plays with the physics engine gets ready to go to work like a responsible adult.

Prey Demo: Opening Hour_20170501213418
And also check to make sure we have feet. Hint: we do.

After the credit-filled helicopter ride to the office (which features Bethesda’s name on one of the buildings!), I was led into a room for some boring tests of my reflexes and my ability to hide behind an object that wouldn’t have fooled a baby. But kudos to the devs for working in the trolley dilemma!!

Anyway, the first sign of trouble is the scientists being less than pleased with my stellar performance. The second sign of trouble is when the lead scientists doesn’t have any coffee in his cup…

Prey Demo: Opening Hour_20170501212005
What could go wrong?

Well-Crafted Reveals

Although a full analysis of what makes good horror is a discussion for another day, one of the elements that Prey utilizes so beautifully is how it tries to unnerve the player before hitting them with the full-on horror of the situation. Everything starts quietly enough with the playable character waking up in a nice apartment and having a nice job with a nice family that seems to think she (or he) is the responsible one.

But then our prestigious job is being a test subject, the scientists aren’t pleased when Morgan – the main character – performs the tests well. And this one scientist is annoyingly concerned with his coffee.

The game is full of moments crafted so the player has nowhere else to look. Even the first “reveal” of the games creepy-crawlies comes at a time when the player had been asked to focus on something else, and then that task came to a halt while people talked. It was natural for the player to look around, maybe in boredom, before…

You thought I was going to spoil it, didn’t you?

troll

My Experience

There are some more mild spoilers here, so skip to Conclusions if you’d prefer to not read them!

So this is going to be more of a scrapbook experience… I’m trying something new.

Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501210724.jpg
Waking up in my apartment

This entailed a lot of flailing around as I got used to doing things in first-person again, so there are unfortunately no pictures. And I not only discovered I can jump on counter-tops and throw every piece of furniture I own, but that I spare no expense on my living arrangements.

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A room with a view!

But playtime was over and I had to go to work.

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Taking a cool helicopter to work!

And talk to this guy…

Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501211839.jpg
Alex Yu. He said he’s my brother. Well, we both have black hair and glasses, so I guess I believe him!

Before going for testing…

Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501211945.jpg
To the testing room!

We’re tested: jumping, running, hiding behind chairs… Ooo a moral dilemma? I’d love to answer this question!! Why are you talking about your coffee cu- OMG RUN RUN RUN WHY IS THERE POISON IN THE ROOM. I’m dead.

…And… back where I started? Follow me through my stream of consciousness…

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I opened my door and saw this, lights flickering and all…
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213344.jpg
Nope nope nope. I think I’ll just stay in bed.
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213614.jpg
What is this madness??
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213651.jpg
A… room with a… view??
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213724.jpg
I have a wrench. I am invincible.
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213741.jpg
I have about 24 pictures that involve me peeking around corners. Metal Gear Solid trained me well.
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501213931.jpg
The helicopter is a lie!!
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Insert “a view of a room” pun here.
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501215050.jpg
More peeking around corners
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501215233.jpg
No no no no no
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No No No No No
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501224245.jpg
NO NO NO NO NO
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NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! *runs away crying*
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OMG I don’t care what magical abilities it gave me. I’d NEVER stick that thing in my eye!
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501225126_1.jpg
Is that Earth? (immediately placated by science)
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501225457.jpg
Any game that let’s me play “the floor is lava” is alright in my book
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501230304.jpg
So… I made a video of myself to warn myself. The question is “why,” indeed.
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501231638.jpg
Where the answers are!
Prey Demo_ Opening Hour_20170501231606.jpg
No way to get there from here. Even if you smash it with a wrench… for science.

Other Observations

A few small details are worth noting:

  • You have no way of knowing if the voice on the phone, January, is on your side, but you are forced to trust her. This is always an interesting mechanic, because the voice, while usually benign, doesn’t always turn out to be the person you think they are.
  • I really liked the problem-solving, like finding ducts to crawl through to bypass doors.
  • Picking up objects that are actually mimics gives a nice burst of adrenaline
  • Looking at objects that are actually mimics can have the same effect, apparently
  • A few times, the music changed before I realized that something had turned into a mimic. I’m not sure if this is due to my first-person inexperience or if the music is supposed to act like an early-warning system.

Conclusions

Like I said, horror isn’t my genre, but this is a well-done game that made me forget I was playing in first-person perspective for two whole hours. There’s not much higher praise I can give. If something is so engrossing that I forget to be nauseous, and so engrossing that when my friend texts me I jump a foot in the air, then it’s doing many, many things right!! It left me with questions about what happened. What are the mimics and why are they here? We’re in space; are they aliens that have invaded the facility? Why did the main character leave a message for his/her future self to see? Did he/she not trust the his/her employees to do the “right thing”?

With all the great horror elements that Prey brings to the table, I have no hesitation recommending the game based on the free demo I played.

…but maybe bring your teddy bear with you. After checking to make sure it’s not a mimic.

Did you play Prey? What did you think? Is it a good example of horror? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~ Athena

PS Yes, I know this game is classified as “action-adventure.” But a horror game can be psychological; it isn’t limited to blood and guts. With that in mind, Prey is more horror than not.


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30 thoughts on “The Interesting Case of the Prey Demo

  1. Yeah, I had a few times where I had the issue of the music coming on to signify an imminent attack, so I usually just started swinging my wrench everywhere. Not the most effective tactic, but it worked that one time…

    I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that immediately trashed my apartment too. It’s a habit of mine in games like this.

    I would really love to get this game, but I’m not sure that it’s going to be possible for me until much later. A shame, because I love the setting, premise, and all that jazz…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My whole existence in that game can be summed up as “sneak sneak, peek around corner, SWING WRENCH WILDLY, sneak sneak…”

      It’s not going to be one I get soon, either. Besides the horror factor, I just dropped a bunch of money on Horizon: Zero Dawn and wiped out my game budget for a while… yay student life. But it’s definitely a good one!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I absolutely love the mimic enemies! The idea that they could pop out from anywhere at any time makes the whole experience so much more tense and thrilling! That said, I’d kind of like to be able to turn off the musical cue for when they’re around. It kind of defeats the purpose if the game warns you that they’re there you know? I think I’d also like to turn off the ability to visually “tag” enemies for similar reasons.

    Beyond that, I’m super psyched for this. Deus Ex inventory management? Yes please! BioShock-ish atmosphere and weapons that look different after upgrading? Sign me up! A gun that lets me go anywhere I want? WHY AM I NOT PLAYING THIS RIGHT NOW?! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a very well done game!! And the idea that anything and everything could be a mimic is a great idea. It’s also a mechanic that is set to “random” so the same objects in a room won’t be mimics for different people, which is really cool.

      Terrifying… but cool haha

      When you play it, let me know what you think! It has a lot of great points to it, like you mentioned, but I probably won’t be getting the full version any time soon, so I’ll have to live vicariously through others… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t play horror. I get too scared easily, but I do like the psychological side of it, and that more than cheap jump scares, interests me about scary games. So this sounds pretty interesting. I liked your pictures, as always! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah it’s not really my genre but only because the stories stick with me *way* too long. I love psychological horror in a weird, perverse way, but I avoid it for the same reasons I love it haha.

      It’s a really interesting game! Glad you liked the pictures 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for sharing your scary demo experience! I got a Fallout 4 vibe from the screenshots so this is definitely made by Bethesda. I’m not a big horror game fan, but this seems quite intriguing. I’m a sucker for anything with a good story (even if I need a teddy bear to play it, haha). I’ll pencil this in for a playthrough sometime in 2026 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I made an unposted as yet video about what makes good horror! It wasn’t anything long, and this is just my amateur opinion, but I’ve noticed that taking something normal/everyday, endearing and/or beloved and making it terrifying/deadly is one of the ways. It’s what Nightmare on Elm Street does with sleep; Doctor Who does with statues, and Coraline does with mothers. Things you need, generally ignore, or love/trust. Unsettling people from their common, everyday experiences seems to work. I wish I had a more cohesive way to say it, but I’ll be looking for any article you write about that 🙂

    Oh no…I might have to check this game out. I’ve been seeing people talk about it for the past week and a half, and I’m similar with horror. My imagination is quite enough, but I’m still fascinated by it, and most of the stories I love have horror elements to them, though they’re not generally considered that genre. I’m curious about Prey now, so I might wait for some bright sunny day and find a let’s play of it lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very interesting! That’s a neat way to look at horror, taking mundane things and making them horrifying… just like what Prey did 😉

      It’s definitely worth checking out! It has to potential to be a really fascinating story!!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I am a baby when it comes to horror, so I’m glad I had your photo journalistic walkthrough to help me come to grips with what I might expect if I ever pick up the game myself. I played the original Prey, and that had more of an emphasis on portal wackiness than actual horror – this looks legit terrifying!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah… I’m not a big first-person gamer, so I had an “out” at about two hours haha. Just knowing that any object could turn into a monster was both fascinating from a storytelling perspective and terrifying from a gamer perspective haha. I’m glad you liked the photos, and hope they help if you do decide to pick it up!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Don’t really know anything about the game, but are those big giant needles that go into your eye?! That might be too much for me alone. I mean, give me horrible creepies that want to rip me apart all day, just don’t put anything in my eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just finished my first playthrough of the series. I thought it was awesome too. Have you finished playing? I’m trying to piece everything together but I’m still reeling a bit from the ending. Well, I guess I’ll have to replay to know everything else. Back to Sprinting Simulator: Prey!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great! I only played the demo, sadly. My video game budget is sadly limited at the moment, and not too long ago I invested in Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mass Effect: Andromeda back-to-back. It’s unfortunate, because I’m dying to know what happened! Even from the bit that I played, Prey seems like a game that does a great job with slowly peeling back the layers of the story to reveal to the players, and certainly nails it when it comes to psychological horror! When you finish, come back and tell me what you thought!

      And I love the idea of a game being a sprinting simulator (especially this one). That sums up my playthrough very accurately!

      Like

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