Review by DOA

"Worlds better then Hitman 2, leaps and bounds better then Metal Gear Solid 2, this is Splinter Cell"

Tom Clancy's: Splinter Cell, coming from Ubi Soft I didn't know what to expect. Coming from a company that brought us titles like the legless wonder, Rayman. But putting my ignorance aside for several hours (weeks) to see what actually goes on with National Security Agency (NSA).

Plot wise: You are Sam Fisher. You alone have the fifth freedom. The right to spy, steal, destroy and assassinate, to ensure that American Freedoms are protected. If captured, your government will disavow any knowledge of your existence. You are a Splinter Cell. Now that we know who are our main character. Let's move on. As the title puts it, it's a Tom Clancy based game. Now, we all know Tom Clancy, the paranoid military writer famous for his Jack Ryan character. But this brings us to Georgia in 2004. After the former president is murdered in a car bombing. Enter Konbayn Nikoladze, a multi-billion industrialist who gains power through non-violent means. After some things are discovered that ruin his reputation and make him a very wanted man. Then he declares war on America using cyber terrorism.

Graphic wise, this game, hands down has the best visuals the X-box offers this side of Oddworld and Halo. Since this is a predominate stealth-based game Ubi Soft incorporated the use of lighting. Now this where the game really shines. Or rather, sets the standards for future X-box games to come. The brilliant lighting really sets the tone of the game. Creates the atmosphere and so much more. I really liked the idea of using hand drawn animation rather than motion capture. It allows for a more artistic freedom. The best visuals out of the whole game is when you use night vision with it's grainy feel for when you're in a pitch black local or thermal goggles when you're in the middle of a mine ridden courtyard. But what really bothered me about most of the characters is that they look alike. With the exception of the main character and several other second-tier characters. Another thing that caught my eye was that when you take out an enemy is that their guns stick to their hands. One last thing that kinda irked me was in some levels it was set in a rainy atmosphere, but the rain felt, it felt tacked on. After seeing the rain effects displayed in Metal Gear Solid 2, I figured that Ubi Soft would go one better. The final thing that I caught on was the major lack of collision detection. When you lay a dead or unconscious enemy down near a wall, their heads, legs, arms, etc. go right into the walls. Agh, I'm just nit-picking. All in all this boasts the best visuals for the X-box.

Sounds that go on during the game are some of the best of the best. The voices especially. Sam Fisher is voiced brilliantly by veteran actor, Michael Ironside. The score picks up right in the thick of things which evoke a lot of tension. Especially when you're waiting to pick off an on-coming swarm of enemies. The sounds as you walk across different types of surfaces is very well put together. Makes sneaking around a whole more difficult when you're running to get out of harms way when a bunch of terrorists are in hot pursuit. The only bad thing is that most of the guns sound the same. As does explosions from grenades and land mines. Something that could have easily been fixed. Oh well, nothing is perfect in this day and age.

I love stealth games. In a field that was dominated by Konami and the Metal Gear series. This game came onto the field and damn near leveled the whole thing. But this game is by far different from Metal Gear. Meaning, that this game is all about stealth. Think of it as a game of hide-and-seek. There are literally hundreds of ways you can get by enemies, it's not as open-ended as Grand Theft Auto 3 that does not feel force or scripted. One thing that developers left out was a plentiful supply of ammunition. Some people complained about this. Since it's a stealth game killing would be a last ditch resort. Right? Exactly. Besides sneaking around is half of the fun. The controls are a dream. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 2, where the camera was fixed behind you the whole game, here in Splinter Cell the camera rotates at 360 degrees with the right analog stick, so you can walk forward while looking behind you. The best part is that this system feels incredibly intuitive and natural.

The toys, the toys you get to play with in this game are the best parts. You can use fiber-optic night vision cable to peer under the door for near by enemies. Lock picking. Ah yes, one the most interesting parts of this whole game is picking a lock. It's not as forced and simplified as the one featured in Dead to Rights, here it's a lot more complex and interesting. Then there's these little disposable lock picks for those who are too lazy to pick a lock, which it just blows the lock with a tiny explosion that's totally inaudible. These experimental toys make The Sharper Image look something out a poor man's K-mart flyer.

Replay value has a lot to offer. Going through each level and trying out different stealth tactics and being able to download new levels off of X-box Live will only enhance this incredible game.

Graphics: 10

Hands down the best visuals the X-box has to offer. The best use of lighting of any game to date.

Sound: 9

A brilliant performance by Michael Ironside as the experienced Fisher. The great score and realistic sounds just make the game all that more enjoyable to play. Too bad most of the guns and explosions sound the same.

Gameplay: 10

Hands down the best stealth gameplay to ever grace a console. The experimental weaponry and toys make the game all that engaging when you play.

Replay Value: 10

With multiple ways of going about sneaking around and downloadable levels make this game one of the year's best.

Final Thoughts: Splinter Cell is a great showing. It sets the standard in almost every part. Visually, in gameplay representation, this game has it all. Metal Gear Solid 3 has some high bench marks to break. I just hope they come with a sequel to this sometime in the near future. I loved playing Metal Gear Solid 2, but after playing Splinter Cell. Seeing all the interesting ways to go about this game, it makes playing Metal Gear Solid 2 seem like Ms. Pac Man by comparison. It's just that good.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 01/16/03, Updated 01/21/03

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