Eager to keep the series from becoming stagnant, Ubi are clear that the game features new elements that will alter the way we play. There are new types of action: Sam will get to parachute, for one, and you'll be the one making sure it all goes correctly.
Sam will now be able to swim, allowing him access to places he couldn't go previously. One level takes place on ice, and you'll be able to swim under the ice, cut up through and then drag enemies down to an icy death.
Rather than sticking to the dark areas of the previous games, Sam is now going to come into the light. There are entire levels that take place outdoors, on streets. Instead of using the dark for cover, you'll have to use the buildings that blow up around you to afford the secretive movement that we've all come to expect from Splinter Cell games. More light also means less super-duper goggles, and Sam will go for entire missions without donning his trademark headgear once.
More of the game is going to be done with 'buddies', AI characters that you befriend along the way. As part of this terrorist organisation, you're going to be just one of a few people on a 'job' in some cases, and interaction between you will be crucial to finishing the mission. Giving one guy a leg up a wall, then getting him to pull you over once he's up will become second nature. Likewise, other NSA personnel will join you later in the game as you put the choker on the group.
It's not all different, though, there will still be plenty of the stealth action we've come to know and love from the series. Even the early screenshots show Sam decked out in his normal kit, hanging from wires and knocking out guards caught unawares. The more diverse gameplay is there to make the game more interesting, not detract from what it is and what we love.
So what difference does being a double agent make? As a member of the terrorist gang, Sam will have objectives that they give him to carry out - kill a member of the public, bomb a building, the usual kind of terrorist fayre. However, as a member of the NSA, the Government is going to be giving him sometimes conflicting objectives, and sometimes objectives that are going to require a fair amount of thought to carry out. In one mission, you're charged by the terrorists with guarding the roof of a building while a meeting takes place below. However, the NSA wants you to eavesdrop the meeting and find out what's going down. The answer? Suspend yourself from the roof next to a window, or take charge of the window cleaning platform a couple of stories up. Oh, but mind the high winds - you don't want to find yourself slamming against the building or, worse, being thrown from it.
Other missions will require you to collect terrorist intel - that means rifling through drawers - whilst nobody is watching. If you're caught spying on the cell you've infiltrated, you can bet that the storyline is going to take a turn for the worse.
The next-gen console engine is brand new, and isn't based on the existing Chaos Theory engine. The screenshots we've seen are mixed, and some seem to show outrageously-unbelievable graphics, whilst others look more, well, pessimistic. Our current thinking is that we're going to see graphics on par with the new Elder Scrolls out this week, and that's going to be saying something. Previous dialogue with the developers has seen them tell us that it's going to compare to the stunning PS3 pre-rendered videos of Metal Gear Solid that we've all seen, and that would be quite a feat if it turns out to be true. Of course, Xbox 360 versions will get a nice visual boost from having 4x anti-aliasing done in hardware.