Modern Warfare 2

Will Porter is called out of retirement and heads out on his final mission

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Soap, meanwhile, hides behind the corner of a rustic outhouse and hooks a passing enemy snowmobile driver off his steed with an ice axe (in a move that will cause grown men to whimper with admiration) and in no time at all you're both bombing down the mountain on stolen snow-motors. Turning pursuing enemies into snow-melting balls of fire, giggling to yourself more than is healthy and doing spectacular jumps over what can only be described as the thinnest of air. (Die Hard 2). So ends, having reached your waiting helicopter, a frankly stunning Call of Duty mission - a perfectly structured mixture of tension and exhilaration, prevailing weather conditions and a brilliant bit I forgot to mention in which Soap runs up behind an enemy and bodyslams him into a set of lockers. Probably the best example of stunt motion-capturing I've ever seen.

Infinity Ward won't be drawn out on storyline particulars or the character(s) you'll play, but it seems they feel as if they've already done the tale of the war on two fronts and the red herring twist. They will, however, talk with a great deal of enthusiasm about the chaps of Task Force 141, recruited to go after high-value targets around the globe. "It's like the task forces that went after Saddam Hussein [Task Force 20] and Osama [Task Force 121]," says studio head Zampella.

"It's international. It's SAS, it's special forces, and it's linked with Delta Force a lot - with CIA implants... so you have at your disposal the best of all the best armed forces of the world. The task force, in real life, are the elite soldiers of the elite soldiers." What's more, so badass is this cosmopolitan brew of casual murder and bodily odour, that they get a fair amount of leeway in the manner they conduct themselves.

"The cool thing about Task Force 141 is that they're the guys that have earned the right to customise their own gear," picks up Bowling. "If you're infantry you have the standard load-outs, but if you're in the Task Force they'll use what's most useful."

As such, when you look at the heavily detailed character models of your allies you'll notice self-customised things like shoulder antennas bent in two, duct tape hanging between their legs and battery packs tucked on the back of their necks.

Such is the Infinity Ward dedication to the feeling, if not practice, of accuracy that soldiers are regularly drafted into their studio to advise on, for example, the gloves Task Force 141 should be wearing. Typically a soldier would choose to wear pilot gloves, apparently, since they're thinner and that means that fingers are closer to the triggers. "They'll take a standard piece of gear, and they'll say - you know what? That thing's shit. As soon as it gets sand in it, it stops working," confirms Bowling, himself a former military type who'd wrap the aforementioned duct tape around his handguards (whatever they are) when out in the field. "And we use the cage for something else... or we use the belt for this. We do a lot of work to make sure the gear is what the soldiers in the field are using."

This added emphasis on character detail doesn't begin and end with Task Force 141 either, since now whatever weapons an enemy is carrying will have a direct implication for the gear, ammo and outfit you see on his body. So in both single-player and online play you'll face a variety of differently equipped enemies, but also be able to instantly tell what weaponry your foe is packing and thinking about the best way to deal with them.

But how do you balance this obsession with reality with a game that, with the best will in the world, hardly replicates what you see on Channel 4 news? After all, the COD series has never claimed to be another ArmA or OpFlash. "We call it authenticity, not realism," trots out Zampella. "We don't want to make a sim-shooter. But it has to be authentic. Like when you see a guy in an action movie. If it all looks real and legitimate you think 'Hey, that guy looks like a soldier', but what he does can be over the top - part of an entertainment experience. This is like that - an interactive action movie."

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