The most obvious difference is the new co-op moves. Each level has been designed to allow only couples to pass certain obstacles. For example, to break into a building, you might need to reach an impossibly high window. So one chappie cups his hands while the other springboards above. Alternatively, you might need to take advantage of the 'human catapult' in order to overcome a laser barrier. Or team-up to disable a security camera. Or transform into a human ladder. Basically, if your mate croaks it, you're gonna be stuck up poo creek without a paddle to steer.
Has anyone seen Steven Seagal?
The actual gameplay is remarkably tense too. One guy creeps ahead, while another keeps watch from atop a high vantage point; one spy creates a diversion while the other leaps out from darkness. One guy hoofs down a door, the other stands back, firing into the now-exposed room.
Everything is co-ordinated through your headset, and you find yourself whispering cautiously into the mic: "I see a guard, I see a guard, he's coming your way...shhhh" and "yeah man, you shot him!" Playing it yourself is great fun. Watching others fulfil the roles is much like viewing a dodgy Channel 5 action thriller, characterised by appalling acting. So the answer is play, don't watch. Although if you play with a crap partner, things can get very frustrating...
So with the co-operative adventure providing totally new thrills and events (they apparently run parallel to Sam Fisher's own mission), you're essentially getting two games for the price of one. Actually, make that three if you include the Versus Mode...
Next gen hide and seek - Versus mode
This is damn good fun is this. Like Pandora Tomorrow, two players take on the mantle of spying, two adversaries employ their skills in the art of terrorism. The results? Well, ever wondered what next-gen hide-and-seek plays like? You get Fisher-esque third-person if you play the former, but scintillating first-person action in the latter. It's much easier being a gung-ho, action fanatic, but far more rewarding spying.
Despite some new maps on each version, it's the revamped inventories that ultimately have the biggest impact on the experience. In the red corner, well okay, the spies corner, you can select from up-to-four goodies prior to missions. Amongst the new consumables are a heart sensor and a sticky camera, which can be projected onto walls to peek round corners.
The highlight though is the optic camo suit, which delivers temporary near-invisibility if you remain still. Yes, we know what you're thinking - very Die Another Day. But above all others, it is this device that is essential if you're to beat those patrolling mercenaries. You're certainly gonna need it if you want to get creep across an open floor without being spotted.
101 ways to kill... or be killed
As for terrorist scumbags, well, not everything is chucked in your enemies' favour. Tantalising your tastebuds is an entire camera network for building surveillance purposes, a spy tracker and poison mines, arguably the cheekiest spy trap on the market. The biggest advantage, however, is simply the ability to spin round and empty vast quantities of lead at will. What you choose beforehand is dependent on your preferred strategy - are you more interested in evasion, staying routed to the spot, or trailing your foes until the death?
Depending on what format you play, there is a range of different maps (some from Pandora Tomorrow, some new like the eerie orphanage and industrial factory) and modes. The Story Mode, which sets up scenarios and objectives for each team to complete (for example, stop a missile from being launched in a time limit), appears on all three formats. Likewise, the traditional Death Match is also ubiquitous, and challenges you to master your preferred form of execution - snapping someone's neck from behind, or blowing their guts across the floor with a handgun.