Review by Earth Djinn
"The new dawn of stealth-action..."
The Original Splinter Cell reinvented the Stealth-action genre, and gave gamers everywhere the chance to fill the role as an elite agent traveling to amazing locales around the world, and taking on difficult missions and hostile enemies all the while having the odds stacked severely against you. People everywhere loved it, and thus Ubisoft has now come out with a sequel, one that not only keeps everything that made the first game so great, but refines and polishes it to make it even better, as well as adding a whole host of new stuff.
The Gameplay is the reason that the original, and now the sequel, receive so much critical acclaim. The gameplay is perfectly tuned to this type of game, and it has everything you could ask for. You go to amazing places, located all around the globe, and each location looks authentic. From the opening mission, right through to the end of the game, you really are immersed in the world of Sam Fisher. You have the skills, and the equipment, to get the job done. However, that's not to say its easy. Quite the contrary in fact. This game, like the first, is extremely difficult, and you will die, or make mission-failing mistakes countless times through the course of this game. But the great thing is, every single time you fail a mission, whether it be from death, or perhaps setting too many alarms off, you never feel angry at the game itself, because in each instance you are aware of what you did wrong, and how you can avoid that next time. There is no cheap gameplay here, and that is something to be said for this type of game, because otherwise it would be almost unbearable.
It must be noted that the gameplay experience severely shifts from the Single player campaign to the multiplayer portion of the game. After playing the original,it was completely understood why there was no multiplayer included - it simply was not a game that would translate well into multiplayer. However, Ubisoft decided that they wanted an online multiplayer portion with the sequel, and anyone who said it wouldn't work have been proved wrong. The gameplay is 2 vs 2, and while that may seem like small numbers compared to other online titles which offer eight, twelve and sometimes even sixteen players in a single game, once the mechanics are understood, it makes complete sense.
There are two teams, each comprised of two players. One team is 'Shadownet', which means they are spies, extremely similar to Sam Fisher in terms of abilities and equipment. This team adopts the same third-person view as the single player portion of the game. The other team, however, is first person based, much like a FPS. They are the ARGUS Corporation mercenaries, and they are nothing like the spies of team 1. Aside from being first person, they rely heavily on traps and weaponry to achieve their goal.
If you are a Spy, you have no weapons in the conventional sense. Thus you are forced to avoid conflict at all costs, and if possible, avoid contact with the opposing team at all costs. As a spy you are always on the offensive in multiplayer, seeking out certain locations in each map and either retrieving or neutralizing key items in those locations, depending on what type of game you are playing. So you are forced to keep to the shadows, keeping yourself hidden and out of sight of the opposing team all the while going about your objectives.
If you are a mercenary, however, you must stop the spies from completing their mission, thus completing yours. You are always on the defensive, your only goal to stop the spies from whatever they may be there to do. And don't worry, as a mercenary you have many things to help you in stopping the other team. You yourself have two unique vision modes; Electro-Magnetic and Motion sensor. In both, your whole screen takes on a coloured hue, blue for EM and Red for MS, and most environmental details are lost to you, save only for the visions specific targets. For instance, in Motion sensor, everything goes red, and you can't really make out anything at all, but if a spy comes into your view, moving fast enough, you will have a perfect view of them, regardless of the light they are in. Electro-Magnetic is similar in application, but instead shows all electric devices currently being used in your field of vision, such a night vision/thermal goggles.
Another key element in playing as a mercenary is the ability to set traps around the landscape. Traps such as trip bombs, or Spy Traps. Spy Traps are devices that, when tripped by a Spy, marks him with a transmitter that causes him to appear on the radar of all mercenaries, thereby effectively cutting his ability to remain hidden.
For both teams, there are still many things I have not gone into, but I will leave them for you to discover on your own. Remember that with both teams, the key to winning is to learn the subtle specifics of each side, and figuring out how to use them in battle to overcome the other team.
The original Splinter Cell had breakthrough graphics, especially in the lighting engine which is extremely important in a stealth game. The sequel improves on everything, making for a better experience all around. Everything has been done amazingly well, from the lighting, the the character models, and the animations of both Sam and his enemies to the locations themselves. Textures look great, and everything fits together to immerse you in the game. One small thing that gets me about the graphics, something most people wont even notice, is that Sam's shadow has an extremely pixilated look to it, which is a shame because everything else is graphically amazing. Like I said, it's a small flaw, but its still a flaw.
Another extremely important thing for a stealth game is the sound. If you are hiding in the shadows, trying to move around an enemy complex without being noticed, you want to keep yourself from being seen AND being heard. So if you are jumping around, making a lot of noise, and believe me when I tell you that you will know when you are being too loud, then of course you will be detected. So when you are able to hear the sounds you are making with every movement, you are then able to make note of what you shouldn't be doing. Plus, in a game that prides itself on realism, you want to have a soundtrack that further immerses the player in the game, with locations having background noises to accompany the setting.
Also, the games music is amazingly well done, helping to create tension when you are hiding in shadows hoping not to be seen, and then if you are the music appropriately changes to a much faster pace to relay the intensity of what is happening on screen to the player.
If you played and enjoyed the original, then this is a must buy. If you never played the original, but are intrigued by the prospect of the game, definitely give this a rental to see if you like it, because this is a game that everybody should play at one time or another. The single player campaign is amazing, and the multiplayer is unlike anything else available, something which will keep you coming back for a long, long time. Highly recommended.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/29/04
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