New Splinter Cell 4 details

Sam gets new guns, chums.

Ubisoft has released new details of Splinter Cell 4, currently in development for PC, PS2, GameCube, Xbox and Xbox 360.

According to PSW magazine, the game kicks off in 2008 - one year after the events of the previous game, Chaos Theory. Turns out Sam Fisher has left the Third Echelon and gone over to the dark side, and has shaved his head so you can tell. Now he's in the slammer, starting a 20-year prison sentence - but for what?

It seems that Fisher's committed a felony of some kind, and that his actions may be connected to the death of his 23 year-old daughter, Sarah. But no one's quite sure how, even his ex-boss, Lambert, who still visits him in prison from time to time. Nor does anyone know how Fisher got that strange new tattoo on his back, or why he's undergone such a dramatic personality transformation.

The game's first level tasks you with breaking out of prison during a fire. You're assisted by a fellow inmate, Jamie Washington, who belongs to a gang of organised crims called John Brown's Army.

You'll need to use stealth tactics to escape, just for a change, and work out a route to safety by studying surveillance cameras. Plus shadows cast by the flames from the fire will help you work out where guards are and which directions they're moving in, even when they're not in your eyeline.

Once you've busted out it's time to return Washington to the bosom of his criminal family, and meet some new characters who will offer you assistance (just as Anna Grimsdottir and William Redding did in earlier games). These will include John Brown's Army boss Emile Dufraisne, deputy Carl Moss and a chemical expert named Enrica Villablanca.

Although most of the game will be set in the US, you'll also get to visit some crazy new locations - and although these haven't been revealed as yet, we're promised they won't just be more boring old jungles. Luckily, you'll be armed with a host of new moves, guns and gizmos to help you survive.

There's also a new gameplay feature that's set to change the whole dynamic of the game - but they're not saying what this is yet, either. "At this early stage we don't want to reveal too much, but this new Splinter Cell is bringing an obvious but as yet unexploited aspect to the genre. We sometimes wonder how come nobody thought about it before," creative director Daniel Berube told PSW.

Splinter Cell 4 will use the same graphics engine as the previous game, and we're promised loads of new special effects and some new filters which will give the whole thing a unique look. You can also expect lots of detail and realism - in fact, according to Berube, the environments will look even more realistic than those shown in the recent Metal Gear 4 Solid 4 trailer.

So will the game live up to that claim? Well, we'll be getting a closer look at Splinter Cell 4 in advance of its spring release, so we'll be sure to let you know...

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