In the space of three home console releases, Tom Clancy's lone Special Forces agent has advanced the mechanics of a genre, coated it in incredible visuals and set a benchmark by which all stealth games are measured. Splinter Cell should never be mediocre; it should never be simply 'okay', it should never be anything less than fantastic. That's the bar it set itself, and that's the measure by which we judge all future iterations of the series. In that respect, Splinter Cell Essentials might come in the right packaging but it's not a Splinter Cell game.
Sam Fisher's first infiltration of the PSP is a collection of missions from previous games, as well as new content based on the upcoming console outing, Double Agent. The first problem is the fact that we've already played the majority of levels and when we last saw them on home consoles they were of a considerably higher quality. The watered-down PSP versions, with their dark levels populated by poor AI, are a noticeable drop in quality for the series. Obviously, we're not expecting the PSP version to look like it belongs on Xbox, but it should be pushing the capabilities of its own format.
To begin with, it's a familiar and welcome set up. Sam Fisher is skilled in all the moves we know so well, from dropping onto guards' heads, to close-quarters attacks, using enemies for human shields and that silly little mince from one side of a doorway to another. Weapons, gadgets and mini-games are how we left them too; those loveable goggles complete with the high-pitched activation whine are as comfortable as a knackered pair of sneakers, and light and sound meters help the player read the environment almost as well as using old-fashioned eyeballs.