Games: Splinter Cell, Big Mutha Truckers

Splinter Cell, Xbox (Ubi Soft), £39.99

Tom Clancy's fat thrillers are becoming feedstock for games-makers who want to combine realism, action and military precision. Some efforts have been dire, but Splinter Cell is an extraordinary tour de force. The game emphasises stealth over outright action, and the style of play will be familiar to fans of Metal Gear Solid. You conserve ammo, hide behind walls and learn the guards' patrol patterns. The graphics are on another level: everything is crisp and detailed, with curtains billowing gently as you pass, and shadows playing an important role in spotting what is coming. The story, based on Clancy's oeuvre, starkly demonstrates how much better games' plotlines could be if they got a pro to write them. It's hideously complicated, but once you've invested the time it takes to get used to the controls, it's a clear contender for best stealth game ever.

****

Big Mutha Truckers, PS2 (Eutechnyx), £34.99

The original trucking simulation was 18 Wheeler, and it really should have been the last. Big Mutha Truckers is a miserable attempt to make trucking exciting by having you race against other lorries in order to make money from various jobs. The missions are all the same: drive as fast as possible through an all-American countryside without jack-knifing your load across the freeway. There is a distinct lack of any sense of speed, adventure or fun. The graphics are all right, if you like that kind of thing.

*

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