Those facehuggers from the Alien films - pretty scary, right?
Now imagine that when they're not trying to jam tentacles down your throat, they're camouflaged as the innocuous-looking office chair you're sat on.
Or the simple coffee cup you're drinking out of. Or literally any other object in the room.
That's what makes Prey's mimics, vicious aliens that look like oozing black starfish, so terrifying. They could be anywhere around you, just waiting to pounce.
Not something you want to run into on a good day, then - and it's not as if protagonist Morgan Yu was having a particularly good day to begin with.
SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE…
OK, so maybe sticking untested medical experiments directly into your eyeballs on a daily basis isn’t so bad, when it comes with a penthouse apartment overlooking a near-future San Francisco.
Or rather it wouldn’t be, if any of it were real.
You aren’t really on earth, though, and those experiments just went very, very wrong. Ten minutes in, and the proverbial has well and truly hit the fan.
You're actually trapped on Talos One, an ageing space station controlled by military contractors with questionable ethics. Oh, and it’s overrun with shape-shifting aliens that are keen to get intimate with your esophagus, too.
This is where those shady science experiments start to come in handy, and developers Arkane Studios step away from the familiar.
Right from the off, Dishonored's multiple levels have been ditched for one sprawling, giant world, where you're free to explore - as long as you've got the gear to get you there.
Corvo Attano might have had plenty of mystic powers to choose from, but Morgan's abilities are grounded in science. As long as you're happy sticking a giant needle into your skull to unlock them, anyway.
These Neuromods will eventually give you a range of skills, both human and alien, but my demo session stuck to more realistic ones - like being able to hack turrets and PCs, the strength to move larger objects, and the know-how to dismantle the junk and detritus you pick up and turn it into something useful.
Prey is packed full of things to pick up, fiddle with and collect. It's what makes the Mimics so scary, but it's also a goldmine for anyone that can turn a few frayed wires and circuit boards into a weaponised glue gun.
KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN
Actually, that should be GLOO gun. This quickly became my best friend, spewing huge chunks of instantly hardening adhesive that could seal burst gas pipes, or create impromptu platforms for navigating Talos One’s sprawling multi-tiered lobby.
More importantly, it can freeze those tricky Mimics in place, letting you get up close and show them the business end of your socket wrench. They're quick, see - take your eyes off 'em for a second and they'll have hidden, either running away to regroup or transforming into a seemingly harmless object dotted around the room.
From what I saw of Prey’s arsenal, you’ll have plenty of ways to approach combat. Each weapon has an upgrade tree, and you can use them simultaneously with any neuromods you’ve equipped.
Blueprints are scattered all over the space station, but you’ll need materials to build with as well as the know-how to increase your firepower. Recycling stations let you disassemble the rubbish you’ve collected into raw materials, which can then be used to build new equipment.
I got a small glimpse of what will be possible later in the game, but at the outset Morgan is badly outmatched by the Mimics. You’ll want to hide, or at least give any aliens a wide berth until you’re better equipped to deal with the threat.
The inventory management might feel a little old-school, but System Shock veterans are going to lap it up.
YOUR RESULTS MAY VARY
In fact, the whole thing feels like a love letter to those games, complete with story exposition told through audio logs and email reports.
There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes, and you’ll have to explore to find out exactly how things went wrong in the first place.
Arkane might have distanced itself from the Dishonored series in terms of gameplay, but its iconic character art is back in play here. The few NPCs you do meet (ones that aren’t eviscerated corpses, anyway) have that familiar look, with overly accentuated features that are ever-so-slightly out of proportion.
It’s familiar yet different, thanks to the new sci-fi setting, but it would have been nice to see something completely new, rather than a reimagined version of what we’ve already seen before.
Not that I got to see many other characters, mind. After that fateful first five minutes, the remainder of the opening hour is spent exploring on your own. Sure, there’s a voice in your ear filling in some of the blanks for you, but there’s no telling if it’s actually a human on the other end, or a malevolent AI. Look at you, hacker…
It's also unknown exactly how many friends or foes you’ll be bumping into between my demo session and the end credits, but seeing how I barely saw any of the mad alien abilities shown off in the debut trailer, it’s clear there’s a lot Arkane isn’t ready to reveal in full just yet.
PREY INITIAL VERDICT
Playing the opening hour of this new take on a long-dormant franchise, it's clear that the developer hasn’t just delivered Dishonored in space - even if it's sure to tide stab-happy Corvo Atano fans over.
The scares, sci-fi setting and choose-your-own-way gameplay feel a lot like cult classic System Shock, which can only be a good thing. The team is made up of ex-System Shock, Bioshock, Deus Ex and Half Life 2 developers, so the series looks like it's in safe hands.
After playing through the opening hour, it's clear I only scratched the surface of what Prey has in store. I didn't get to see any of the promised Metroid-style open world, where exploration is only limited by the scope of your equipment and abilities.
The story is a mystery right now too, but you can bet it'll get a lot darker than the already-ominous opening salvoes.
Still, with gravity-defying grenades, shape-shifting powers and psychic abilities to unlock, I can't wait to see what kind of sci-fi playground Arkane has created.
Prey launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 5.