Ubisoft announces Splinter Cell 3

[UPDATE] Ubi's Montreal studio will help Sam Fisher sneak back onto PCs in "late 2004"; console dates TBA soon. First screens inside.

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With Pandora Tomorrow riding high in the charts and on reviewers' game-of-the-month lists, it wasn't a question of whether there would be another Splinter Cell sequel, but when. Today, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Ubisoft let gamers know they'll be able to strap on Sam Fisher's night-vision goggles by the year's end.

In a statement, the publisher announced that Splinter Cell 3 (working title) is scheduled to ship in "late 2004" for the PC, with console dates to be announced soon. Unlike Pandora Tomorrow, which came out of Ubisoft Shanghai, Splinter Cell 3 is being developed in the company's Montreal studio, where the first Splinter Cell was created.

“We expect Splinter Cell 3 to be the best-looking game on any platform, period, thanks to Ubisoft’s incredible command of the latest technologies and visionary creativity," said Ubisoft's president and CEO, Yves Guillemot. While such praise is par for the press-release course, Ubisoft announced that it will put its money where its mouth is and demo the game at Ubisoft’s E3 booth.

While Pandora Tomorrow ran on the same engine as the first game in the series, Splinter Cell 3 will be based on "never-before-seen graphics technology," which will feature rag-doll physics, particle effects, and interactive environments. The revamped graphics will also give Fisher a new repertoire of deadly moves, including stealth-kill maneuvers like the inverted choke hold and combat knife techniques. There will also be weapons aplenty, including many prototype weapons.

Ubisoft's statement also said that Splinter Cell 3 will feature "totally open level design with multipaths and optional secondary objectives." The game's AI will also be totally new. It will give non-player characters personal attributes and natural behavior and will let them "remember" events. Multiplayer co-op play will also make a return in a series of all-new multiplayer challenges.

As in previous games, Splinter Cell 3's story concerns Fisher embarking on a series of deep-penetration stealth missions for the secret agency Third Echelon. Set in 2008, the game centers on a series of information warfare attacks originating from North Korea.

GameSpot will have more information on Splinter Cell 3 as soon as it becomes available.

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