Review by brutusmuktuk

"All the small details conspire to make a brilliant game"

It's not too difficult for a game developer to make a game look good. You rarely find a game with ugly or awesome graphics, and so it's to Ubi Soft's credit that in Splinter Cell they have created some of the best graphics on the Xbox generation consoles. The character models and animations, the textures, the small details, the different filters to view the environments through, and the lighting. The beautiful lighting. No other game has been able to reproduce these lighting effects: the different shades of lighting, realistic shadows that wrap around other objects in the game. The lighting helps make every little object look that much more real. Lighting has never looked so good, though it can be your worst enemy, so you might have to shoot that darn bulb out every once in a while. Ubi Soft also revolutionized “soft physics,” which refers to objects such as curtains, webs, and the like. Other games use soft physics to some extent today, but not with quite the detail and realism Ubi Soft used them. Playing around with a curtain can be so much fun you might forget you have 30 seconds to defuse that bomb.

Of course, graphics alone don't make a game, but Splinter Cell does magnificently in all categories. The soundtrack is excellent and adds to the mood of the game. Nothing makes your heartbeat faster than when the bass "dun!" sounds to signal you've been noticed. Staying with the attention to detail theme, Ubi Soft also worked hard on the sound effects department. The number of different textures you can walk on and the different sounds each one produces is brilliant, and it demonstrates what kind of hard work went into the game. To fully enjoy and appreciate this game requires not only your eyes, but your ears.

So far I have only touched on the technical aspects of the game. For a game to be fun, however, requires great gameplay, and on that count Splinter Cell delivers. The game keeps you on your toes, with sweaty palms and cheers beckoning from your throat the moment a checkpoint arrives. There many ways to get past a given part of the game. Want to gun down every terrorist you see? Sure go ahead, but it's not easy with the excellent AI. You need to carefully plan all of your shots and your placement of Sam Fisher. Want to sneak around without killing anyone? Go for it, but again it's not easy with the excellent AI. Sure the guards run their pre-scripted routes, but mess up and your toast. You need to use the environment to your advantage, and the levels are so well designed that you might need to play through the game again to notice all of the different ways you can complete a level.

What I love about this game is the AI. The enemies sometimes notice things a little too easily, but they are never dumb. They might hear a sound that causes them to search around, but if you hide well enough they eventually go back on their route. The only other stealth game that has AI this good is the Metal Gear Solid series. What most stealth games do wrong is punish you for making the tiniest mistake. Sometimes enemies will know you are there before anybody sees you. Not so for these two games. The difference between them, however, is that Splinter Cell relies on hiding in the shadows, where Metal Gear Solid relies on hiding behind physical objects.

The game does have its moments where it can be unforgiving. There is a lot of trial and error. Sam Fisher is not a human tank, so fire fights can very quickly lead to your death. Oftentimes your death is due to your own error, but there are times when the AI does seem to spot you a little too easily. There will be many times when alarms go off and you have no idea why. Also, the game doesn't do a very good job of briefing you on who you can't kill, and sometimes the only way you learn is by killing said person. Despite all of this, the game was my favorite of the year when it came out back in 2002, and it deserves the highest praise.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/21/13

Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (US, 11/17/02)


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