Review by buruburu1

"Hindsight is 20/20 on a once-hailed game?"

Graphics (25/30, judged by era)- Though ported from the Xbox, Splinter Cell does not thoroughly underperform as a GC title. The game is generally visually pleasing, with solid modeling and great lighting—a signature graphical feature of the game in its day. Environments are largely urban, and either at night or indoors with fluorescent lighting. Urban areas at night and office spaces are generally not the stuff of fantastic visuals, due to their dark obscurity in the former case, and their drab brightness in the latter, but this is the world the game plays itself out in. However, it still remains the case that outdoor areas are dark and and obscure, and indoor areas feel a little drab as a result. Animation is very well done throughout, although the CGI story portions between levels seem a little quaint by today's standards, and actually manage to break a little of the realism you feel in-game.

The use of visors, ala Metroid Prime, also adds some visual interest, and these visors are used fairly often.

Sound- FX/Voice (9/10) Sound is one of the high points in the game, to the extent that it becomes onerous to play this game with the sound down, so be warned if you play at night with lowered volume. Sound is integral to a solid play experience here, with a lot of strategy being formed on the basis of hearing footsteps, whistles, or voices around corners or through doors.

Sound- Music (4/10) With the emphasis on hearing the ambient noise of a level, the music portion of the game is greatly minimized, to the extent that it feels lacking. When being pursued, the music ramps up, but even then is fairly uninteresting. It seems that the greatest use of music ends up being in the cutscenes, where they also go unappreciated.

Gameplay- Length/Replay (15/15) The game took me approximately 20 hours to complete, which might've been disappointing for a full-price game, but otherwise is just fine given the reduced MSRP. Note, however, that by 20 hours you shouldn't infer 20 hours of active gaming. In Splinter Cell, you'll spend a significant amount of time just waiting and watching, learning enemies' patrol patterns, looking around. It's part of the gameplay, sure, but it's not 20 hours of progressive content. As well, you will die, so factor retries in. Still, the game is a good length.

Gameplay- Story: (4/5) Though slightly futuristic at the time, Splinter Cell took a turn at contemporary commentary in recent months, as the story's focus in the once Soviet-state of Georgia became mirrored in world affairs in 2008. Because the bulk of the story is doled out via news reports between levels, you find yourself mildly interested in context, but then diving right into killing and abducting people again. Through the gameplay you also find cards and files that contain email correspondence and such, further giving context to the international intrigue. I can't say that the actual story was incredibly memorable, but it did present itself and provide good context for the otherwise morally questionable actions you constantly take.

Gameplay- Game Design (22/30)- While some may say that the game doesn't hold your hand and that that's a strength, in the end, portions of Splinter Cell are frustratingly vague. As an example, in the first scene of the game, you're dropped into a courtyard and told to make your way to point X, which you view on your map and attempt to proceed to. There are some gates up ahead that you can try to get over, and there seem to be plenty of ways you could theoretically make it over, in real life. So you'll try them, and fail because the game doesn't want you to go that way. However, having just started the game, and perhaps having read the manual, you are constantly aware of the design element of staying in the shadows whenever possible, because visibility is a key component to the gameplay in Splinter Cell. So when you climb to the roof of a neighboring building, you stay out of the window light. You're up there trying to perhaps access a different way to get over that fence from above. It ends up that you must lift a grate on the roof…that is placed exactly where the window light falls. So it happens that the place you're least inclined to want to look is the only way to proceed. There are many places where the game does things similarly—you need to get to point A, and you can think of multiple ways in which it would be possible to reach it, but the game forces you to go some other tortured route, instead.

Once you accept the game's logic, the Splinter Cell turns into a good espionage/stealth title. You're encouraged to not fire your weapons when at all possible, and your attempts at kidnapping and incapacitating foes, then moving them to dark places to avoid being seen, are largely challenging and fun. The game's items are varied and add a bit of spice to what might becomes a dull formula—wall cameras, mines, and the like are fun to use and add a level of creativity in levels that sometimes don't seem to otherwise encourage create path-taking.

The use of dark and light is largely successful, thankfully, since it's the title's main gameplay mechanic. Visors work well and are used often to gain the advantage. However, there are times (the sewers come to mind), when, though in complete darkness, enemies still manage to see you at 30-40 feet and fire at you accurately. Hmm.

**Final Thoughts- Hailed as the best thing since sliced-bread, time allows one to reflect and realize that Splinter Cell is a good, but definitely not perfect game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/20/08

Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (US, 04/10/03)


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