Review by maximus86

"A great game that turns away from the cliché style of today's games, presenting it with an intriguing story and awesome gameplay."

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is one of the best stealth-action games in the market. It does something that Metal Gear Solid didn't entirely focus on: and that is stealth. In this game, you will not survive if you do not have the patience to slowly sneak up on someone, because that is going to happen a lot in this game. Tom Clancy, a popular author, has wrote the story for this game, and let me tell you that it is a very good one to say the least. Although this game has been released several months after the X-Box version, it comes with an entirely new and exclusive mission, which I think makes up for the delay for PS2 owners. Let me tell you that when I first played this game, I honestly turned it away and labeled it as boring and unexciting. Once I put a bit more time into it, I realized this game is an amazing, revolutionary stealth-action game with an intriguing story-line and a great potential for future sequels.

When you first pick up Splinter Cell and watch the intro, you realize that this is going to be your typical Tom Clancy story involving secret operations, CIA agents, terrorists and all that good stuff. You play as Sam Fisher, a special agent for Echelon, a branch of the CIA that is denied to exist by the U.S. government. It does not “officially” exist. The opening video has you witness the infiltration of two CIA agents into a Georgian military installation. They get captured by the military and the U.S. loses contact with them. You, playing Sam Fisher, will be sent in Georgia to confirm their status and rescue them if necessary. The plot greatly develops into something intriguing and will always have you wanting more. Don't be surprised if you complete this game in a single weekend.

The aspect that really makes Splinter Cell stand out as a unique and great title is its gameplay. From the first moments you control Sam Fisher, you will notice that this is not your average run-in-and-kill-everyone-Rambo-style game. For one thing, there are not many bots in each mission . Instead of having hordes of enemies in action games like 007: Nightfire and Medal of Honor Frontline, Splinter Cell has a significantly lower amount of enemies, but what they lack in number they make up for intelligence. The AI is quite something. Guards will notice your footsteps if you are running down an empty hallway. Even minute details will be noticed: the switching off of lights that were previously on will not go unnoticed. If you engage the enemy in a fire-fight, you will notice that the opponent moves around and changes location, and will even lob grenades if they know you are sitting behind a pillar. That's not to say the AI system is flawless. Sometimes if a soldier sees you, but his shots are blocked by a forklift or obstacle, he will continue to fire at you, even though you are not being hurt. In that case you can take your time and give him the necessary head shot for his mistake that he will not have time to correct. In one instance I was battling a boss, and I saw him standing in a single spot, but because he didn't see me, he thought he was safe and secure. By the time he knew he was mistaken, I, crouched behind a fence, safely threw him a frag grenade and proved him otherwise. Though it rarely happens, it can ruin the sense of achievement of killing a boss or a notorious figure.

Another major difference in this title compared to other action titles is the amount of weapons. In many shooters, you can expect to see about 10 different weapons that you will be able to control. In Splinter Cell, you will be able to fire a grand total of one pistol and one assault rifle. The reason for this is that the developers wanted to detract Sam Fisher from actually killing people. You are encouraged to incapacitate people rather than to annihilate them. Making people unconscious can come in two general different ways: you can do the efficient thing by coming up from behind someone and knocking them out of their minds or you can fire one of several devices (Ex. sticky shocker, ring aerofoil round, even a sticky camera) from your assault rifle's secondary fire to make them fall to the ground, alive and unharmed. There will only be one or two occasions where you are actually given the order to kill someone, and they are actually very fun to carry out. Nevertheless, you will soon discover that it does become very difficult to safely disarm someone, especially if there are several enemies firing at you from multiple angles. Thankfully, for that reason, you do not get penalized for killing an enemy. Another unique aspect of Splinter Cell is taking care of the bodies that you just finished killing/incapacitating. Unlike most action games, where the dead bodies disappear after a few seconds, the bodies in this game don't. In fact, as part of the stealth aspect, you are required to pick the bodies up and hide them in a dark area. If not, they will be discovered and an alarm will sound, alerting the presence of a dangerous presence (Sam Fisher). Although enemies won't necessarily come to attack you, a mission failure will greet you if the alarm is sounded off more than three (or in some cases even one) times. Most of the missions have this alarm feature, but some are alarm free, and they tend to be more fun and exciting than the rest.

The missions that you will be assigned to are interesting and unique, some being real-world locations such as the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Usually you will get objectives as they come. These can range from capturing a technician to assassinating a certain figure. During your time playing you will run in to many cut-scenes and dialogue, similar to the ones found in Max Payne. If you spot two people from a distance, you can eavesdrop on their conversations, which usually tend to be somewhat entertaining. Speaking of conversations, the audio in Splinter Cell is great. The voice acting is as realistic as it gets. Some characters will stutter and others will talk fast and scared. The Russian accents are well done. I'll make special notice for the radio chatter, which is probably one of the best in gaming (Half-life is right up there too). The music is good, but you will realize that there is not much of it, and most of it has the same tone and rhythm. That is one of the things that could have used some improvement.

The visuals in Splinter Cell are up to date and need no special mention. One cool thing you'll quickly see is the movement of Sam when he's moving slowly. You'll see his whole body bob up and down instead of just have his legs moving. The only thing that is somewhat strange is that there is no blood in this game. In any case, the visuals are pretty good for this game, although nowhere near amazing. The levels are well done and there's a decent amount of detail in everything. An impressive detail is that the characters actually blink in game-play. I haven't noticed that in too many games, if any. The best part of this game's visuals is the game's amazing lighting effects. There will be several times that you'll notice this. It's a nice thing the developers did to make the game stand out.

For the most part, the value in Splinter Cell is average. Although it will take gamers only about 10-15 hours to complete this game, some will want to replay it again because of the intriguing and somewhat in-depth story, and also for the improvement of their stealth skills. For many, the first play through will probably come fast because of the intensity of the game. There is a hard mode, but it is not a big difference from the normal difficulty. Unfortunately, there is no reward for completing it on that option. There is also no multiplayer. The game is strictly single player, and a great one at that. There is room for improvement, and I'm sure all the faults will be corrected in the sequel. Try this game out if you like action games, but be warned that this is not the heavy, exaggerated type of action found in most games. I thought this was a great game because it turned away from the cliche style of today's games, presenting it with an intriguing story and an awesome gameplay style. Don't let this title slip away, because you'll be seeing more of Sam Fisher in the future.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/02/04

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