"A great, fun, challenging game!!!!!!!!!!"

One of the most popular, most successful, and best looking games for Microsoft's Xbox is now on the GameCube, and in some respects it's better than the original. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is a stealth-driven action adventure that sends you, as operative Sam Fisher, around the globe on numerous highly secretive and very dangerous assignments. It all goes down like something straight out of a Hollywood action thriller, complete with plenty of big-budget production values. The game isn't above reproach: Just like its Xbox counterpart, Splinter Cell for the GameCube is a relatively short single-player-only game consisting of heavily scripted missions that can sometimes turn into trial-and-error exercises that undermine the game's otherwise pervasive sense of suspense. The graphics have also lost some of their luster in translation, though some worthwhile new features and gameplay tweaks make Splinter Cell for the GameCube more than just a watered down Xbox port. And at its core, it's a great action game, one that's already met with tremendous acclaim.

Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher is as cool as they come.
That acclaim means many have already heard about Splinter Cell and just want to know exactly how the new GameCube version differs from other versions. In short, the GameCube version is similar to the Xbox and PC releases, but it isn't quite as impressive from a technical standpoint in direct comparison. The graphics are less detailed, the frame rate is slightly less consistent, the lighting effects aren't as pronounced, and the whole game is a little rough around the edges. Splinter Cell's original nine missions have been translated more or less intact here, though they've been chopped up into smaller pieces and in some cases truncated, making the game feel a bit disjointed what with its fairly frequent loading times. The downloadable level available for the Xbox via the Xbox Live service isn't in this version of the game, nor is the new level exclusively made for the PS2 version. The minimal blood effects seen in the Xbox and PC versions of Splinter Cell have also been completely removed, for some reason. The entire game is a little easier. There are fewer guards and more health packs in some cases, and an onscreen indicator keeps you informed of how many times you can be caught by an alarm without failing your mission.

Additionally, this version of Splinter Cell replaces the Xbox version's unimpressive in-engine cutscenes with better-looking prerendered cutscenes, and the completely redone intro does a better job of setting the stage. And while the new cutscenes aren't frequent, they do help tie together Splinter Cell's otherwise disparate scenarios. It's also worth noting that those who've already played Splinter Cell on the Xbox or PC will find that the story and the levels in Splinter Cell for the GameCube take a few short detours. There are enough little changes that hard-core Splinter Cell fans would do well to give the GameCube version a shot, though they'd probably prefer the PS2 version, with its new mission. The GameCube version does have a connectivity feature using the Game Boy Advance, which mostly just grants you access to a handy overhead map that reveals enemy positions; and, only on the GameCube, Fisher has access to a sticky bomb device that stuns foes. But it sure would have been nice to have that new mission here. The simultaneously released PS2 version otherwise has most of the same qualities as the GameCube version, yet its visuals and loading times are somewhat worse. At any rate, if all you wanted to know was how the GameCube version of Splinter Cell stacks up to the others, now you're all set.

Or maybe you're still wondering what a splinter cell actually is. The game's title refers to the unusual role of Sam Fisher, a highly trained and experienced soldier working for a top-secret military organization, Third Echelon, that's attempting to rid the world of a high-tech terrorist threat. If Fisher's caught, the US government will disavow its affiliation with his mission. Worse yet, one false move and Fisher may inadvertently instigate World War III. So the pressure's on, but Fisher's as cool as they come. Though he's skilled as a fighter, stealth is his only real option, and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance as he undertakes a number of high-stakes covert operations. The game's plot, which is set in the near future, is straight out of a Clancy thriller and involves Fisher taking on Clancy's favorite tag team: the Russians and the Chinese.

The GameCube version of Splinter Cell features GBA connectivity, granting you a real-time tactical map of your surroundings.
Despite being Third Echelon's right hand, Sam Fisher is on a need-to-know basis and is largely kept in the dark about the exact nature of his objectives. Fortunately, he's extremely resourceful, armed or unarmed. A preliminary training scenario will familiarize you with the basics of being Sam Fisher, but you'll nevertheless need a lot of practice to become truly proficient in the role. Throughout the game, the right analog stick lets you freely move the camera, which generally works well to give you a good situational awareness but sometimes gets cramped up in tight spaces. The other controls also take getting used to but work effectively, enabling you to perform an array of maneuvers that collectively make Splinter Cell feel like a pretty believable super-spy simulation.

In fact, the variety of moves at Fisher's disposal is probably the highlight of Splinter Cell. Sam has something for every occasion: He can move quite quickly from a crouched position, and if you tread carefully while crouching, you'll be almost invisible and almost silent. He can climb ladders, chain-link fences, and more. He can rappel down walls (and kick through glass windows while doing so), climb hand over hand (or using all four limbs) across horizontal pipes, and zip across downward-slanted ropes or wires. He can put his back against a wall and lean or shoot around corners, he can peek behind doors that are slightly ajar, and he can make soft landings or perform evasive rolls. Fisher can also kick off a wall in mid jump, and his coolest move (though it isn't very practical) allows him to stand in the splits atop a narrow passageway and then either shoot unsuspecting opponents or drop down to deliver a stunning blow.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03


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