The first thing you notice about Resistance 3 is that it's brown. Utterly, overwhelmingly, gloriously brown. At a time when grimy beige levels have become a derided shooter cliché, there's something delightfully perverse about Insomniac's decision to show off its new game with what is quite possibly the brownest gaming experience in history. What makes it more impressive is that it totally works, and makes perfect sense in context.
Set in 1957, four years after the events of Resistance 2, the game picks up the story of Joe Capelli. [Spoiler alert: you may want to skip the next couple of paragraphs if you've yet to finish that second instalment.] He's the soldier who was forced to kill series hero Nathan Hale at the end of the previous game, when his alien infection finally overwhelmed him.
Subsequently booted out of the military for his actions, Capelli joins the rest of the civilian population as they try to hide from the Chimera forces swarming the planet. By the time we catch up with him he's married Hale's sister and has produced a four-year-old son, perhaps an attempt to help repopulate the world.
If that's his intention he's going to have to get a lot busier than that: 90 per cent of the human race has been wiped out. The remaining few are scattered in small refugee groups, doing their best to hold back the invading tide.
Our Insomniac guides explain that the idea was to move the series away from the military-based action of the previous games. Resistance 3 explores what it's like to be among ordinary people trying to survive an inexorable extermination, rather than a soldier on the frontline.
That's why our brief playtime on Resistance 3 takes us to the small town of Haven, where Capelli has been hiding out. Of course, the Chimera are ruthlessly hunting the last scraps of humanity, and we take the joypad just as the horde arrives. In the words of the great philosopher Marcus Burnett, **** just got real.
Along with being brown, the game is noisy and scary as hell. This is a near derelict town, covered in dust and debris, and the Chimera assault coincides with terrifying gale force winds.
Trees are bent into whiplash shapes, tattered banners snap and crack in the tempest and swirls of choking grime scour the scenery. Flecks of dirt flicker across your viewpoint, while the descent of Chimera landing craft adds yet more sound and fury to the tumultuous racket.
It's a powerful reminder of just how immersive the first-person perspective can be. We've become so used to seeing the world with a bobbing gun barrel jutting out in our virtual hands that it's surprising to be so sucked in by such an old trick.
It's especially interesting given that Resistance remains defiantly old school in its construction. This is a fast, frantic fragfest where cover is simply whatever scenery item you can hide behind while crouching.
There are even health packs. Health packs! When I started taking damage and the screen didn't turn red, prompting me to simply hide until I got better, I almost gave a silent little cheer on the inside.
I love health packs. I miss them and it's a shame that such a brilliantly simple mechanism has fallen out of favour. Finite health brings a level of desperation and tension that self-restoring damage never can.
If you're pinned down, with low health and enemies all around, risking a quick headshot or a dash for better cover suddenly becomes a genuinely life or death decision. It's fraught. Stakes are raised. It's scary.
With regard to the short, intense burst of the game on show, scary seems to be the operative word. This is no linear corridor but an open town square, complete with crumbling buildings, outlying garages and makeshift shelters.
Enemies approach from all sides, with Hybrids clawing their way over chainlink fences and attacking with rifles from rooftops while Longlegs skitter and leap from one vantage point to another. It's a 360 degree onslaught with no single route to safety, no obvious order in which to deal with the attackers. You just have to take aim and join the rest of the refugees in defending your home.
The weapon set on offer in this brief demo is drawn from familiar favourites. The Bullseye, Auger and Marksman all return, and seem to have retained their secondary fire functions from the previous game. Also present is the HE .44 Magnum, easily my favourite weapon in any FPS ever, combining the joys of Dirty Harry stopping power with the impact of a sticky bomb.
There are still eight empty weapon slots to be filled by the full game. Since there's a new levelling-up system that can evolve your weapon's abilities as you play, it seems likely that Insomniac's passion for inventive mayhem will be indulged once more.
What stands out from this fierce little skirmish is just how much freedom you have to approach the battle in your own way. The map is small, but packed with nooks and crannies. Most buildings can be entered and explored to find new vantage points, while an ammo crate for infinite reloads keeps you focussed on the centre of the map where the action is hottest.
In one memorable moment, I used the Bullseye to tag a Longleg as it hopped from roof to roof. Then, as it leapt directly over my head, my tracer rounds followed its arc and exploded it into a messy shower of blood and meat in mid-air.
It was one of those instinctive, immediate moments of gaming satisfaction, all the more enjoyable because it came about through my own reactions to what was happening rather than a scripted moment.
There's been a tendency in recent years for shooters to force feed players with pre-planned "cool moments", as if developers don't trust us to make their game look good. Resistance 3 seems to represent the opposite, with a large chaotic situation in an open environment and a toybox that lets you create your own action movie moments through ambient play.
And then, once the Chimera have been dealt with, out come the big guns in the shape of a Hulk. This Kong-style monstrosity proceeds to rampage around the level, his attention flicking from one human to another.
He stomps and crushes. He rips up chunks of tarmac and flings them at your head. He fires projectiles and emits blasts of flame. He's terrifying, and suddenly your souped-up arsenal doesn't seem quite so powerful.
Hulk doesn't follow any set pattern so fighting against him is an exhausting experience, putting you on the back foot and forcing you to reevaluate and reconsider your tactics on the fly. Watching other people on the different demo pods at Sony's PlayStation Experience press event, it soon becomes clear that there are lots of workable strategies for bringing him down.
Some use the Auger to identify the weak spots in his armour and chip away at him with technical precision. Others take to the upper floors of the surrounding buildings and tackle him with grenades and precise sniper fire, leaving the unfortunate NPCs to maintain the pressure and soak up the heavy damage.
As for me, I use my trusty HE .44 Magnum and peppered the lumpy great brute with explosive shells, detonating them all at once for the proverbial MASSIVE DAMAGE before scrambling to the ammo crate to restock.
Finally, breathlessly, the beast falls and the demo ends with Capelli taking the first steps on a journey that will take him from the wastelands of Oklahoma to the ruins of New York. There, presumably, he'll find some way to balance out the enormous odds stacked against us.
With maybe 20 minutes of playtime in its demo version, it's hard to draw too many conclusions about what we can expect from Resistance 3 when the full game lands in September. Multiplayer is still a mystery, as is the co-operative gameplay.
For solo players, however, Insomniac seems intent on offering the best of both worlds - the pace and action of classic FPS titles of old blended with the freedom and customisation of more modern entries in the genre. Whether they can pull it off over a full campaign remains to be seen, but this small but savage taster packs a serious punch.