Review by uicndubble
"This game could have been so much better than it is."
When this game was first announced, I was very excited. After the release of Chaos Theory, Ubisoft had some very big shoes to fill in terms of making a game that would not flop in comparison. They perfected stealth-action in their last title, so I can understand why they took this game in a different direction. Instead of just hiding in dark corners and air vents, Sam Fisher is now as deeply immersed in the action as an agent can possibly be. He is a double agent. You walk among the enemy while completing tasks for the NSA. However, in order to gain the trust of the organization you're trying to infiltrate, the JBA, you have to complete tasks for them as well. This is where the real "meat" of the game is. There is no objective that is truly mandatory to complete; they are pretty much all optional. If you complete an objective for one organization, the other organization loses trust in you.
Sounds great so far, right? It's true, this game could have topped Chaos Theory for the best realistic stealth-action game of all time, but it fell short in the technical department.
If you have a decent rig, you can run this game in a way that it was meant to be seen. Oddly enough, because it is meant for next-generation video cards (at least SM 3.0) you'd think that it would be optimized for better performance with these cards. Wrong! You could have the best rig that money could buy, but you're not going to get frame rates higher than ~40fps.
The game is indeed beautiful, though. You will see the refractions of light on glaciers. Shadows dance around rooms as rays of light sink in through windows. Explosions are excellent. All in all, the visuals are wonderful. But this department gets 2 points off because, for as much as this game requires you to have a good gaming computer, framerates should be a lot better. In comparison to Chaos Theory, Chaos Theory comes out on top because it was capable of producing the same stunning visuals, yet did not eliminate a large chunk of the market of people buying the game because they had a SM 2.0 video card. Not only was a it stupid (these people would have bought the game), it wasn't fair to the consumer, either.
Pretty much the same as Chaos Theory. Great sounds, but gets 2 points off because there is no option for subtitles that I have found, and there is really no way of knowing if your action is louder than the ambient noise that surrounds you. In Chaos Theory, you were provided with a "sound gauge" that let you know if your action would be heard. Too vague in this game, but if you're good at this type of game, it should matter that much.
This is where the game really falls apart. Whoever made this game forgot the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Sam is generally sluggish and unresponsive. The interface which lets you know that a particular action is possible (hack, turn on/off, lockpick) is now a pretty big box that appears in the middle of the screen, instead of in one of the top corners like other games. This isn't that big of a pain in the ass, but what IS a pain in the ass is the fact that in the time you press the spacebar to perform an action and actually performing the action itself, there is no way to abort it. In Chaos Theory, if you decided to pick a lock or hack a computer, but you saw someone coming in the fraction of a second in between, if you moved, you cancelled the action, and had time to hide. That is no longer possible. This isn't that big of a deal in itself, but it's things like these that add up and really take away from the experience of the game. Jumping through windows and crawling into a vent usually takes more than one try.
Instead of having a light gauge like in past Splinter Cells, you're given this goofy stoplight on your back. Red= you've been seen, Green = you're completely invisible unless someone is directly in front of you and facing you, and Yellow= a VERY BIG GRAY AREA. If your gauge is yellow, this means that you are capable of being seen by anyone. If you are seen, the game lets you know with a sound effect. It's very hard to describe, but you'll know it when you hear it. This mode of letting you know if you're not being stealthy, which is pretty much what the whole concept of a stealth-action game is based upon, is way too vague, and the gameplay suffers for it. Big time.
When you're with the enemy in their hideout, the game really takes an innovative approach to stealth-action. You are given a series of objectives for both the NSA and JBA. For the NSA, you must do things like upload trojans into their servers, gather voice samples and fingerprints to unlock areas which are restricted, etc. There are objectives for the JBA as well, such as practicing at a firing range, completing a training course, decrypting emails, etc. All of these are optional, but if you don't compete one, you lose trust in the organization which assigned it to you. When you're in a low security area, you HAVE TO walk, which makes sense, because it would look suspicious to have Sam running all over the place. However, when you enter a restricted area, you automatically crouch, and you have to complete your objectives without being seen. If you are seen, you will either be escorted out of the area, or if you are caught doing something which is obviously treasonous to the group, like picking a lock or hacking a computer, you "die" and have to start from the last save.
There is also a very real problem with the stability of this game. You will crash to desktop pretty consistently, no matter what kind of rig you're running. You cannot alt-tab out of the game without crashing to desktop. And there is a 50/50 chance of, after completing a level and having the next one load, you will crash to desktop. For example, DON'T EVEN THINK about quicksaving in the Africa: Kinshasa level. You will not be able to load your quicksave without a CTD. Very frustrating.
This department deserves the 5/10 rating, because of all the little things that add up. If the interface and hud were not changed from Chaos Theory, this would been given a 10/10. It wasn't broken: they shouldn't have fixed it.
This game could have been so much better than it is. Instead of building off of the greatness of Chaos Theory, they changed things that did not need to be changed, and the game suffers from it. They really, REALLY, need to patch this game.
Very disappointing, but worth checking out. If you can afford to spend the fifty bucks, and have nothing better to get, buy it. You'll definitely have fun. But if are saving up your money for the sole purpose of buying this game, get ready to be pissed and upset. This game serves as a testament to the fact that PC gamers are quickly becoming the "bottom of the barrel" when it comes to the thoughtfulness of game developers.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/06
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