Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

You thought that all those games of hide and seek you played would never come in useful as a grown-up? Well, it turns out being able to squeeze behind a rail of clothes in a cupboard, fold up under a table or climb on top of a box are all valuable skills that could serve you well one day.

If your name's Sam Fisher and you're the titular special ops soldier in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, anyway.

Our Sam is dropped behind enemy lines to uncover and foil a heinous terrorist plot to crash the global stock markets and overthrow the world's governments. As imposing a job as that sounds, it's all in a day's work for a Splinter Cell, a highly-trained, quasi-autonomous secret agent soldier-type.

After receiving a briefing from your commanding officer back home, it's up to you to infiltrate a succession of ever more heavily-guarded installations as you reveal, piece-by-piece, the enormity of the danger at hand. You do this by hiding and fighting in equal measure and, as you're outnumbered, you might think the odds are stacked against you.

But you'd be wrong, because old Sammy is a veritable one-man army. You can do the usual walk, crouch, leap triumvirate to get around the various platforms, floors and bridges you'll come across, but you can also slide down zip-lines, walk with your arms as you hang from the underside of a bridge and leap down ladders to disable any enemy guards who are foolish enough to be lurking below.

And that's just one way of disposing of the enemy troops. Further evening up the numbers is your trusty silenced pistol. You can fire off quick shots as if you were a cowboy in the old West or activate a laser targeting beam, enabling you to carefully choose and aim at your targets.

Grenades, flying drones, and landmines all come in equally handy in your quest, though each must be carefully employed. For all the firepower that you have at hand, you don't have enough of it or the manpower to engage in full-scale, prolonged firefights.

What's more, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is one of those rare games where the wounds you suffer when being shot actually will kill you. One indirect hit from an enemy rifle and you might be able to muddle through; take two bullets and you're down and staying down.

This places the emphasis squarely on those skills you gained when hiding from your baby brother as a kid. You need to make use of the shadows, obstacles and doorways that you come across to move quietly and avoid attracting the guards' attention.

It's tense stuff and you really do need to think about every step as you take it. A noise and light sensor reside in the information bar at the bottom of the screen, and it's these that'll give you an idea of how great a ruckus you're raising.

Each screen – they load as individual scenes as you walk off, stage right, to appear stage left in the new scene – must be approached almost as if it's a puzzle and requires a different skill to overcome it.

For all this apparent complexity, though, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is surprisingly easy to play. Almost everything is executed with your handset's directional pad, with context-determined actions being performed when you press in a particular direction. So pressing up, for example, will variously cause you to jump a gap, leap up to grab a ledge, climb up a ladder or even clamber onto the top of a crate.

It's such a smooth, polished and considered game that the intuitive control system is the cherry-like balaclava on top of the black romper suit that is Splinter Cell's delicious dark cake.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Tactical, tense and tough in equal measure, Chaos Theory is an excellent sneak-'em-up