There's a sinister atmosphere aboard the Talos 1 space station, and it goes far beyond that found in the murky underworlds of Dunwall and Karnaca, the cities that played host to Arkane's Dishonored games. Yet for all the differences in terms of location and setting, this is still clearly the work of the same studio; it's dripping with the same style, the same underlying sense of opulent corruption, and the same attention to detail. However, even if the studio's DNA is plain to see, there are some subtle differences that separate Prey from its forebears.
The most obvious is the science fiction setting. We've covered the background before, so this time we'll be brief: amnesiac character fights shape-shifting aliens aboard a station orbiting Earth using future tech and strange powers. You wake up as Morgan Yu, a scientist with a memory block. You can pick the gender of your Morgan, and while the experience is largely the same regardless of which one you pick, there are a couple of subtle differences (for example, if you pick fem-Yu, the AI that assists you also has a female voice).
During our final hands-on with Prey ahead of next month's launch, we played through the opening of the game (which we've done before LINK), and then skipped ahead to a new section, set a couple of hours further into the story. It was early enough that Yu was still unprepared for the adventure ahead, with little in the way of unlocked abilities, and so we got to take those first steps and play around with a couple of new powers, discovering the world around us as we went.
The first thing that impressed us - and that continued to impress us throughout - was how Arkane has managed to justify the gameplay systems, grounding them in the reality of the game. We've played as a forgetful hero many, many times before, but rarely has our in-game memory loss been explained away so thoughtfully. The narrative fits the gameplay like a glove, and everything, including the much-discussed neuromods, is grounded in plausibility, which in turn leads to greater immersion.
The other big difference between Prey and Dishonored comes via the atmosphere. In Dunwall we felt like the hunter, but on Talos we're very much the hunted. Like something out of a creature feature made in the '90s, our enemy here is a shape-shifting alien race called the Mimics. Larger variants can assume anthropomorphic forms, whereas smaller enemies have the ability to replicate everyday items and hide within the environment. This clever little trick has a profound effect on the player because you can never really trust the world around you not to suddenly burst into life and attack. Everything and anything could be an enemy.