While other PlayStation 3 games, most notably MotorStorm, have shrugged off the stigma of E3 2005's "target renders", Killzone 2's journey to release seems as turbulent today as the bumpy, computer-generated air-to-ground D-Day deployment that first dropped jaws almost three years ago.
The good news for PS3's ardent supporters, then, is that what we're standing on the show floor at Sony's PlayStation Day event in London controlling isn't that far away from what the handsome CG of 2005 predicted: we're on an airborne landing craft with chattering squad-mates gripping the rails tightly, flying low towards a riverside industrial complex as Helghast forces pepper the sky with anti-aircraft gunfire. They're having some luck, too, nailing the craft that's just ahead of us in the magic carpet convoy, which explodes and is consumed by thick cotton wool smoke, and sends lifeless bodies flying past our heads before the Gears of War-style in-game cut-scene switches to a view from the banks of the Corinth River, and captures our safe but violent landing.
Then it's straight into the eyes of Sev, the player-character, and into the action. Clicking L3 to sprint forward, we take up a cover position behind a wall by holding L1, and use the left analogue stick to lean out to the right and take in the scene. Wiry steel spikes protrude from the mashed up concrete block we're up against like bones poking out of compound fractures, while ahead of us advancing ISA troopers find protection behind shipping containers half-buried in the riverbank and hastily erected metal fencing - for all the alien world like windbreakers at the seaside, topped with barbed wire coils - covers the hunched lateral movement of squad-mates eager to join them. We're on a broad sandy riverbank crisscrossed by bridges, which connect to battered grey industrial buildings that have been bandaged in places with protective metal sheeting. Helmeted enemy troopers with their deep red eyes scurry along eminent walkways and terraces. Taking this all in is little trouble, as the left-stick lean mechanic offers the freedom to peer around cover but also over it, guiding the aiming reticule onto entrenched Helghast with the right stick before we open fire with R1.
As with Gears, Grand Theft Auto IV and other cover-based shooters, clicking the right stick at this point allows you to look down the iron sights - or in the case of Killzone 2's standard-issue assault rifle, through the green tinting of glass-and-iron sights - to zoom in slightly and reduce the margin of error. As you fire, the ringing sound of bullets being fed to the hammer becomes shriller to signify that your magazine is emptying, and Sev reloads with a flourish, raising his gun elaborately into view so that you can marvel at the duct tape texture on the clip he's slapping into place, the specular highlight of the metal above the tape, and the rougher, almost leathery casing around the gun barrel.
But enough dawdling, because a squad-mate ahead is being cut down by a gun emplacement on one of the bridges that leans over the rat-run of metal windbreakers, and we're encouraged to take over his rocket launcher when he snuffs it. Holding square to replace the assault rifle and hoist it onto our shoulder, we turn towards the on-screen objective marker - the big gun - and fire. The result not only dispatches the gunner, but shatters the arch of the bridge, allowing everyone to advance. Legging it through the tumbling debris and veering right, we're reinforced by another landing craft, which buzzes routinely past our head on a shimmering haze of matter-of-fact science-fiction, depositing its macho occupants in our path as Helghast APCs do likewise further up the riverbank where a massive floodgate bars the way forward.
After the initial dense and oppressive landing and beachhead sequence, the level's opened up, allowing us to zip between a spread of concrete blocks as we take out the opposition. The cover system does its job again, although having to click R3 every time you stick your head out of cover to employ iron sights is more hands-on than we're used to, and switching to our sidearm, a meaty revolver, allows us to line up some satisfying headshots. Our squad-mates provide effective assistance, too, clearing out the rest, leaving us with a moment to catch our breath and investigate other areas of the control pad: L2, for instance, performs a pulverising melee attack, and can be tapped twice for a two-hit combo, uppercutting with the assault rifle butt and then bringing it down on a victim's head. For research purposes, we do this to an injured squaddie propped up against a rock awaiting extraction, and blood splashes obediently from his head, although we're not able to visibly break his face.