Review by StavrosJ
"An incredibly addictive stealth game"
Splinter Cell boasts mind-blowing graphics, probably one of the best in today's market. The lighting system is one of the graphics' biggest features. This is as close as it gets to lighting and shadows that look exactly like in real life. The textures even at 640*480 resolution look amazing and detailed, and character models have detailed faces and lifelike animations, and this especially is the case with the main character Sam Fisher who has incredibly life like animations that are both fluid and elegant. There are various environmental effects as well. You can shoot out pretty much every source of light to help you better blend in with the darkness. The fire effects look terrific. The first mission, where you are in a burning building, is both amazing to look at because of how real it looks. So overall, excellent graphics.
This game also has great sound. Ambient noises like the howling wind and rustling trees are all there. You can hear Sam's body shuffle when you do a roll or back yourself against a wall, and you can hear his and enemies' footsteps. As far as the action goes, there isn't much to say about the sound because this is after all, a stealth game so things are done really quietly. When you really get things heated up though, the music starts to play a fast techno beat which in my opinion, really is efficient in jump starting you for some heat. For a Clancy game, the weapon noises aren't realistic but they still sound great and have punch. Your silenced pistol makes a solid ''pew'' noise when fired, and in contrast, enemy weapons make a deafening bang especially when they are fired indoors. Explosions are jolting and sudden, and they do sound realistic here. The voice acting is terrific. Whereas MGS had some overacted bits with Snake and Raiden, every character in Splinter Cell sounds believable and slick. Sam Fisher, especially, is well portrayed as a person who doesn't let feelings get in the way of his job. Overall sound, while there isn't a lot to listen to, does a great job when there is.
Splinter Cell as I've said before is an incredibly addictive stealth game. Many of the missions are made for you to sneak around rather than gun down everyone you see, and in some cases you can't blow your cover at all otherwise its game over. I like this idea, since its more realistic to have the player act more professionaly, using fast wits and quick thinking to avoid conflict, as opposed to kicking open a door and shooting down everyone. You do have to kill people though, but the game makes it so that you don't have to for most of the enemies. Most of the time when you need to take out a foe, its better, and safer, to hit them over the head with your gun or your fist. Same can roll, lean against walls, and even fire from that position. He can grab onto pipes both vertical and horizontal to climb up or across them. He can also rappel down building and can also do some pretty slick stuff while doing that. For instance, you can rappel down onto an office building window, then push yourself off, then shoot back at the window and kick through it, shattering it, and jumping through the window into the room. Sam can also do the splits on high surfaces, so if the walls next to him are narrow enough, he can double jump off them and do the splits while suspended between the two walls. The controls are different. The mouse controls the camera which you can move around Sam at any angle which allows for some really cool camera angles. You can't strafe without your gun drawn; rather, the A and D keys make him walk left or right. You move faster by pressing the desired key up to 4 times, and slow down by doing the same with a different key. So, if you hit the accelerate key once, Sam walks faster. Hit it again, and he does a small jog and so on. They need a bit of getting used to, but the control scheme is done well with no glitches or anything like that. Splinter Cell doesn't offer much during serious firefights. You only have access to two firearms: a pistol, and a high powered rifle. With either drawn, the view switches to a behind the shoulder view. Sam is for some reason incredibly inaccurate with the pistol, and this proves to be difficult when trying to hit medium to long ranged targets with one shot, even when the reticule is as tight as it gets. You can't move quickly while shooting. This lacking combat system can prove to be a flaw, but Splinter Cell is all about stealth, and the combat system seems to be designed so that direct frontal fighting is a last resort. So, when you do kill people, you usually do it when they're not aware of it, or you are far away. The game consists of nine missions that are reasonably long, and each presents different situations. The missions are linear for the most part, though there are parts when you can use alternate routes, or use different methods to get to one place. To help facilitate that, Splinter Cell has a variety of gadgets for you to use and each one has a function that varies completely. Darkness and crouching are the key to being stealthy, as well as keeping an open eye for any useful plot devices or the occasional alternate path. The enemy AI is for the most part good but a bit erratic. If they hear footsteps they immediately assume its an intruder. If you shoot and miss them from behind they immediately jump up and dash for the alarm, as opposed to the more realistic behavior of turning around in surprise to see whats going on. However, if you remain stealthy, the AI doesn't spot you if you are in a dark corner, but will if you are in a reasonably well lit area. In a pitch black area, you can be centimeters away from an enemy yet he won't notice you, and this kind of AI helps making the lighting system more effective. The AI is both good and bad in firefights. Sometimes they crouch behind cover and so on, but mostly they run straight up to you, stand still and shoot. The bottom line is that this game is better enjoyed when you are stealthy, but then again it can be marginally fun during the hectic firefights.
One of the things that makes you want to keep playing this game is the story. Like a good page turner, its hard to quit the game as each mission brings about shocking event after shocking event. The story involves Georgian terrorists and several conspiracies. You as Sam Fisher don't do the direct 'save the world' thing, but rather most of your missions are about stealing data and getting out. Its a refreshing change from most games. Anyway, interesting, great story that involves political conspiracies and lots of twists.
Splinter Cell doesn't offer much in terms of replayability. I however, like to play the missions over and over again because they're so fun. I also am aware that the xbox version is getting downloadable missions, so hopefully this will also be the case with the PC version.
BUY OR RENT?
As long as you understand that this game is about sneaking around, then BUY IT NOW. Otherwise I suggest you rent it. And, just as it is with any game you burn, its illegal.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/24/03, Updated 02/24/03
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