Review by circle9

"The XBox Version Better?"

I never played the Xbox version of Tom Clancy's : Splinter Cell, and in retrospect its probably all for the best, because I don't see how the PC version could get any better.

The plot is pure Clancy, and although it probably won't interest many who play it, following the plot is not required to enjoy the game.

As much as I love Clancy's novels, this plot is pretty thin. Its hard to believe that all the best hackers in the world are based in Soviet Georgia and at the same time working, afraid for their lives, for the ruthless dictator of the state. Somehow the hackers manage to wreck US passenger trains, contaminate the US water supply (I suppose the writes confused ''computer virus'' with ''biological virus''), and commit other acts of deadly mayhem which those goofy terrorist seem to enjoy engineering.

Its largely superfluous, but at least it enables you, working under the quasi-legal umbrella of the NSA, to conduct missions involving infiltration, sabotage, assassination, wiretapping, espionage, kidnapping, and arson on at least three governments, one of which is the US Government!

Lets hack a little deeper into the details involving this smorgasbord of spy material, shall we?

Graphics (9/10)

The visuals of this game are great, but at the same time there are little annoyances which keep it from earning a perfect score.

On the upside, it has the best use of lighting and shadows ever seen in a computer game, ever. Thats quite a statement, but once you play it for a while, you'll realize there is not even any contest. If this is the Unreal engine, they've made a believer out of me, it doesn't feel like it at all.

Also featured in the game are beautiful weather and water effects, drenching rain outside of Langley headquarters makes insertion that much easier, but when its raining during a difficult exfiltration it makes your life a living hell. (In a good way, of course)

The biggest downside to the graphics is that you cannot use FSAA in any form, it causes graphic corruption (such as lights becoming transparent and being seen thru many surfaces) -- Its really a pity because the game is rather jagged even at 1024x768. I did not test Anisotrophic filtering but I was told that it causes corruption as well. To their credit, the dev team claims a patch is in the works and will be available very soon.

There are also other small annoyances with the visuals, such as render bugs where a line of pixels along the edge of a surface will be some odd colour (like pink on a gray pipe), but that doesn't happen very often, and it doesn't get in the way of gameplay.

The test system which I played the game and took the screenshots with was a XP2100+, Visiontek Geforce 3, 512mb pc2700 DDR333, and resolution of 1024x768. The game ran smoothly at all times with no unplayable slowdown. (No FPS counter, but I estimate the lowest point would be around 18-20 fps during large open areas with high amount of accessories)

Audio (9/10)
Superb audio, it alerts you when you've been spotted with a strong bass thump, and the music dies down when the enemy alert level goes back down. If you get into a big firefight, the music adjusts accordingly, and if you just eliminate one target quietly without any alerting noises then there is no music at all.

The voice acting is good, extremely good, especially the voice of the main character. He almost has a Kurt Russell rasp, with the wit to match, and its always entertaining to hear him talk.

Gameplay (8/10)
This is where Splinter Cell really pulls away from the other current crop of titles. There really is nothing like it out there, the closest comparison I have is Hitman 2 or the Thief games, neither of which truly does what this title does.

It stands alone as an extremely immersive single player spy experience. It incorporates the 3rd person stealth aspects of Hitman 2, but also the more subtle sound and shadow stealth aspects of Thief II, resulting in a near perfect amalgamation of the two.

The only gripe I have, and its a pretty important gripe, is that the gameplay is ridiculously linear. It masks it by keeping you immersed in the job at hand, but there really is only one way to do each assignment. You can choose to avoid or confront your enemies most of the time, but that’s it. There are no multiple paths to victory here.

By keeping the gameplay so linear, and by not including any multiplayer (coop would have been awesome), the replay value of this title is pretty short. I think it could stand up for a 2nd play through right away after you beat it the first time, and still be great fun, but then I think most of us will shelve it for months until we get bored and rummage through our collections looking for ''something awesome we haven't played in a long time''.

I know you do it. I do it all the time, and this is one game that will remain awesome to play again and again, but only over long periods of time after we forget the details of our adventures with it.

Concluding Thoughts (9/10)
I love Splinter Cell. Its a quality design, in includes many little side jokes that keep me smiling (everyone whistles 'fiddler on the roof', even the CIA guards!), and most of all it is a very immersive game.

I give it the highest recommendation I can give a computer game, for it can do what only a few games can do: Suspension of disbelief. You can almost forget you're playing a computer game, and believe you're a NSA Operative infiltrating CIA Headquarters in Langley.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/10/03, Updated 03/10/03

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