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OXM 96: Splinter Cell! Tomb Raider! Lightning Returns! The future of FPS!

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Issue 96 of Xbox 360: The Official Xbox Magazine is now on sale - and yes, the menacing trio of emerald lights you see on the art below are, indeed, the property of Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher, whose latest game Blacklist is the subject of our world exclusive cover story.

Log's written a seven page hands-on preview which delves into the game's brutally athletic "killing in motion" system, refined AI, character upgrades, new Paladin hub environment (which is a bit like Mass Effect's Normandy, apparently) and crunchy stealth sublayer. Sprinkled throughout you'll find commentary from game director Patrick Redding, who assures us that Blacklist's diamond-hard Perfectionist difficulty setting will please older Splinter Cell fans no end.

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Turn the page, and you'll be blinded by the sight of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - a dramatically pink and purple continuation of the Fabula Nova Crystallis saga which takes Final Fantasy into the realm of customisable combos and dodge moves. Log wrote up that one too, having first split his personality in half to accommodate the difference in tone.

Further in, we've got a feature on the future of the first-person shooter - more specifically, intelligent first-person shooters like Spece Ops: The Line, Far Cry 3 and the forthcoming Metro: Last Light. Backing it up, a lengthy Tomb Raider multiplayer hands-on, a breakdown of the glorious-looking Cyberpunk 2077, and an interview with Gears of War: Judgment's art director Chris Perna about Berserker moments, environmental story-telling and the possibility of a female Gears lead.

On the disc this month: demos for DmC: Devil May Cry, XBLA air combat game Skydrift, the wonderful Dust: An Elysian Tail, Resident Evil 6 and F1 Race Stars. While we're talking goodies, now is a very good time to take out a subscription - get involved and we'll send you a free copy of the Hitman Absolution Professional Edition, the ultimate version of last year's triumphant Hitman reboot. Apply before 13th May, and you'll also receive 23 per cent off a six month subscription. More details here

As always, you can buy the mag online with free postage, download a copy for iPad from Apple Newsstand, or nab an Android-friendly version from Zinio.

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