Suspect The Splinter Cell

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It has to be said, I have viewed the coming of Splinter Cell with some suspicion. I mean, I don't like Metal Gear, so why on earth would I put myself through the trauma of looking forward to and being disappointed by another sneak-em-up. Right from the very first screen shots, all I could see was some bloke crouched behind a crate, a gun held up against his cheekbone. Here we go again, think we've all seen this before, I said to myself. Yet another feeble attempt to step into the platinum "oh my God he's so wonderful" shoes of Solid Snake.

I think I may be forgiven for jumping to the conclusions mentioned above. It's a matter of weeks away from launch day now and all the mags are still making the obvious comparisons with Metal Gear. To think, I've spent all this time yawning at the hype and the ecstatic squealing of Gear heads, as they wait for the Splinter Cell stopgap between Snake outings.

Today I'm a different woman because I've played a tantalizing demo. Okay, never again shall I be so dismissive of a title before knowing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I let my bad experience of Metal Gear cloud my judgment for far too long and for that I am truly sorry. Although, it does mean I only have weeks to wait for the game to be mine, as opposed to a year, like all the eager beavers out there. They must be bursting at the seams by now.

Everything you've heard is true – the lighting, the gadgets, and the attention to detail. The control system is so intuitive and makes the game a joy to play. The only reason I'm going to bring up Metal Gear is because Konami Boy made me play MGS2 this weekend, in some kind of enforced Solid Snake endurance test. It was cruel, heartless and only convinced me further that I just don't like it {sulk}. Although, I did quite get into the first boss battle with Olga on the tanker, once I found my rhythm (shhh, don't tell KB).

How annoying is that intercom system? At one point I tried to open a door, it was locked and just as I was about to walk off I got that little brrrring noise: "Snake, that door is locked. The best thing to do is look around and try to find another way out." Oh really. Well cheers for that because if you hadn't said that I'd have been at that door all day. Five steps down the corridor".brrring: "Snake, here's another piece of useless information in order to interrupt your gameplay."

See in Splinter Cell it's all different (she said in a smug sing-song voice). Any radio communication carries on whilst you go on about your business. I prefer the control system, the camera view and the fact that when someone's spotted you they don't make a stupid dinging noise.

Anyway, enough of the comparisons – I'm not denying that MGS is a fantastic game, looks lovely, some amazing gameplay elements, set pieces and I do like the way it blurs the line between the gaming world and the fact that you're sitting in a room in front of a telly. It's just not for me.

Back to Splinter Cell – this is the best fun I've had with curtains ever! Be warned; play this game and you will become fascinated with the physics of curtains. The first curtains I met were in the morgue after I'd just lamped some bloke with the butt of my gun after interrogating him. They were those wipe on wipe off curtains, you know, heavy plastic ones. Shoot the curtains and marvel as they distort from the impact of your bullet. The next set of curtains are nearly at the very end of the demo and feature some dramatic lighting effects, using film noir style silhouetting. The best thing is shooting the guy through the crack in the curtains and then walking forward and watching the fabric billowing over your gun and outstretched arms – awesome.

Then there's the fan of shooting out lights – for tactical reasons you understand. Ooh and haven't you always wanted to see what happens when you shoot a fire extinguisher"now's your chance. You can play with your night vision goggles and your thermo goggles if you get bored, but believe me you won't. I think they might actually be useful in certain situations too, but don't hold me to it.

I'm hoping for great things in terms of a narrative. After all, this is Tom Clancy. Sam Fisher (our protagonist) has some pretty nifty moves in his repertoire too. Double tap jump and he'll leap up and grab overhead piping and if you tap crouch, he'll bring his legs up too, for that all important hiding from guards in corridor moment. I must admit I got quite fond of the interrogation maneuver. Not only can you put a gun to their head and get them to spill the beans, but you can also use them as a human shield to back your way out of tricky situations. I've played the demo through quite a few times now and I think I've pretty much exhausted it. It's just the long wait until the full game is unleashed…eek.

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