For developer Danger Close it's all about nailing the feeling of personal, situational combat, which engenders their concentration on the microdestruction around you: the splintered banisters and the sheaves of paper hurled upwards and outwards to flutter back down to the water. “You look at the competition and you say, 'I'm not going too stylised or too Hollywood'. The groove makes itself,” says Chris Salazar, an art director recently purloined from Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops team. “We're not making it feel like you're a camera with a lens in front of you, where we throw grape jelly at you when you've been shot.”
In reality, the game's burly Tier 1 writers patiently explain, they probably wouldn't go through a door if they suspected there were five Abu Sayyaf militants aiming AK47s at it at head height. This being a game, however, you get a SWAT 4/Ghost Recon-esque choice of breaching manoeuvres (frag grenade, flashbang, or old-fashioned kick) and a splendid slow-motion sequence of bodies being perforated. Note that the buzzword here is 'authenticity' rather than 'realism', providing a comfortable safehouse for these small moments of magic.
As the rescue mission proceeds, Preacher is presented with a linear 'big gun on a vehicle' session, as the player grabs the minigun on the bow of an escape boat. But wait, take back at least half of that sigh – because this is genuinely a high watermark of the 'big gun on a vehicle' form. The storm continues to batter Isabela City and the dinghy is caught in unpredictable currents and eddies as water surges through the streets. At one point, two rows of floating houses close in on it, the sides of the boat scratching porches, and I find myself mentally urging it forwards to freedom.
It's a type of destruction previously unseen in videogames, with power lines collapsing and petrol stations exploding into the murk, and there's an odd beauty in its chaos. It has to be noted that the foolhardy terrorists aiming rocket launchers at you also look great when they're bent double in mid-air after your shots connect.
The best thing in the Medal of Honor reboot wasn't any of its tough guys, but Afghanistan itself: its strange, beautiful landscapes made it a fascinating place to fight. There's a chance that Warfighter will lose that vital sense of location, but otherwise all signs point towards it being a superior game. There are the technological advances, of course, but there's also more cohesion in its development – both between the staff and its consultants, and between the teams working on its various constituent parts.
Last time around, DICE built Medal of Honor's multiplayer – a different team on a different continent building an online rendition in a different engine. This time, enough map designers and network coders have been shepherded into the Danger Close pen to create their own online wares, with the same engine and mission statement as the rest of the game. Details are light, but the focus will be on letting gamers fight under their country's flag.
That, then, is one dance partner in 2012's military shooter tango. Medal of Honor is ready to plant a rose stem between Call of Duty's teeth and do some aggressive twirling. We've all seen its moves before – we go through these motions every year – but for many the appeal will never die. And it's strong praise indeed to underline that Warfighter is as confident, engaging and authentic as it is entirely familiar.