"Rise and shine, Mr Freeman..." the G-Man booms out. "Rise and shine". This is it. Valve is ready to hold our attention once again.
"Not that I wanted to imply that you've been sleeping on the job," he says, sinisterly. "No-one is more deserving of a rest, and all the effort in the world would have gone to waste, until... well, let's just say your hour has come again. So wake up Mr Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes..." Half-Life is back, again. Amen.
After a whole year of repeatedly analysing Valve's stunning Half-Life 2 footage from E3 2003, today was the first chance to see what the Seattle-based developer has been up to since then -and the answer was as stunning as anyone could have expected.
Valve chief Gabe Newell once again sat at his desk flanked by 42 inch plasma screens, just like last year, in fact.
"The beginning of the game is similar to the original in that it's pretty gentle, it's fairly expository. It gives novice players the ability to get into it without feeling overwhelmed, it also reintroduces the experienced gamer," Newell says, while Freeman works his way around a filthy and decaying building, populated by men hiding out and looking faintly nervous at the intrusion -fearing the presence of the law. It's as cinematically beautiful as you've come to expect from Valve, with superbly detailed environments and convincing character responses at your entrance.
"Once we've pulled the player into the world, we start to ratchet up the action," Newell says, before a fast paced driving section kicks in, showing Freeman weaving in and out of a posse of bloodthirsty Ant Lions. As ever, the speed and attention to detail is immense, and feeling of being in your own movie incredibly apparent. After running over a solider, Freeman jumps out to take out a few Ant Lions with some kind of single fire shotgun, but it's one hell of a task against the leaping Lions which put the infamous Head Crabs to shame for range and damage.
Switching to a machine gun, Freeman legs it up a ramp away from the marauding hordes, only to find armed forces determined to end his life too. After throwing and exploding a gas canister in their direction and picking off the remaining solider, he pulls out a heat seeking rocket launcher to take out anyone else daring enough to cross him - the results are amusing, and the hapless soldier is sent flying through the air, much to the audience's amusement.
Pulling out a pistol, Freeman then blows up a barrel in the distance, before climbing up a crane structure and utilising a magnetic winch to lift up a giant metal container before crushing some passing aggressors with it.
Cutting to an unnamed female NPC inside an underground lab elevator, who takes you another NPC (a one legged man called Eli, a scientist from HL1 who sent you for help after the Resonance Cascade, apparently) who's busy handing an alien something, curiously.
Moving into an outdoor section reminiscent of some of the tech demos from last year, Gordon gets to play around with discs that can be used to slice up head crab zombies and also barrels that can be used to reduce them to a screaming flaming mess
The next section, set in the ruined remains of City 17 is as intense as it gets, with a full on battle ensuing against the Striders, but as much as Freeman throws at them, we never get to see one of them actually crumble and fall - it's truly a scene right out of a movie, and has us excited all over again. Just release it dammit!
"The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world..." the G-Man intones eerily, and thus ended the presentation.
Or did it?
Just as we were told to check out the other set of demos, Newell has a surprise in store... Counter-Strike in Source!
To say that it looked impressive was something of an understatement, with full weather effects, puddles, incredible lighting and the usual Source bells and whistles that you'll be familiar with by now. You'll want it, and you won't mind paying money for it when it arrives in stores worldwide later this summer, trust us.
Check it out for yourself, by downloading our video fresh from the event!