Review by Veritron

"Overhyped, but still worth playing"

Splinter Cell is supposedly one of the best games on the X-Box. Official X-Box magazine gave a score of 9.4 - Best Score Ever, or some non-sense like that. But it's only by comparison that the game's so good - don't get me wrong, it's a lot of fun, but it's not the alpha and omega of games if you get my drift.

Graphics: 9/10

I have to say, this is the BEST-LOOKING console port I've ever seen in my life. The shadow effects are amazing, the characters look really realistic, and there are lots of great lighting effects and little details. Unfortunately, the game cheats a lot to look like that. You're going to be spending the vast majority of the game either looking through Night Vision Goggles or Thermal Goggles, which, admittedly, have cool effects, but keep you from seeing how plain and mediocre the texturing is. Framerate-wise, though, the game's pretty good - there's not a whole lot of instances where you're going to be gunning down more than a couple of guys at a time, so it never really has an opportunity to drop. The thermal goggle filter is one of the coolest things I've ever seen, too, and the NVG keeps the game from seeming too dark, even though it's pitch black in a lot of areas in Splinter Cell. I'd give it a 10/10 if the CG scenes weren't rendered so amazingly horribly - Splinter Cell has the worst CG I've seen in a game in years, not counting Dragon Warrior 7.

Sound: 9/10

Whoa. The 3d sound effects work really well in this game, and it does a fine job of sounding really freaky. There's no real background score, but the music is very useful, informing you when you've aroused the guard's suspicions and such. This would be a 10/10 if not for the voice acting - although it's all competent and even a little freaky, there are times when the guards will say things that don't make a whole lot of sense given the situation, like ''Man down, I've found a body'' on a level where you fail the mission instantly if you kill a single person.

Gameplay: 8/10

The core gameplay's pretty good. Sam's easy to control - there aren't that many buttons you have to remember to get moving, and the scrollwheel to change your speed function works very well. You also really, honestly, can't gun your way through most of the levels - the guards are fairly good at killing you dead, so you actually have to honestly spend most of the time sneaking around and plotting strategies. The soldiers, most of the time, don't see you if you hide behind things, and generally don't cheat until after they spot you. It isn't necessary to kill anyone most of the time, anyway, so it's really much closer to the MGS2 - ''you never have to fire a shot'' ideal than MGS2 is. The major problem in this game is the suspension of disbelief - although this game seems much more realistic than Metal Gear Solid 2, there are still a few problems. Shooting out lights doesn't set off alarms - the guards will look at the obviously shot out series of lights, conclude that it's ''probably nothing'' and be on their way. Similarly, no one notices if you shoot out every camera that crosses your path. Also, as soon the guards start shooting, they can miraculously hit you every single time in darkness where they can't spot you if they're standing two feet in front of you. There are also times when the guards will obviously spot you through a wall - one time after dispatching a few guards, I noticed that the guard who had spotted me as I entered the room had fired an entire clip into the wall aimed at the doorway. Guards also have the mysterious ability to see perfectly in places where you can't see two feet ahead of you without thermal goggles, yet can't seem to remember where the wallmines that they've placed themselves are. Finally, why would the inside of the CIA be almost completely dark - there aren't any windows in the building, shouldn't there be lights or something? I also like how some guards can shoot you without being alarmed, and that unless you hide the bodies, your alarm level will go up when you step on pre-defined spots on the map even if you've incapacitated everyone in the level who could have possibly stumbled onto your handiwork. The game's also unabashedly linear - there are no useless areas, and you usually proceed in a straight line, and there are very few random factors going on in-game, which kill the replay value, as once you've figured the game out there's no changes when you replay it. Still, for all its faults, Splinter Cell comes much closer to the ideal of realistic stealth commando action than Metal Gear Solid 2 does, and it's a very well done game overall. Who says games have to be totally realistic in every way?

Story: 8/10

Has a weird resonance with the whole ''Iraq'' fiasco our government's been up to right now, but overall it does a good job (excepting the rationale for sneaking into the CIA) not have plot-holes and such. Unfortunately, it's not really that intriguing, and you'll have lots of trouble remembering people's names.

Overall: 8/10

The graphics are great, the sound is great, but the gameplay is merely above average. You'll this game is the best thing since sliced bread after the first couple of levels, but really, it's not much more than Hitman 2 crossed with Metal Gear Solid 2. The combination works, and it's a fun game, but it's severely overrated.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/28/03, Updated 07/28/03

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