The soundtrack to all this is the roar of gunfire, the wail of sirens and the shouts of the shooters. "There's no thematic music - it's not, like, violins kick in when the action starts," says Lund. "We do have background sounds, which were recorded directly in Shanghai, to give that emotional impact. But everything we did with this game had to conform to this style."

So how does that work when it comes to gameplay? The level IO is allowing us to play today is set in a restaurant, where Kane and Lynch are enjoying a quiet snack. The restaurant is dingy, all red lanterns, brown walls and wooden partitions, and otherwise empty - until an army of armoured guards bursts in and starts blasting away. Better blast back, then.

The controls will be instantly familiar if you played the previous game, with one notable exception - you now take cover by pressing the A or X button. That's right, no more automatic wall-hugging, and no more confusion or struggling to pop quickly in and out of cover. In short, it's now much easier to take shelter, but that doesn't mean you can camp out for too long. In the restaurant level, the wooden partitions you're ducking behind can't take many bullets before they're smashed to smithereens. Enemies are smart when it comes to working out your location, clever about taking cover themselves, and unafraid to advance if you try just staying put.

All this can make it hard to stay alive for long. Yes, all right, I have to ask to start the demo again on the Easy setting after dying three times in about as many minutes on Medium. But IO recognises that this level of action can provide a challenge even for the non-rubbish player.

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Good news, multiplayer fans - Fragile Alliance mode is back for the sequel.

"If you want to do a really intense shooter there have to be a lot of bullets in the air, but it's just not fun to die all the time," says Lund. "So we created a sort of second chance. When you take a bullet and get thrown to the ground, you can crawl around, get back into cover and shoot from that position." Like the old 'press A to take cover' gambit, it's not the newest trick in the book, but it's a good one.

Having mastered the cover system and the second chance feature, and yes all right switched to Easy, I dispatch all the enemies in the main body of the restaurant and move into the kitchen. Here there are a group of hostages, bound and gagged and with pillow cases over their heads. Just for fun, I shoot one of them in the pillow case. The head area immediately becomes a blur of pixels, just like you'd see if you were watching some graphic amateur camerawork on the news.

The effect is unnerving. It's somehow more realistic and more disturbing than the cartoon splatter of bright red blood and bits of brain you see in most games. It taps into that part of the psyche which knows that if something's too horrible to be shown, it must be really horrible. Or is this just IO's attempt to get the game awarded a lower age rating?

"No, not at all," says Lund. "This was an idea the team came up with - wouldn't it be fun to mimic that thing about something being too graphic, that documentary style? It's a good way of showing you got that headshot in a new way."

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Ellie Gibson

Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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