Review by Thes1s

"This game fails its own main objective"

Many people will be wondering why I have written a review of this game so late after its release date. The reason is because I have read so many reviews of this over the internet saying how good it is and how it deserves 90%+ and the final straw came when I was talking to someone and Splinter Cell on Xbox got mentioned. I immediately corrected him and I felt the frustration I had with this game rise up within me and experienced a compelling passion to write my review down.

I remember that when this game out the hype was equal, if not greater than the hype that surrounded Halo. This game was supposed to redefine stealth action and be a big leap forward, boasting intense real life situations. I read review after review praising this game to the heavens so it was understandable how so many people went out and bought this game. Many have been unwittingly caught in the hype and failed to see the bigger picture. Like the title of this review says – Splinter Cell fails what it set out to do.

The biggest problem I have with this game is the hugely flawed gameplay. Let’s start with something obvious but has been missed by many. Most action games, and stealth games in particular give you access to a very important item – a long sharp metal object more commonly known as a knife. You’d expect one wouldn’t you? The ability to creep up behind a terrorist and slit his throat but alas, there’s no such capability. The game prides itself on hyperrealism, from the sounds you make, shadows you cast and the in and out movement from shadow to light. Speaking of lights how many people noticed Sam Fisher has 3 bright green lights on his forehead and a fairly large sized light on his back? When he’s in stealth mode moving around in the dark corridors and rooms with guards on constant patrol, surely they’d be expected to notice 4 green lights hovering around and go to investigate. However, they simply ignore it and treat mystically moving lights as a commonplace event. Another major let down within the game is a lack of blood. Starting off with the 9mm pistol isn’t a bad way to go and I understand how there are no 1-hit headshot kills with a silenced 9mm but there would definitely be blood when someone is shot in the head or any other part of their body for example. The blood could then perhaps cause you more trouble because traces of blood on the wall would alert other guards and an alarm might get raised as a consequence, yet once again no such thing happens, making the elimination of these “cream of the crop” guards rather unrealistic. Finally, we move onto Sam Fisher himself. He is presented to you all polished up as NSA’s best agent. Their most elite operative can’t even swim. Alright, so it’s not a big deal, but there are other things too. Sam Fisher is portrayed as your typical hard man who you wouldn’t want to mess with, although a quick analysis of his actions may sway your opinion of that…Sam Fisher grabs people round the neck from the back and when he wants to dispose of them he’s nice enough not to shoot them but chooses to let them go for at least half a second and then hit them on the neck with a 100% knock out rate. In real life the guard would probably move and make a quick action when he’s been released and turn on Sam but I guess these guards just weren’t trained to think. Unlike MGS, Splinter Cell has no good reason why you can’t pick up enemy weapons. Sam Fisher’s SC-20K is a horrendous weapon because the bullets are weak and you’re given an assortment of useless gadgets which could be more useful if you were given 10 sticky shockers rather than 5 sticky shockers and 5 airfoils (airfoils are not as good). The enemies start to carry decent weaponry and a change from the SC-20K to the AK47 would’ve been a nice touch. Sometimes, you just need to kill, especially when it is easier than creeping around. Situations like: get your timing right and sneak round these 2 guards OR if you could pick up the AK47 lying on the ground you could gun both down in no time at all. Those sorts of situations leave you frustrated at how simple one method can be achieved but instead you’re forced into carrying out a method, which is, far more tedious and time consuming. Some parts in the game can become challenging and demand care from the player, this wouldn’t be too bad if you could save at any point or had frequent checkpoints. On the other hand, you are given a checkpoint save after a few difficult parts and when you do one but mess up the other…back you go to try the first part again. This can seriously raise blood pressure so don’t forget that shouting at the TV is acceptable. When all these flaws are taken into account, to complete each mission when you’re so handicapped can be quite satisfying so I guess there is some good coming out of a mediocre development effort.

The graphics aren’t too bad and better than some games. The night vision and heat sensor are useful although why you aren’t kitted out with heat vision and the SC-20K from the out start is a puzzle since there’s nothing physically disabling you from having those things and there is no-one telling you why you don’t have it. A problem on the Xbox that should be fixed for the PC port is that when you knock guards out and drop their body against a wall ‘the right way up’ their head will go through the wall and they can never be revived. Need a situation where that’s an advantage? Other guards will put their weapons down to revive an ally but then their friend can never be helped back up. Confusing? Unrealistic? Glitched? Without a doubt. Apart from that complaint there isn’t much more to say, the shadows look nice and the lighting isn’t a shady piece of work (no joke intended there).

Sound is important within the world of Splinter Cell and this is well done in my opinion. There is some quite tense music when you’ve alerted guards to your presence and you’re running from enemy fire and effects like dropping bottles and gunfire is quite realistic. Well, more than the gameplay.

The storyline is a good aspect. Not totally gripping or immersive but one that could happen in real life (or similar to a degree), given the trigger of events in Splinter Cell. The way the storyline is presented isn’t hugely original but it is a change from the more clichéd debriefings that you see in other games.

To top this off, there is no multiplayer for the game and when you’ve played through once with all the annoyances and flaws, there is no urge for a replay. This game can be completed in about 15 hours or less, but of course each gamer has a different proficiency when it comes to stealth and 15 hours is just an estimate.

Last words: Splinter Cell has many flaws in the gameplay, which is a real shame because if Ubisoft put in more effort and thought about those aspects and addressed them then Splinter Cell really could have lived up to it’s hype. Instead, it falls and crashes with an impact like that of a 1km radius asteroid hitting the earth. Splinter Cell can be very pleasing but very (and mostly) frustrating for all the wrong reasons. You have been warned.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 03/16/04, Updated 03/16/04

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