Review by Dr. Deezee

"Don't compare this to MGS2:S. It's in a league all in it's own."

Never before have you encountered a game like this. Sure, shadows have always been present in video games... but when before have they become your sanctuary? When do you see a shadow and say, ''Thank you lord, safety at last!''?

Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, the major competition for Splinter Cell, is also billed as a tactical espionage action game. However, it is far, far too unrealistic. Sure, it's a fun game, but it isn't exactly my idea of tactical espionage action. More like just action. Splinter Cell is my idea of tactical espionage action. You have to stalk in the shadows, creep everywhere you go, peek through doors before opening them, disabling lights and hide bodies from patrols and cameras. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, hiding bodies, using Night Vision Goggles, and using Thermal Goggles are all encouraged and, in most cases, necessary for success. Taking out guards silently is also a key factor in success. Enough with the rambling, on to the breakdown...

Graphics: 10/10
Beautiful. The lighting effects are the best seen in any video game, ever, period. They really just can't be described by words. You have to see them for yourself. The character models are all very well done. The enemies sometimes look a little awkward, but this can be forgiven. Particle effects are amazing as well. The Chinese Embassy features great particle effects such as steam rising from the sewer. Weapon design is very nicely done as well. The SC-2K looks very sleek and intimidating. I wouldn't want to be at the other end of that barrel...

Sound: 8/10
The music is lacking, that's for sure. The only music you'll ever hear, pretty much, is small background noise when an enemy soldier is looking for you. However, the sound effects are pulled off quite nicely. The gun sounds are all very realistic, the voices are great for a video game (even the accents sound, at least to my ears, authentic), and punching noises are good as well. The sound the Smoke Grenades make and explosions are all very realistic. Overall, I'm very impressed with the sound effects, and the absence of music is actually a good move for a game of this type.

Gameplay 10/10
Who cares about the beautiful graphics. Who cares about the amazing sound effects. This is where the game is. The gameplay. The gameplay is awe-inspiring. Don't expect to be able to charge though like Rambo and win, and take me seriously this time. I know you've heard this line in other reviews, but this game ACTUALLY forces you to hide in the shadows, to encounter as little enemies as possible and reamain undetected.
While Codec conversations in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance may warn you of the dangers of encounters, you can usually survive unless on the harder difficulties. And, if you meet a guard and knock him out while he was transmitting, you can easily exit the room and avoid a patrol coming. In Splinter Cell, however, encounters usually end up in your death. Even if you only met one guy. It's highly critical that you DO stay in the shadows, that you DO disable lights, and that you DO knock out the guards while they can't see you. It's also critical you hide the bodies so that another patrol or a camera doesn't see them and set off the alarm.
Sticking to the shadows is a very important thing in this game. The whole game was designed for this purpose, essentially. Night Vision Goggles will be on for 80% of the game, and actually prove quite useful. IR goggles will be used, too, and will be effective in spotting guards in dark places, as well as locating exactly where a lightbulb is.
Sticking to the shadows isn't the only thing this game offers, though. It offers a variety of awesome maneuvers, such as repelling, double jumping, using guys as human shields (as in Dead to Rights) and a variety of other things.
The level design is very, very well done. The training level is the only bad one, in my opinion. It gets it's job done but it isn't very fun. However, the next level easily makes up for it. It features going through a burning building and sneaking through a corrupt police prescient, all the way over in Georgia. The next level is even better, sneaking though the Georgian defense ministry. And, you guessed it, the levels just keep getting better and better.
At first the game may be slow, as the only weapon available to you is a pistol. This all changes halfway through the game with the introduction of the SC-2K. This is a super weapon. It can fire either single shots or burst fire, and it features a silencer. It has a sniper scope, and thus can be used as a sniper rifle. It can deploy ''Sticky Cameras'' so that you can scout out the path ahead. It can fire Rubber Air Foil rounds to incapacitate enemies without killing them. It can fire sticky shockers to incapacitate soldiers, and they can be fired in water to incapacitate multiple soldiers. It can launch diversion cameras that whistle to distract guards, and then can deploy knockout gas. Finally, it can fire off smoke grenades that knock out a group of guys. There are other fun gadgets such as a device that can be slipped under doors and observe what's beyond, and lockpicks, and even frag grenades.
Overall, Splinter Cell's gameplay far outperforms Metal Gear Solid 2 in terms of stealth, strategy, and realism. After all, you don't have to fight wizard vampires, harriers, women who can't be hit with bullets, fat men on roller skates, or twenty + giant nuclear equipped walking battle tanks. The surprising thing is, you're gonna die a lot more times in this game than in Metal Gear Solid. Basically, if you want stealth, get this game. If you want action, get Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.

Story 8/10
Ah, Tom Clancy. Without revealing too much, it takes place in the very near future, features cyber terrorists and all sorts of good stuff. You'll enjoy it. If not, you'll enjoy the gameplay.

Replayability 7/10
Well, the replayability isn't that much. Once you know how to get past certain parts, you can breeze through levels without getting seen or hurt at all. Which is fun. Apparently there is an option to download levels on Xbox Live, but being deprived of broadband internet as I am, I can't comment on that feature.

Overall 9.5/10, rounded to 9 for Gamefaqs
This is one of the best games I've played, ever. It actually delivers on what it promises, which is worth checking out in its own right. It's just too bad that Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance will probably overshadow this masterpiece of a game. I say you go out and buy this game as soon as you can. You will not regret it. Ever.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/24/02, Updated 11/24/02

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