Review by d0x

"Solid Snake who? MGS what?"

It is only appropriate that nearly one year to the day, another game graces the scene and takes our breath away just as Master Chief did. This time around, Sam Fischer highlights one of the most amazing games to hit the market. With all of the hype and hope surrounding this game, it is hard to imagine that Ubi Soft could go above anything we could have wished for. Oh was I wrong, so very wrong. The box says “Stealth Action Redefined”; I would say “Stealth Action Invented.” Thank you Ubi Soft.

You play the role of Sam Fischer, an operative of Third Echelon, a covert operations unit of the United States government. Your role is to find the whereabouts of missing agents and to uncover information about the Georgian conflict. Remember, you are invisible; no one is to know you exist. You are the Splinter Cell.

Graphics

After wiring my jaw shut from hours of awing at the graphics of Splinter Cell, I would like to mention that this is one of the coolest looking games EVER made. The lighting engine in Splinter Cell is one of the most apparent uses of Xbox technology. You’ll see light shining through fences, grates, vents, and even window shades. Instead of pre-rendering shadows like most ever other game in the past, Splinter Cell uses real time lights (with colored lights to boot!). So if you see a lit area you can bet your Xbox that its source is right there. No faking it here folks, this is the real deal. Every character and every object is self-shadowing, which is so realistic that at times it can be frightening. Sam’s character model is also highly detailed. He incorporates a wide variety of animations to provide you with numerous moves. The animation in Splinter Cell is all hand drawn, no mo-caps here, which is excellent news. Sam Fisher moves with ease through the environments thanks to the time spent on animation. From sneaking, to hanging, to gliding down wires, Sam has many tricks up his sleeve to take out the opposition. You’ll also notice that the world that surrounds Sam is very detailed. These environments are lush with depth and detail, even when it is pitch dark. The use of the night vision and thermal vision is one experience you have to have. So far we have some of the best animation ever, we have the best lighting ever, so what else is there? Well how about some nice particle effects, and some of the most realistic damn rain you will see this side of the window, add all of this together and you have a complete package, not perfect, but complete.

In order to be fair I am going to mention the graphical flaws. While they are minor and don’t affect the game play, they are there and should get just as much attention as the good. This is a review after all. First on my list of graphics gripes is vertical sync. This is a problem In the GeForce family of GPUS’s, one that hasn’t been corrected by driver updates or patches. If you don’t know what it means please look it up, it's far to complex to go into here, but basically it’s the screen jiggle in the middle of the picture you sometimes get when turning around really fast in Splinter Cell, and many other games for that matter. Another flaw, and this is far more glaring, is clipping. In Hitman 2, they used a rag doll physics system, so if a body hit a wall it would lean on it realistically, but in Splinter Cell body parts just mesh with the wall, and what you get is headless guards all over the place. It's not a huge problem, but it does detract from an other wise amazing package.

Gameplay

I know that a lot of people will compare this game to Hitman and Metal Gear Solid. However, Splinter Cell makes those games look like child’s play. Sam has more moves than Snake, and a better talent for espionage and stealth than Agent 47. If you’d like to compare, than think of it as Metal Gear without all the stupidity, and then a lot more stealth and less action than Hitman, and you’ve got yourself a bundle of Splinter Cell. The main objective is to stay in the shadows and strike at the most opportune time. If you aren’t under the cover of darkness than you can create the darkness by turning off the lights or simply shooting them out. This leaves you with a distinct advantage. You can turn on your night vision and have your way with unsuspecting enemies. You must remember that killing the enemy isn’t always your objective. There are missions where no one must be killed. This requires you use your wits and every gadget in your arsenal to come out on top. Take your time playing this game. This game was not meant to be rushed through. Stay hidden and you will succeed. Proceed with caution; it’s the Splinter Cell way.

Missions range from the simple to just plain evil. You will restart from a save point a lot of times, but oddly enough you probably won't mind since you know as soon as you made that mistake there was another, smarter way through. The satisfaction comes from you assuming the role of the ultimate badass.

The level progression is very linear, you will notice from the start you can only go from point A to point B, and there is only one road that takes you there, BUT, and I stress BUT, on the way down that single road you will encounter many obstacles, and each almost always has more then one solution.

Controls

All I can say is that the controls are very easy. You don’t have to worry about multiple button combinations or accidentally hitting the wrong button. You’ll feel right at home with the scheme that Ubi Soft has implemented. The hardest thing control wise that I have ever come across is having Sam crouch, then pull out the silenced rifle, then hit an enemy from a fair distance with a Ring Airfoil Projectile, then quickly holstering that gun, come to a standing position, and then running to knock out that enemy before he becomes alert again. It may sound difficult, but if you set the situation up properly, you should be able to mentally practice the move a couple of times and then pull it off successfully.

Sound

Splinter Cell was meant for Dolby 5.1, any game where aural clues play such a big role in the game play really needs an amazing sound mix, and again Splinter Cell delivers on all fronts. You’ll really want to pay attention to environment noises such as the movement of a camera, footsteps, or even mumbling. These sounds give you little clues as to where you need to stay hidden and which path you should take to take out a target. Of course there are those of us without surround sound (shame on you!), and for them, well they got stereo, which sounds great don’t get me wrong, but it subtracts from the game’s immersion. To truly appreciate Splinter Cell, you really need to go get yourself even the most basic ($100) surround sound system.

Aside from that, you have a nice score. The music won't ever get on your nerves because like true Hollywood style it takes a low tone backseat, you can still hear it, but it will never interfere with the mission. You also have standard sound effects which are all decent and get the job done, but on top of that you also have a pretty nice set of what I like to call indepth effects, such as how the rain sounds on each different surface, footsteps etc stuff like that, and it all sounds damn good.

Graphics 9
Sound 10
Gameplay 9
Control 10
Replay 9
OVERALL (not an average) 9


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/02, Updated 12/07/02


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