Review by trevelynzx
"Great game, honest can't-go-wrong review!"
A friend had told me about Splinter Cell for the Xbox. He raved about the game, and so of course when I heard it was coming out on the Cube, I was pretty excited. I ran straight to Blockbuster to get it. How was it? Honestly? Read on...
The cinematics are actually stunning many times, and the character's faces are very different and varied. When a player is talking, his mouth moves, which maybe the N64 taught me to appreciate far too much. Sam Fisher is very detailed, as are his numerous adversaries. The environment you're playing in, however, is not so attractive. Often-blurry textures or ho-hum landscapes detract from the overall graphical experience. The box raves that the game utilizes the Cube's hardware to the max, but I doubt that. However, the saving grace is that the characters are nicely detailed, and hardly ever will you notice two of the same guard!
Sure, the same music plays whenever a bad guy spots you, but it actually serves as a handy alert system. Like in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it doesn't get too old! The music is amazing, very well-tailored to each part of every mission. While the tunes don't exactly stick in your memory, they certainly enhance the mood and progression of events in the game. The voicings are just amazing. I was in complete awe to play a game that had neither bad voice acting or cheesy scripts. Michael Ironside's voice is absolutely brilliant for Sam Fisher, and the secondary characters are equally well-done. As for the script, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Never corny, it perfectly immersed me into the world of the NSA and covert ops. Sam's sarcasm was never too much, and had me genuinely laughing at least once per cut-scene. And not the pity laugh that says ''Man, who wrote this crap?'' but the one that is actually enjoying true wit. The guns make pretty much the same noise, but this isn't supposed to be a shooter, and since you only have 2 guns the whole game, it makes sense that their sounds are consistent. It seems that a lot of research was put into making the sounds as realistic as possible, whether it be Sam drawing his silenced pistol from the leg holster or the thud of a body hitting the ground, be it wood, cement, grass, etc... Echos and reverberations at the appropriate times are also a great touch.
Now to the good stuff. When I first popped this disc in the Cube and realized the first mission was a training mission where I didn't get to kill people, I was a bit disappointed. But without that mission, I couldn't have figured out the in-depth controls. After about a half hour in training, I had them pretty much down. The amount of different things you could get Sam to do amazed me. Things like creeping along walls, peeking & shooting around corners, double-jumping off walls, perching above unsuspecting guards in a split jump (then shooting them from there!), zip lines, rappelling, rolling, hanging from pipes, shooting while hanging from pipes, climbing ropes, pulling yourself up onto objects in various ways, jumping off of and hanging onto edges, and crawling while hanging really impressed me with their usefulness. A great aspect of this game is that you don't NEED to use many of those techniques, but you CAN if you want. This makes it fun to explore new ways of subversion and stealthy infiltration. (Yes, I've been playing the game too long...)
However, one of the most satisfying and enjoyable gaming experiences that will be hard to match is sneaking up on a foe and subduing him without a fight. This is where the true gameplay lies. Being careful to watch your stealth meter (basically a bar that slides around to tell you how visible you are) is an important factor in this. When you step closer to or into light, you're very visible, but if you're in considerable shadow, you're almost invisible. It's incredibly entertaining to shoot out a light or two, watch a curious guard come to inspect the situation, sneak up on him and deliver a vicious elbow to the neck. On the other hand, you always have the option of grabbing the character from behind, which then enables you to sometimes interrogate them for information or simply look cool by holding your gun to their head while pulling them around. Unfortunately for the guard, this situation always ends up in him being knocked unconscious or dead, or being used as a human shield. Also, it's your job as a responsible agent to hide the bodies of those unfortunate enough to cross your path. Making sure they're in the shadows is imperative to preventing an alarm from going off.
I guiltily admit that one of my greatest joys was elbowing a quivering citizen as I ran by. However, those who are not as sadistic as me will still have many opportunities for satisfaction at the guards' expense, whether it be from putting a single bullet in their head from around a dark corner, throwing a frag grenade at 3 of them, grabbing them from behind for the heck of it, or just thinking you're so cool by shooting out lights and sneaking by them or thowing bottles around to attract their attention. Either way, the stealth and tactical side of this game are perfectly coupled with the action aspect, making for a very very replayable experience with some solid gameplay that has been lacking in nearly every game since the long-lost days (how glorious they were) of Goldeneye.
Basically, this game has no replay value. You beat it on normal, which if you're like me, always blowing the mission, takes about 15-20 hours. Then you beat it on hard. After that, you watch the 4 special features (featuring a very amusing interview with Sam himself) and then that's it. You might want to play the missions over to try a new way or just to enjoy them again, but you can only do so much of that. Nothing to unlock, no multiplayer. One of the downfalls, to be sure. I gave it a 6, though, because playing through the very long levels again was very fun for me, especially since I knew more of what I was doing and could focus on my tactical abilities.
I am a tough point-giver. I mean, I'd give Wind Waker a 6/10, Timesplitters 2 a 7 (just because of the multiplayer), Smash Bros Melee an 8, Perfect Dark a 5, etc... However, this game, despite the faltering graphics and low replay value, was truly the first game to really hold my attention since I've played Zelda: OOT. I just couldn't wait to try the next mission (or next PART of the mission)! Now, you know how games will have those one or two overlooked gameplay issues that pretty much ruin it for you? Like in Timesplitters 2 how you couldn't shoot fast with the pistols (these things bug me)? Well this game virtually has none of them, and that in itself is enough to keep you involved in the game without being frustrated by stupid mistakes the developers made. Splinter Cell utilizes amazingly fun stealth and espionage tactics while supplying some good, solid action aspects. The story is confusing because of all the Russian names, but it's really very realistic and enthralling, and the missions themselves are the most realistic of any game I've ever played. Objectives constantly change, and some gadgetry needs to be used. Not 10 new gadgets per mission, but a few trusty ones that a real spy would probably have.
Anyway, the point is, this game is a solid sender with great dialogue, mediocre graphics, luscious gameplay, and a perfect blend of stealth and action. It earns all 8 points!
I rented this game and have a few days left, but I already beat it on normal. If you just want a refreshingly good game and have the patience to work with the controls, you could rent this and beat it before bringing it back. However, if you're a fan of 1) great gameplay and 2) stealth games, I'd recommend buying this one.
You never know, one day you could be sitting in work and get this intense desire to elbow an inconsequential CIA goofball. Or gas a couple of Chinese guards eating dinner in a restaurant. Or just laugh as you launch a sticky shocker at some stupid civilian. So you go home, play Splinter Cell, and get the chance to do it.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/19/03, Updated 06/19/03
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