There's not long to go now until Sam Fisher's latest adventure sneaks out of the shadows, and judging by what we saw of Splinter Cell Double Agent recently it's shaping up really rather well.
You can expect a full preview of the Xbox 360 version to appear on Eurogamer this afternoon, but in the meantime here's a rundown of what current-gen console owners have to look forward to...
First up, let's look at the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game. They're based around the same basic concept as the X360 version - Sam is now a Double Agent, do you see, and must infiltrate a terrorist group known as John Brown's Army. All the games are much more plot-driven than previous instalments and place a bigger emphasis on Sam's character and personal history, but each game "delivers the story in different ways," according to Ubisoft.
In the current-gen games, there doesn't seem to be quite such an emphasis on dealing with moral dilemmas when it comes to making your way through missions. In the Xbox 360 version, Sam will avoid killing innocent people wherever possible - but in the PS2 level we saw, he was polishing off poor old prison guards left, right and centre without thinking twice. You will still have to make some moral choices, though, and there will be consequences to your actions.
The PS2 game also has a more co-operative feel to it. In the first level, Sam has to break out of prison (he's been convicted of armed robbery, but it's all just a ruse so he can make friends with a JBA member). He teams up with a fellow inmate, and they must work together to make their escape.
For example, Sam's chum can give him a leg-up so he can reach a high ledge. Once Sam's in position, he can reach down to pull up his mate. Later on in the level, said mate ends up getting captured, and it's Sam's job to work out how to deal with the two guards holding him.
There's also a fair bit of familiar stuff here - expect plenty of computers that need to be hacked, drainpipes that can be climbed, numeric codes that must be entered on keypads and so on. Both games are being built using already existing technology - the Xbox version is based on the Chaos Theory engine, for example.
Both the Xbox and PS2 versions will feature multiplayer modes, and they've been designed to be accessible for gamers at all levels. So if you're fed up of getting done over by the hardest of the hardcore, cheer up - the online mode will let "people of different levels play at different levels, and to different rhythms," according to Ubisoft.
So what of Splinter Cell Essentials, as Sam's first adventure on PSP is tentatively titled? Well, "It's not a port or a remix," Ubisoft says. The single-player game features nine missions - seven of the level maps are new, while the other two are taken from the first Splinter Cell game and Chaos Theory. Ubisoft reckons the whole thing should keep you occupied for around 13 hours.
The level we were shown was set in Colombia some time in 1992, when Sam has yet to join the NSA and is still working for the Navy. He finds himself in a heavily guarded jungle camp, and must make his escape without being detected.
New features include a set of two vertical meters which appear on either side of the screen. These monitor environmental noise on a directional basis - so if a sound is originating from somewhere to the left of you, the left hand bar will fill accordingly, and vice versa. The idea is that once you get the hang of it you can work out the exact location of your enemies - even if you can't see them.
To make up for the fact that the PSP only has one analog stick, the face buttons come into play and have different functions depending on whether you tap them or press and hold. Aiming is done with the left stick, and you use the face buttons to move around - a system that will be familiar to King Kong PSP owners.
There's a possibility that you'll be able to download extra maps for the multiplayer game in the future - this has yet to be confirmed, but it's certainly something Ubisoft's considering.
Bad news for DS owners, though - there are currently no plans to bring out a version of the game for your handheld. But if one does arrive, it's likely to be of a higher quality than Splinter Cell Chaos Theory DS, which we didn't think much of, frankly. "We want to keep a certain level of quality associated with the Splinter Cell series," Ubisoft says - which we're taking to mean they learned their lesson.
Splinter Cell Double Agent is due out on all formats in March, as is Splinter Cell Essentials. Don't forget to check back later for that X360 preview, now...