When your game's title music is provided by electro noiseniks Holy F***, some might call that a happy co-incidence. I prefer to think of it as Bodycount's mission statement.
Creative lunatic Stuart Black prefers to think of it as an ode to Lady Gaga. "When that first came up, people were like, what the hell does that mean? What, are you going to shoot crystals and people in jumpsuits?!"
"But I'm like, no, it's about the spirit - though I do love [her] aesthetic and all that jazz. It's not about copying that. It's about that creative energy and that creative spirit and imbuing that in the software. Now, when I play [Bodycount], I feel that infused at all levels, whether it's shooting the gun, or the front end, or the way the operative speaks and what-have-you. It all has that pop cultural freshness to it."
Bodycount also has the flagrant thieving magpie mentality of a Noel Gallagher, where riffing on other people's brilliant ideas is part of the aim, or indeed the whole point. Take the game's chaotic 10-minute E3 demo, based on a relatively early part of the African portion of the game called The Freeway Underpass. Within the first few minutes, Bodycount is wearing its long list of influences like a badge, with loving, wide-eyed homages to Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid and Crackdown in gleeful evidence.
"We want to fantasise the world in the same way that they do in the Resident Evil games, or Crackdown," nods Black. "I'm a particular fan of Crackdown, and it's great to see Dave Jones back making games again, so the orbs [that burst out of fallen enemies] are a little bit of a homage to that. We've also got exclamation marks on our target structures, as a little nod to Metal Gear, so we've seeded little things in for the people who've inspired and influenced us."
Perhaps the most striking of all these homages to gaming's most iconic scenes is the moment the fearsome 'Psycho Tank' comes bursting out with all the gusto of the terrifying Leatherface, or the fearsome Gatling Gun Majini in Resident Evil 5.
Was that Resident Evil reference intentional? "Exactly, that's the kind of tip that we're on," admits Black. "We have a few moments like that in the game, where class-based NPCs like the Psycho Tank, with a 50-calibre gun comes bursting through walls at you and does these big sweeping arcs of fire that you really want to stay out of the way of."
Although Black stresses that these high-powered foes aren't classed as 'boss battles', they certainly take a concerted effort to bring down, especially given that they're backed by a posse of trigger-happy grunts appearing from all angles. It's breathless, and offers the first glimpse of how Codemasters is going to deliver on its many bold claims.
While all the chaos is kicking off around you, the ongoing narrative exchange between the lead character Jack and the 'operative' who communicates with him over the headset is certainly an interesting dynamic. But rather than have three distinctly different female operatives chatting to you at different times, the focus is now down to just one to avoid, as Black says, "spreading ourselves thin".
"The story naturally seemed to lend itself that way," he says. "I'm much more interested in characterisation and character arcs, rather than plot machinations, and in the writing of it I found a really strong voice for a version of an operative.
"It became a little bit more about cultish indoctrination: the way Melanie calls you John instead of your name Jack, the way when you join a cult they give you a new name because they want to supplant your old identity and therefore a new personality based upon that."
What's more than apparent - even from the brief demo - is the overt flirtatiousness from Melanie, as if she's getting some sexual kick from your killing prowess. After one rather intense encounter, she chimes in with, "You're still hot, John," while later she appears genuinely affectionate. "I'm here for you, I need you to come back to me," she purrs.
If this is the kind of 'cultish indoctrination' that the agency deals in before they've even met, what on earth happens when they do? "I don't want to reveal where their relationship goes just yet. She oscillates between flirtiness and a bit of severity and some irony, and a little bit of sarcasm mixed in there as well," Black says.
"The relationship between Jack and Melanie when you're out on the battlefield is quite business-like, but flirty, [and] they develop a more personal relationship with each other as they're going through the game. There are reasons behind some of the interchanges that go on between them that we're going to reveal later on in the story, that the player will be able to replay and see that interplay and relationship from a different perspective." Intrigue.
Outside of the intensity and carnage, Black promises that there will be an ebb and flow to the story arc, which is "modelled on a typical HBO season, where you get 13 episodes, 40 to 50 minutes per episode". Although not shown off at this stage, Black promises that occasionally you'll experience a calmer side to the game in the various safehouses dotted around.
"Safehouses are like chill-out rooms in a club," he says. "If our equivalent of being down on the dancefloor is the shooting experience, and the chill-out room upstairs is nice and relaxed, then our equivalent is the network safehouse, a very calm, very soothing environment, waving cornfields, floating clouds on screens, very tranquil, lovely music, like our start-screen music, as a contrast to the action."
These safehouses will also give Jack and Melanie a chance to develop a more personal side to their relationship. "Eventually there'll come a point when she will reveal herself to you, and that will obviously be a significant moment for them as characters, and there are a couple of other key moments of things that happen that signify a change in their relationship as you go through that first seasonal arc."
In technology terms, it's pretty clear that the game still has a way to go to fulfil Black's oft-stated ambitions of a real 'visceral kick', but even at this point there's cause for optimism. "In terms of our bullet impact effects and the destruction of the world I think we're about 60 to 70 per cent of the way there," says Black.
"There's a critical mass of intensity to really get that visceral kick. We're borderline on it. There are still some core technologies about some of the shredding that we want to do that have still got to come in. There are some obvious things like glass, and water and cloth that aren't in there that we need to plug in. There's a ways to go to ratchet it up and get that real visceral kick. Anamorphic lens flare is a bit one for us.".
Needless to say, keeping the game "locked at 30 FPS" is one of the key goals. "The more stuff I throw in, the more my coders pull their hair out, but I'm more concerned about getting that visceral emotional connection rather than hitting 30 at the moment. If it all runs at 30 and is all completely stable but it's a bit bland, that's no good. I'd rather have 10 minutes of boom, but have those 10 minutes be really intense to show that that's the level we want to operate at."
With so much evidently needing to go in, isn't is a bit of a risk showing it off to the nasty press at such an early stage? "No, we're pretty happy with the build," Black responds, while admitting that "two or three weeks ago it was an absolute mess".
"It's the mark of a great team if, in that time period, are you able to bring it up to that quality level. So far, fingers crossed, we've been able to keep doing that, and it's great to have these goals to aim for," says Black.
"We're really excited to show the game, right. It's just got to the point where it's really expressing all the values that I wanted to express. Now it's about taking that out and seeing whether that is something people really respond to, or have I just got it terribly wrong? So far, thankfully, most people seem to be really excited about it and respond really well."
Bodycount is due for release in "early 2011" on PS3 and Xbox 360.