As I approach the top of a frozen ridge I pause for a moment, staring down into the grey sea below. The icey waves chop and foam, and above them flecks of snow are borne aloft on coastal winds. The landscape is cruel and yet almost unbearably pretty, and if I had time I could sit here for ages. Unfortunately I can't do that right now; I'm in one of Sony's private E3 rooms, and three impatient Dutchmen are breathing down my neck. Everyone wants their turn, it would seem - and under the circumstances, that's hardly surprising. As things currently stand, Killzone 3 may well be the best-looking game in existence. (It's hard to be definitive about these things, but it's certainly a distinct possibility.)
Three separate chunks of Killzone 3 are up for grabs in today's code. The first kicks off with Sev and Rico - the Special Forces frontmen of the past two games - leading an airborne attack on the alien Helghast, using some kind of jet-powered craft to soar through the hostile skies of an Arctic landscape. After several swooping raids on Helghast-controlled oil rigs, the ships are blown out of the air by a powerful counter-attack; from here the mission continues on foot, with running gun-battles leading to the wreck of a crashed cargo ship. The second section picks up shortly after this point, with Sev (and therefore the player) assuming control of a prototype enemy jetpack - one of Killzone 3's most eagerly-awaited features - and then using it to sabotage an anti-air cannon on one of the rig-bases. Finally, the third and briefest taster finds Sev and his buddies going up against a staunchly-defended Helghast stronghold, using a powerful new rocket launcher to level the playing field - both literally and figuratively.
In the case of the first section, the blockbuster action stakes are further enhanced by the fact that I'm playing in 3D. I'm not sure whether it's the game or just the need for some kind of mental adjustment, but initially I find the whole stereoscopic effect to be a bit disorientating. The opening moments are a rollercoaster of swooping jet-craft, roaring minigun fire, and a desperate scramble to locate and neutralise RPG-packing Helghast defending their rig. There's no control over the camera, what with this being an on-rails set piece, and with the added 3D perspective it's all a bit much to take in. It's looks spectacular though, particularly when a heavy blast sends steel pipes crashing down onto a section of the rig's walkway: the floor gives way with a metallic clatter, sending Helghast troops tumbling into the freezing depths below. There's barely time to enjoy the moment, as Sev's ride is already circling around for another attack.
A while later, once the action has returned to the ground and I've regained control of my own two feet, my brain settles into the 3D effects. It's still a bit odd, but there's a certain intensity that stems from being able to see the depth of the game world. We're not fighting across a flat plain, here: the snow-covered terrain is all slopes and mounds and half-buried obstacles - the latter proving invaluable cover from the Helghast threat. The gunplay itself is immediately satisfying and surprisingly pace-y to boot. I nip from cover to cover, zooming in on yellow-eyed faces and letting rip with my beefy assault rifle. I begin to forget about the novelty of 3D and concentrate on the battle at hand; in retrospect, this can only be a good sign.
It's only when I reach the wrecked cargo boat that I begin to take notice of the effect once again. Like its predecessor, Killzone 3 gives the player a narrower field of view than the average first person shooter. It's particularly noticeable when you're fighting indoors, and here the 3D helps to amplify the claustrophobic feeling of the ship's rusty bulkheads and clanking metal floors. As I nervously round a corner a Helghast soldier catches me by surprise, and suddenly I'm watching one of the game's new melee kills - Sev violently forcing his knife into his rival's eye socket. Apparently these close-up executions will make use of nearby scenery. If you perform one while near the edge of a railing, for example, you'll hurl your foe headfirst to their death.
As I clamber down into the open-air body of the cargo ship, I first encounter the new jetpack troops. There's a strange spider-like quality to these guys, perhaps due to the long steel arms that extend forward over each of their shoulders. Aside from their added mobility, they don't seem too difficult to despatch; then again, perhaps they're just easy pickings here because this is (presumably) their first appearance in the game. At any rate, they certainly look amazing when slain: one stumbles over and explodes into a rich orange fireball, while his mate attempts to fly off and instead smashes into a nearby wall, Star Wars slapstick fashion.