Don’t call Prey a horror game, says Arkane
Despite the horror revival, Bethesda and Arkane’s upcoming Prey reboot won’t sit in that genre.
The spooky, alien-infested space station setting for the coming Prey may recall the likes of Dead Space, Alien: Isolation and Doom 3, but it’s not set to be a horror game. You could be fooled into thinking so from the gameplay footage shown thus far. Wispy, ethereal aliens come at the player dynamically, and in tight claustrophobic corridors. Meanwhile, the protagonist injects himself with powers by stabbing a needle violently into his own eye, an act that attracts aliens to his location. It’s hardly the stuff of a nice relaxing time on the couch, is it?
We recently got an opportunity to catch up with Arkane Studios’ co-founder Raphael Colantonio, and we asked him why the developer has been making a point of saying that Prey is not a horror title in its briefs for the game. It comes down to story, and it appears the team have a different genre in mind.
You’ve described Prey as being less a horror game, and more a psychological thriller: how do you define the difference between those two?
Colantonio: If we had to choose, we would definitely not say horror. There are horrific elements and there are things that are scary, but the purpose of the game is not to build tension, or to build a survival element. Psychological thriller I think "yes", because from the start you always have this question of identity and finding out who you are.
Would I be right in assuming the neuromods and how they inject alien powers into your body play into that theme of identity? As in, do they have a psychological impact on the player?
Colantonio: Absolutely, but that is going into spoiler territory.
There are other survivors on the space station, so how do they view you, the player character?
Colantonio: It’s very important to the story and our big theme of identity, and the questions "who are you?" and "why are you here?" So the survivors will help you figure this out. But they have different opinions of what you should do, so it is up to you to follow the advice of one or the other. And of course if you go with the advice of one, then the other will be disappointed. So that branches depending on your choices and it will affect the endings.
Arkane is doing an excellent job thus far in providing a sense of mystery around its storyline for Prey, and it’s feeding anticipation in all the right ways. When I think psychological thriller, I think Heavy Rain, but the fast-paced, first-person shooting we’ve seen in the early showings suggests an experience much more intense. Whether you want to bottle Prey’s mix of action, strategy, horror and story under the umbrella of "psychological thriller" or not, it’s certainly intriguing.