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Tenchu Fatal Shadows

If you're sick to the core of watching grizzled old men in body-hugging wetsuits limp-wrist their way around oil rigs and military bases, you'll be glad to know that Fatal Shadows performs the hitherto unimaginable task of making stealth actually sexy.

Firstly, there's a noticeable drop in the number of men involved this time around. Former Tenchu protagonist Rikimaru has been axed in favour of series mainstay Ayame and newcomer, Rin.

They're both women, they're both incredibly 'well-rounded' and, naturally, they're both deadly assassins with a penchant for murder. But, hey, that's women.

Then there's the feudal Japanese setting, something the Tenchu series has always done well. Every level is steeped in atmosphere, putting the likes of Splinter Cell, with its faceless grey corridors, to shame.

In fact, thanks to this incredible atmosphere, crawling and creeping through each level is made doubly tense.

The enemies' utterances of "Huh? What was that?" when you make a noise is infinitely more subtle than Metal Gear's piercing 'BRREEE!', yet just as effective, and you really do feel a sense of danger when it all kicks off.

We will say that little has changed since the last Tenchu title, Wrath of Heaven. It's more of an 'update' than a new game, but we're finding it hard to complain - with Sega's influence (they've taken over the licence from Activison), Fatal Shadows is the most 'arcadey' Tenchu yet.

Stealth moves are now accompanied by names like 'Flying Death Strike' and 'Spine Twisting Mega Bonk' and the whole thing feels pleasantly fuss-free.

It's stealth without the hassle. Diet Stealth. A low-fat stealth muesli with semi-skimmed espionage. And a few slices of sneaking banana.

New character, Rin, works in the same way as Wrath of Heaven's secret character, Tesshu (bless you). By prodding pressure points she can make enemies snap and twist from within and is a master of hand-to-hand combat.

So while Ayame sticks to her swords, Rin can waste enemies with naught but her fists.

It's familiar Tenchu, but with enough tweaks to make it worth it. If you were hoping for a radical departure from the series' formula, however, prepare to be disappointed.

Tenchu Fatal Shadows is out for PS2 on 6 May

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