Review by johnathanblade

Reviewed: 07/31/04 | Updated: 08/01/06

"HMMFF, and you thought that it couldn't be done."

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is a fantastic stealth game that takes place in the Tom Clancy world, a world of modern warfare, modern high tech and real world style cover ops.

If you have never played a Splinter Cell game what you have is GAMEPLAY that is rather close to what I imagine a Metal Gear Solid puzzle game would be like. You play as Sam Fisher, a covert operative for the National Security Agency. You have to figure out, usually by trial and error, the best way to make it from one end of a sub level to another without being spotted. There are sub-missions along the way, but they are usually just a thin mask on the “get through the level without being spotted” theme. I am definitely not saying that the theme isn't done well. It is done well and it is frustratingly fun. With saves and check points, no area of the game is more than seven or eight minutes long. With constant dying/setting off to many alarms seven minutes becomes hours for some areas.

Splinter Cell's shtick is the lighting. It uses a highly advanced lighting engine to give the game some depth. “Shadows are your friend” is the name of the game. If you stay out of the light you can literally be crouching 6 inches in front of an enemy and not be detected. About half of the light sources in the game are destructible and consequently you can create your own safe zones by shooting out the lights. This time around the PS2 version also has believable moving lighting. Sound plays a factor, but if you remain in the crouching position for most of the game, then you should be fine as far as making noise.

The enemies can be taken out in a number of ways. You have two different guns, a pistol and a rifle. The pistol is useful for shooting around corners, shooting while using a human shield and shooting to conserve ammo for you useful gun. Your rifle is by far the more functional gun for the kind of work that you are doing. It can be used for sniping. For shooting enemies this is the function that you will be using the most. The rifle has several useful subfunctions also. It can be used to fire off nonlethal subduing weapons, or surveillance cameras. You have other equipment at you disposal. You can pick locks, jam security cameras, throw grenades, throw other objects to create distractions, blow open jammed locks and some other nifty functions. You have some very cool visual aids at your disposal. You have binoculars that can be used in concert with you other vision functions, the starlight scope, and the thermal vision.

In addition to being able to use the items Sam has a pretty broad range of personal functionality. He can do the split jump (jumping up in a narrow walkway and holding up you body in the full split position Van Damme style.) Sam can climb most things that look climbable. Sam can move with back to the wall and as mentioned before, he can shoot from this position unseen. He can jump. He can elbow somebody unconscious from behind. Spot on control facilitates all of these moves.

GRAPHICALLY this is an excellent example of a visually impressive PS2 game. Sam Fisher's Character model is very detailed, and the lighting is comprehensive. Strong lights create shadows on everything directly under their influence. Some lights even move creating moving shadows. The game features soft cloth physics as well. All manner of negative comparisons have been made to the Xbox version. Yes, the Xbox version does look slightly better. It has higher resolution textures. The lighting effects for the Xbox are more complex, with more light sources and more gradation, and more polygons here and there. With that said, the Xbox has the same randomly missing shadows as the PS2 version. In addition the PS2 version has extra visual effects and an extra level. In fact the overall level layouts of the games are different enough that one could fully enjoy playing through both games back to back. Overall though, the cosmetic differences are not at all noticeable unless the games are subjected to intense scrutiny.

Splinter Cell is a long and challenging game that will please most stealth fans. Those factors combined with its technical prowess make it one of the best PS2 games thus far.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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