Review by KallanderMan
"Intuitive, pretty, ingenious, and continually flawed."
While the Tom Clancy series has produced a fairly substantial library of games over the years, most of them have been mediocre titles at best, and only fans of the source material or famous syndicated novels could derive any entertainment from them. Enter Splinter Cell: a stealth-action-espionage game truly worthy of the name Tom Clancy. Since its release Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell has become a flagship title for the X-box, and now it’s been ported over to the Playstation 2 with extra features and unfortunately extra flaws. While the PS2 version might not be on par with its X-box counterpart, Splinter Cell’s engaging gameplay, dynamic lighting effects, and lush visuals still shine through, and overpower any shortcomings the PS2 might otherwise be plagued with.
Your alter ego in Splinter Cell is Sam Fisher, a highly trained NSA (National Security Agency) operative out to investigate the disappearance of another NSA agent. While the plot certainly doesn’t break any new ground, it’s coherent enough to keep you relatively interested in the constantly thickening plot.
When playing as the fully trained operative you’ll have access to a wide assortment of spy like moves. Luckily for us the PS2 controller works exceedingly well compared to the X-box controller layout. Things like holding guard’s hostage, using fiber optic wires to look under doors, and even repelling down ledges are performed with ease. Lock picking is especially fun because instead of merely choosing an option to unlock your standard dead bolt, you the player do it manually with the right analog stick. It may sound complicated, but turns out to be extremely simple and immerses the player that much more into game.
The HUD in Splinter Cell consists of your health meter, your shadow gauge, and your item box. Staying as semi-realistic as possible, Fisher can sustain only a few rounds of ammunition before meeting his demise. Your shadow gauge is basically how well the enemies can see, or for that matter not see you. And of course your item box displays your current weapon, gadget, or other miscellaneous device.
As if it wasn’t already apparent, Splinter Cell is mainly focused around stealth. It’s emphasized much more here than in most any other so called stealth game. Run and gun tactics will assuredly get you no where. Instead you must really on the cover of darkness to maneuver yourself around sentries, instead of trying to figure out ways to take them out. Your shadow meter plays a big role here as it decides weather enemies can see you and how careful you have to be in certain situations. Unfortunately sometimes seemingly completely cloaked areas don’t register with the game, and as a result you may be spotted just as easily in well-lit territory as in the veil of darkness. However, these trouble spots are few and far between and hardly ever effect the gameplay.
Throughout your journey you’ll guide Fisher around ten extensive missions. Each are broken up into numerous segments similar to May Payne. While the missions themselves are very diverse in nature and have a wide range of objectives, they’re hampered by Splinter Cell’s most obvious design flaw: remarkably linear levels. While some games such as Hitman 2 offer expansive exploration in their levels Splinter Cell leads the player around already obvious paths. This eliminates a large portion of replay-ability that Splinter Cell so sorely needed. Its other major design blemish is its event trigger program (for lack of better words). Essentially this ensures that any event that’s going to take place in a mission will always happen in that same spot and at that exact time, regardless of what has happened up to that point. This may not sound like a huge problem, but when you replay the same mission five times in an effort to finally beat it; the repetitiveness of the levels start to were on you.
What Splinter Cell does have working in its favor are some awfully impressive graphics. Environments are richly detailed and sport some very crisp textures. Character models feature a large amount of polygons and move with great fluidity. Fisher himself is rendered very well and moves with life like animations. Of course the most apparent and convincing aspect about Splinter Cell’s visual presentation are its ultra realistic lighting effects, which play a key role throughout the game. The camera system is probably Splinter Cell’s most user-friendly tool. You have full control over it at all times via the right analog stick. But even Splinter Cell’s sharper points are dulled by trivial technical limitations. The frame rate sputters at some very odd and inopportune times. Severe clipping issues also hinder Splinter Cell’s otherwise realistic delivery. Still, even with all these imperfections Splinter Cell’s visuals are its biggest asset and engross the player more then any other characteristic in the game.
The audio in Splinter Cell is definitely good sounding, but that doesn’t make it fun to listen to. While Fisher is voiced perfectly with a nice grainy tone that matches an already badass personality, enemies on the other hand are usually from other countries, and instead of using their native tongue (which would seem appropriate considering it’s a Tom Clancy game) they speak English in stereotypical accents which are laughable at best. Musically Splinter Cell delivers an excellent performance with beautifully orchestrated melodies that fit the game perfectly. Sound effects are very realistic sounding too and really add to the atmosphere of things.
All in all pretty much anyone would agree that Splinter Cell has a few too many problems that hold it back from achieving greatness. With that said you still can’t deny that Splinter Cell is a blast to play through and its lighting effects gives Metal Gear Solid 3 something to shoot for. It certainly sets the stage for Splinter Cell 2, which will hopefully fix all the things that make Splinter Cell appeal only to fans of relatively short stealth games.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 05/04/03, Updated 05/04/03
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