If this is the kind of 'cultish indoctrination' that the agency deals in before they've even met, what on earth happens when they do? "I don't want to reveal where their relationship goes just yet. She oscillates between flirtiness and a bit of severity and some irony, and a little bit of sarcasm mixed in there as well," Black says.

"The relationship between Jack and Melanie when you're out on the battlefield is quite business-like, but flirty, [and] they develop a more personal relationship with each other as they're going through the game. There are reasons behind some of the interchanges that go on between them that we're going to reveal later on in the story, that the player will be able to replay and see that interplay and relationship from a different perspective." Intrigue.

Outside of the intensity and carnage, Black promises that there will be an ebb and flow to the story arc, which is "modelled on a typical HBO season, where you get 13 episodes, 40 to 50 minutes per episode". Although not shown off at this stage, Black promises that occasionally you'll experience a calmer side to the game in the various safehouses dotted around.

"Safehouses are like chill-out rooms in a club," he says. "If our equivalent of being down on the dancefloor is the shooting experience, and the chill-out room upstairs is nice and relaxed, then our equivalent is the network safehouse, a very calm, very soothing environment, waving cornfields, floating clouds on screens, very tranquil, lovely music, like our start-screen music, as a contrast to the action."

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These safehouses will also give Jack and Melanie a chance to develop a more personal side to their relationship. "Eventually there'll come a point when she will reveal herself to you, and that will obviously be a significant moment for them as characters, and there are a couple of other key moments of things that happen that signify a change in their relationship as you go through that first seasonal arc."

In technology terms, it's pretty clear that the game still has a way to go to fulfil Black's oft-stated ambitions of a real 'visceral kick', but even at this point there's cause for optimism. "In terms of our bullet impact effects and the destruction of the world I think we're about 60 to 70 per cent of the way there," says Black.

"There's a critical mass of intensity to really get that visceral kick. We're borderline on it. There are still some core technologies about some of the shredding that we want to do that have still got to come in. There are some obvious things like glass, and water and cloth that aren't in there that we need to plug in. There's a ways to go to ratchet it up and get that real visceral kick. Anamorphic lens flare is a bit one for us.".

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Needless to say, keeping the game "locked at 30 FPS" is one of the key goals. "The more stuff I throw in, the more my coders pull their hair out, but I'm more concerned about getting that visceral emotional connection rather than hitting 30 at the moment. If it all runs at 30 and is all completely stable but it's a bit bland, that's no good. I'd rather have 10 minutes of boom, but have those 10 minutes be really intense to show that that's the level we want to operate at."

With so much evidently needing to go in, isn't is a bit of a risk showing it off to the nasty press at such an early stage? "No, we're pretty happy with the build," Black responds, while admitting that "two or three weeks ago it was an absolute mess".

"It's the mark of a great team if, in that time period, are you able to bring it up to that quality level. So far, fingers crossed, we've been able to keep doing that, and it's great to have these goals to aim for," says Black.

"We're really excited to show the game, right. It's just got to the point where it's really expressing all the values that I wanted to express. Now it's about taking that out and seeing whether that is something people really respond to, or have I just got it terribly wrong? So far, thankfully, most people seem to be really excited about it and respond really well."

Bodycount is due for release in "early 2011" on PS3 and Xbox 360.

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Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

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Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.