Close your eyes in a room full of StarCraft II players and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the presence of a giant space cockroach, or a vast interstellar weevil, or something else with nasty chattering mandibles.
Idle talk is kept to a minimum when you're playing Blizzard's latest; in its place is a gentle mixture of half-formed strategic mumbling, sighs of defeat, and clicking, always clicking: clicking that's probably a dozen or so fingers frantically directing waves of Firebats, but could pass rather well for the juddering claws or antennae of some kind of horrible oversized bug.
Sure, giant space cockroaches are the stuff of nightmares, but so, for a lot of the people who play videogames, is something like StarCraft. It's a serious, heavyweight genre at its most serious and its most heavyweight. It's Korean TV channels where the crowds cheer as a mouse drags a small green box across the face of the jumbotron. It's build queues, build orders, and reverse-engineering your opponent's tech tree just by looking at what trundles out of his base.
If that sounds like the kind of thing you don't think you'd be very good at - the same way that stunt-biking, high-level karate, or a career in bioinformatics sound like the kind of thing you don't think you'd be very good at - don't give up just yet. Chances are if you're new to Blizzard's best-selling sci-fi universe you won't be very good at it at first, but with this outing you genuinely might find yourself wanting to put some serious time in to change all that.
That's not just because StarCraft II will run pretty snappily on older PCs - the beta actually runs acceptably on my ancient white Macbook, although the computer gets so hot it feels like I'm taking on the Zerg with the sun itself balanced in my lap.
It's not just because StarCraft II is rather beautiful, either, although it's filled with plenty of opportunities for a little virtual tourism as you skim through canyons dusted with bright sand and chunks of shiny rock, or swoop over the complex spouts of impossible waterfalls, and past murky rents in the earth where the twinkling points of techno-Aztec temples poke through the grime.
The reason you might want to give this one a go is because Blizzard has gone out of its way to make space for new players. There's space in multiplayer, certainly, where the traditional yet highly refined take on the 'make stuff and break stuff' approach (I am trademarking that right now, by the way, and I've asked Brian Eno to write a little bit of music that has to accompany it whenever it is said) will hopefully be tempered by Battle.net's new tournaments, leagues and matchmaking tech.
This week it was revealed that there's plenty of space for newcomers in single-player too. That doesn't necessarily mean that the series' sharper edges have been planed off, however. In fact, while the sequel's multiplayer content might be fairly conventional, the single-player campaign sees the developers expanding horizons slightly: trying new things, and reaching out in new directions.
The two missions I get to click my way through do a good job of highlighting the game's scope and playfulness. Selected from a heavily gilted space chart console, the single-player mode will generally give you a handful of objectives to choose from at any one time.
Today, I can either take on The Dig (not a reference to the LucasArts glum-'em-up apparently, but a siege-type offering centring around an unusually sizable space laser), or Welcome to the Jungle (definitely not a reference to the bizarre caper movie starring Sean William Scott and The Rock). Both are punchy little slices of action, and both play out in entirely different ways.
The Dig drops you into a dusty canyon on a world littered with ancient alien artefacts. For the first few minutes, you'll have a chance to get a feel for things as your Terran infantrymen make their way through a gently twisting maze crawling with spindly Protoss units, in numbers too insubstantial to make them anything less than target practice.
A handful of enemy gun emplacements threaten to form a nasty roadblock as you near the exit to the canyon, but they're only fodder for a new toy: siege tanks, which can either crawl around the terrain blasting away at alien menaces with their canons, or sacrifice mobility for greater firepower and range by transforming into stationary turrets.
Once you're out of the canyons, The Dig gets going. Ancient forces have left a convenient base for you to capture, and a huge laser cannon, which they were presumably using to bore through the massive reinforced doors of a nearby temple, which allegedly holds an artefact.
At this point, the level settles into a nice frantic rhythm, as you reinforce your position, set to work on the temple doors, and hunker down for the ensuing Protoss invasion.
While it sounds like a simple countdown siege scenario, what makes The Dig so brilliant is the choices it gives you. As an early level, the game's still suggesting the best placements for your siege tanks, but it gives you plenty of little unspoken decisions too.
Some of them are RTS staples - like calculating whether to invest in SCVs early on to harvest resources, or whether to protect both flanks with turrets - but some of them are a lot more entertaining, as you decide when to turn the huge laser cannon away from the temple door to use it on the incoming hordes, aware that with every second that ticks by scarier units are getting cooked up behind the scenes.
The laser cannon's interesting in other ways, too, as its sheer overwhelming firepower says a lot about the way Blizzard's separating its single- and multiplayer components.
While this year's C&C4 allowed you to carry all your toys between modes, meaning you could level a tank up in single-player to then blast away at your weaker friend in a skirmish, StarCraft II draws a line around the wackier units you'll be allowed to mess with in the solo campaign.
It's a smart move if it lets you play with insane gadgets like a 20-storey laser cannon, which would simply ruin most multiplayer battles; it's a seasoned genre veteran admitting that you balance multiplayer for fairness, but that single-player should always have a little blast of excess to it.
Speaking of excess, Welcome to the Jungle drops you onto a planet cluttered with revered Protoss temples - holy shrines which, sadly, also turn out to be a great source of handy Terrazine gas. The mission is simple: send out SCVs with Goliath escorts to collect all the resources, before the aliens discover that you're trampling all over their relics and turn up to give you an aggrieved shoeing.
The end result is anything but simple, however, as the Protoss start shutting down the temple gas vents down one by one, forcing you to take crazy risks as your collection teams fan out across the maps.
As the most efficient way of getting gas supplies also turns out to be the most dangerous - send a bunch of heavily-armed squads to the map's farthest corners as soon as you can - it's not long before the level has become an unpredictable rolling firefight. You pinball from one hectic encounter to the next, setting up hasty defensive walls as your SCVs gather fuel, and firing wildly over your shoulder as you beat a retreat.
Compared to the stately pace of The Dig, it hardly feels like it's the same game, and yet it's the same controls, the same rules, and almost always the same units.
It's unlikely the variation will end there. Other treats in store in the single-player campaign include a level where a nearby supernova means there's a wall of flame advancing across the map as you battle it out with the alien scum, and a planet with a swift day-and-night cycle, which just happens to house hordes of photophobic zombies who rush you in the dark but evaporate when the sun is out.
It's a campaign that seems to be made of snarling vignettes, in other words. As such, it's understandable that Blizzard has decided to introduce yet another strand - challenge missions - to do the traditional single-player stuff, like preparing you for the tactics you'll most likely need when you finally go up against human opponents.
That's the real treat, then. While the Protoss and Zerg campaigns will have to wait for now, it still feels like you're getting three StarCraft games in one this time. Blizzard may have made us wait, but it's looking like it's all been worth it. StarCraft II: still terrifying, still very, very tempting.
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is due out for PC and Mac on 27th July.