Review by N2x

"This is NOT Happy Days and he is NOT the Fonz."

Well, after a long enough development cycle, the Xbox has finally received Ubi Soft's Metal Gear solid killer, Splinter Cell. Can Sam Fisher beat Solid Snake at his own game? Does stealth infiltration have a new mascot, or did the French just make this game to play a joke on Xbox owners? (They would do that, too, since they're so snooty.)

The first thing that one will notice after popping in Splinter Cell is that it looks pretty flashy. The presentation is downright top-notch, and the cutscenes are pretty well rendered as well. Oh, and the textures are AMAZING. They are the highest of hi-res, and, well, they just have to be seen on a top end plasma TV with an s-video or component connection in order to be fully appreciated. However, the polygons are fairly low and jagged for an Xbox game; definitely not the graphical power of ''X'' that we were being led to believe in various commercials. The lighting as well is great, but it does have some errors more often than not, with shadows being cast wrongly. The graphics, while aesthetically astounding, are no amazing technical feat.

Sound is presented adequately. Nothing really sticks out when writing this review, but it is presented in Dolby Surround, or something to that effect. The sound effects are good, but the voice acting could use some work. Overall, it's hard to say anything bad about the sound in Splinter Cell, but nothing sticks out as groundbreaking or amazing here.

Ah, the gameplay: my favorite category. I bet you're wondering right now (why else would you be reading this?): does Splinter Cell surpass Metal Gear Solid? The answer, frankly, is no. But that is not to say that Splinter Cell does not provide a lot of stuff to the table.

Control take a bit getting used to, but it is as solid as control comes. You have control of Sam and the camera with the left and right analog sticks respectively, as well as jump, crouch, primary and secondary fire with the triggers, and a context sensitive ''interact'' button. What does context sensitive mean? It means it's sensitive to the context!

With these controls Sam can to a bunch of super duper sneaky stuff, like peak around corners and shoot people, crack open doors and shoot people, and do hanging splits and shoot people, all with his silenced pistol (as well as a rifle later in the game). You also have your own meter that tells you just how stealthy you really are, but this aspect seems to cause more harm than good (e.g., your meter shoots up at one point without warning, and you scramble to fix it, only to be spotted). The amount of stealthy moves you can do really adds to the style of the game and is just plain cool, but this is double-edged sword.

The problem with Splinter Cell is that it focuses TOO MUCH on stealth. Ubi Soft tried to take the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid to the next level with a ''more is better'' approach, but ultimately failed because they missed the other things that made MGS such an enjoyable experience. In Splinter Cell, there are no complex storylines or heartfelt and endearing characters, nor is there that much classic action gameplay. There is only stealth in this game, and sneaking around can get pretty boring and repetitive if that's ALL you're going to be doing. More of one this is good, but less of everything else negates it.

Overall, Splinter Cell is the straight-to-video knockoff of the Hollywood blockbuster that is Metal Gear Solid. It ups the ante in the sheer amount of super stealthy stuff that you can do, but it doesn't have the heart where it counts. It's obvious that a lot of effort was put into this game, but unfortunately it was a little rushed to get it out for the holiday shopping season. Here's hoping that Ubi Soft will use the time between this and the release of the PS2, PC and GCN versions to make the necessary tweaks.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 12/09/02, Updated 12/09/02

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