Fourth Echelon

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction spent a long time in development hell. However, that particularly undesirable brand of lightning doesn't have to strike twice; Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist is nearly upon us. And it's looking quite good.

Ubisoft Toronto hasn't been explicit in revealing Splinter Cell: Blacklist's exact place in Sam Fisher's timeline, but if the mechanics and narrative are any indication, it's clearly set after the events of Conviction. The President has ordered the dissolution of Third Echelon, presumably thanks to the corrupting influence of the Illuminati-like organization known only as Megiddo.

However, from the ashes of the phoenix rises an entirely new bird: Fourth Echelon, described by Creative Director Maxime Béland as "a blacker-than-black special operations unit" created to combat the Blacklist, a mysterious terror network which threatens U.S. security as long as American troops remain in certain countries.

Sam's no longer running with the casual look; his tactical suit and top-tier gear are back in full force. He still moves with speed and agility, though he's more than capable of slinking around in the shadows if he needs to. Blacklist seems to be taking Conviction's signature mechanics and running with them. For example, the Mark and Execute system is back, but they have taken it a step further with Killing in Motion. Provided the player has mastered the brutal art of controlling Sam Fisher, he can move about the environment at a fast clip while dispatching any threats that present themselves.

If Conviction taught you how to do more with less, Blacklist will show you Sam Fisher at his very best. He's not on the run anymore; he's calling the shots. The resources at his disposal are more diverse, more lethal, and more -- period. At one point during the E3 stage demo, Sam called in an airstrike on an enemy emplacement.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist is due out Spring 2013, but in the meantime, check out the official E3 2012 trailer.