The pacing is excellent throughout the 10-minute stretch of game on display - it should be, of course, given how little is being shown - and set-pieces are elegantly built from the sparsest of materials. An enemy patrol with a few flashlights is enough to create a moment or two of prickly tension, while rounding the crest of a hill and seeing a gunship blasting away in the distance only makes you feel like you're deeper under cover, in the middle of a complex and dynamic war, so hidden that your own allies might drop something nasty on you by mistake.
Blowing up an AA gun - the mini-objectives come thick and fast, and, no, some of them aren't particularly inspired - makes you realise how much a sound carries in this kind of environment, and later, when a proper firefight genuinely does kick off, as the scrubland and boulders give way to clusters of mud houses and narrow, overgrown alleyways, enemies are always closer than you expect, and the sound of gunfire really rattles in your ear after all that silence and heavy breathing.
Squad AI is hard to evaluate in such a heavily structured demo, but your colleagues certainly look the part at least, taking cover intelligently, wriggling forward over rocks, and providing helpful suppression fire if you're trying to flank.
And Medal of Honor looks the part too, blessed with a big-budget prettiness even in early pre-alpha code. The lighting is particularly good at capturing the glow of crackling flames, and the amount of detail available when you catch fleeting glimpses of an entire stretch of mountain riddled with tiny pockets of conflict is pretty astonishing, considering this is running on a (heavily adapted) version of the Unreal Engine 3, and that there's no visible pop-in to be seen.
It will be interesting to see how the game works when you're switching between roles in-between missions - how well the silent, pacey efficiency of the Tier One sections blends with something a lot more explosive - just as it will be interesting to see how the multiplayer, built by a separate team over at DICE, will fit into the overall package.
EA certainly doesn't seem to be worried about how difficult it will be to bring the whole thing together coherently. When I ask Farrelly what he thinks the Medal of Honor series means in a marketplace ruled by Infinity Ward, he has no trouble coming up with an answer. "It's still about the soldier's story, simply told. It's about understanding the world the soldier moves in, seeing the war up-close and at the sharp end."
It makes you hope, then, that Medal of Honor genuinely turns into the game that the developers are talking about: a punchy insight into a fascinating aspect of warfare where the drama is intimate and ragged, rather than bloated and unlikely. It would be a real shame for a game that starts like this - with that whispering trudge into enemy encampments - finishing off with Vladimir Putin driving a stunt car off the top of the Empire State Building. Thankfully, as the low-key presence of the odd goat is there to attest to, that isn't particularly likely to happen.
Medal of Honor is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this autumn.