Review by northernlion
"Rivals Metal Gear Solid 2, and in some ways even beats it."
Well here I am, sitting at home playing the long-awaited Splinter Cell on Playstation 2. As you may know, it's a port of the very well-recieved Xbox and PC Versions of the game. It's been met with excitement, skepticism, and in a few cases, anger! I'm here to deliver the news (don't shoot the messenger). Please note that this is a REVIEW, not a COMPARISON. I'll leave that to the pros. Does it stand up to the task? Find out below.
The Xbox version of Splinter Cell had mind-blowing graphics. From the impressive lighting effects, to the realistic facial expressions, and great-looking scenery. I can safely say that its Playstation 2 counterpart is also a fine looking game, and easily one of the best graphical extravaganza's on the system.
The lighting effects have made it intact....mostly. Fans of the Xbox version will note that in certain levels (Oil Rig, specifically) environments have been changed to allow for the slightly weaker PS2 to handle the game at a reasonable frame rate. Still, the lighting is done very well, and this is integral to the gameplay. When looking at Sam Fisher, you can see shadows on his face, cast by obstructions. Very realistic indeed.
Another touch of realism is in Sam Fisher himself. You can see him blink, breathe, and perform a wide variety of physically demanding movements. All of these are incredibly realistic (considering the context). The only problem I have with people is the lip-syncing. Whenever a character is talking, even loudly, all you can see is a slight movement of the mouth. This doesn't hamper gameplay, but adding more realistic mouthing would've been a nice touch.
Onto the cons. For the majority of the time, the game runs at a smooth 60 FPS rate. However, when there is a lot happening on screen (flames, explosions), it can slow down noticeably. This doesn't really hurt your experience, but it is a slight annoyance.
Here is where Splinter Cell shines. Players can perform a wide variety of stealth moves, including interrogations, zip-lining, and the ever popular Split Jump. None of these moves require more than one try on the controller. This is possibly the easiest to use control scheme for complicated movements I've seen since Devil May Cry. Plus the controller just feels right in your hands when you're playing it.
Shadows become essential to your survival. Staying in the dark can mean the difference between life and death. It is impossible to simply run-and-gun your way through levels, as proven by how few gun shot wounds Sam Fisher can take. Fortunately, there is a light meter to tell you what degree of shadow you are in. This was a welcome addition.
Eventually, no matter how good you are, you will need to kill or incapacitate someone. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of lethal and non-lethal gadgets at your disposal. These include: Pistol, Frag Grenade, Sticky Shockers, Distraction Cameras, and Ring Foils (used to incapacitate enemies). There are also a number of extra gadgets, used to let you get your stealth on. Such as an optical camera, that you can peek under doors to see if anyone is behind it. All of these gadgets are fun to use, and incredibly important.
The game is quite difficult. Even on the normal difficulty setting, it will take you 10-25 hours to complete the single player mission. Hard will take you upwards of 25 hours. Enemies are surprisingly smart, and will attempt to find you if they think someone is hiding. However, they do have their moments of stupidity. For instance, if you throw a bottle, at one of them, they will continue to look at the glass shards until you conk them on the head. Let's hope our police don't do that in real life. The Playstation 2 version also contains Extra Features not included in the Xbox version, such as Random CIA Facts and Michael Ironsides interviews. No complaints here!
This is a difficult category to judge, as the game is only as loud as you want it to be. Walking quickly or over noisy materials will alert enemies of your prescence, so you must be quiet. However, voice acting is quite well done (especially on the main character), and gunshots sound accurate. You've got to love the sound made by a guard who's just been Sticky Shockered. Also, the game supports Dolby Digital 5.1, and that's definately a plus for those gamers who like to immerse themselves in the game.
Also a hard category to judge, for one reason. There is only one mode in the game (single-player), but it will take you upwards of 10-25 hours to complete. Not to mention the extra difficulty setting. It's just as fun playing the levels over and over again as it was the first time, although not quite as suspenseful. However, as I said before, with only one mode, certain gamers will find this game tough to come back to. I cannot recommend a rental however, because you won't get very far in the game. If you're looking for a stealth action game that will take you a while to beat, this is the one to get.
If you need to spice up the fun, bring a friend and discuss strategies with them. Figure out new ways to go through each level. Set new goals for yourselves such as not killing anyone, or not setting off any alarms. Sure, it's not a mode, but we gamers like to improvise.
This is the best stealth-action game I have ever played. If you enjoyed Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty, buy this game right now. If you have even a remote interest in the genre, buy it now. The only people I will not recommend a purchase to is those who own the Xbox version, and those gamers who like to run-and-gun their way through games. Unless of course those Xbox owners can warrant a purchase based on one new level and some extra features.
All in all, Splinter Cell has great graphics, amazing gameplay, awesome sound, and a pretty long single-player game. It will keep you busy, and will definately make Konami work extra hard on Metal Gear Solid 3.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/07/03, Updated 05/07/03
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