The water drains from your vision to reveal a pair of missiles smashing into a heavily battered Manhattan skyline, already dense with the competing pillars of dark black smoke sprouting from many similar gouges across the Financial District. Just then, a large wave rolls across your view and reveals the sub. You ditch your gear and climb onto its side, bringing up COD's iconic iron sights to quickly dispatch the Russian sailors who emerge to greet you.
Inside it's chaos, water flooding the corridors from unseen hull breaches, but the Russians continue to fight back, only to be turned aside by a mixture of your bullets and neat little set-piece takedowns executed by your squad mates (conveniently just within your line of sight).
Whatever the upheaval of last year's mutinous studio heads really did to the people making this game, all this is as slick and polished as ever, if not more so. If there's something your character can grab hold of in Modern Warfare 3, like a missile key or a porthole hatch, he's going to grab it and he'll look damn well-animated while he's doing it. If not, someone else will. There's so much texture to the world that you quickly forget the illusion into which you're being invited to buy and your limited role in perpetuating it.
Outside the sub, meanwhile, it's pandemonium, as you leap onto a motor dingy and make a run for it past the Russian ships into which the missiles you just launched are slamming. At one point your progress is threatened by a Russian patrol boat, which forces you to detour up onto the half-submerged deck of a stricken aircraft carrier, and the game slips back into slow motion so you can take out the Russian boat crew and blow the back half of it to smithereens by targeting the fuel lines.
With a characteristic jump off a makeshift ramp right at the last, the level ends as you board an amphibious Chinook and lift off. "All eagles accounted for," someone boats into headset as jets buzz past and over the evolving ruin of the Big Apple.
Before we have time to think about what we've just seen, however, an unseen Activision rep switches the TV input to another console and the next level, "Mind the Gap", which is set in London. The US may be on fire in the world of Modern Warfare, but things are still getting warmed up over on the other side of the Atlantic, where Infinity Ward says major cities are still heavily populated and many actions remain covert.
You join one such SAS sortie in the boots of Sgt Burns in Canary Wharf. The level starts off looking down from a chopper in night vision watching men load trucks. It's those pesky Russians again! Your CO orders you to hunt the trucks down and neutralise hostiles. The camera then picks up four guys approaching the east end of a warehouse and zooms down to join them - and you as one of them.
We've seen some of this before, fighting through the warehouse silently dispatching enemies, pausing to watch as snipers and other supporting units around us drop their tangos. Outside on the building site things get more heated as RPGs rain down and your adversaries suffer various industrial accidents, like a massive section of unplanted pipe stampeding into a group of soldiers while you calmly sit and reload behind cover of cinder blocks.