For a modern first-person shooter to begin with a numbskull soliloquy delivered into a bathroom mirror, followed by the unedifying sight of the numbskull zigzagging impossibly across the reflection as you reacquaint yourself with WSAD, ought not to be good.
But in Prey's case you almost get the sense it's deliberate - an attempt to lower expectations, and to, well, prey upon that nagging recollection that development on this began before anyone had even played Half-Life.
It works, because once Cherokee hero Tommy has worked his way through the fumbling machinima of a barroom scene - part soap opera, part wrench-murder - and been abducted by b-movie aliens, things take a turn for the better. In fact, they turn completely upside down.
Prey is a kind of Hot Shots Half-Life - a dispiritingly clichéd tale of a young man winning back the girl (from aliens), channelling his Jedi grandfather's deified talents to unlock both her and his heritage in the process, set against a backdrop of genre themes refined with good ideas long-since-given-up-on and surprisingly innovative extensions of the same.
You'll have read about the walking on walls and inversion of gravity stuff, and the Spirit Walk that allows you to project yourself through forcefields to hit switches - and while none of this is strikingly new, it's all done with genuine skill and an attentiveness to detail that permeates the rest of the puzzle platter and makes you wonder why people gave up on it in the first place.
Another example is the portals, which are little more than Quake's slipgates given a 21st century makeover - you stare into another area of your biomechanical spaceship play-area and then circle the gateway in awe before diving through. There's nothing especially brilliant about it after a while, but when a sort of ravenous mutant chicken tips over a previously unidentified portal crate - from inside - and then leaps out of the gateway that suddenly faces you, it gives you a sense of the unknown utterly missing from corridor shooters like Doom III that Prey's been unfairly compared to. You suddenly have new eyes for your surroundings, rather than just the same old haggard occupants of the Doomguy orbits you inherited a decade ago, trained to watch those corners and vacuum up med-packs and ammo drops.
Puzzles and situations are interesting - new and simply welcome retreads. The game plays with scale, putting you inside a kind of compressed sphere world and then asking you to beat something a hundred times larger on the outside armed with very little that attends to FPS convention.
The continual toying with gravity and your sense of up and down is more than a barrage of set-pieces; it's a clever adjunct to combat, allowing enemies to remove your footing and you to do likewise by shooting gravity switches. When you head online and face real-world enemies in boring-sounding deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, the mechanics of the single-player game freshen proceedings in a way that we haven't had since Half-Life 2 gave us the gravity gun and threw us a toilet bowl.