Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

Review

posted 3/15/2003 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
Gameplay will no doubt draw some comparisons to Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 2 and rightfully so. The game draws its inspiration from that and another well. The well in question is Eidos’ excellent stealth-based game, Thief, an amazing title that forced the gamer to rely on stealth and wits as opposed to brawn and power. You’ll have a stealth meter to let you know how visible you are to your enemies. Of course your goal will be to keep yourself as concealed as possible. When the game begins you’ll be treated to a tutorial that will familiarize you with the game.

There are quite a number of moves available to you. Fisher seems to be a mesh of Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme (pre straight to video days) and Arnold Schwarzenegger except that he speaks much better English. He can do the splits across two objects and rain fire upon his enemies, he can sneak up behind his foes and deliver a swift blow to the head, he can run towards walls and kick off of them in the midst of a jump. He can even take an unsuspecting terrorist hostage and use him as a human shield if need be. Some of the moves are very impractical and seem to be included to help bulk up the cool-ness factor and in this respect, the designers have succeeded.

Of course he’ll also have the bulk of the usual spy maneuvers. He can peak around corners, lean against walls and of course, perform forward somersaults for no apparent reason (because what movie would be complete without it right?). The mouse wheel dictates how fast he is moving by setting the speed at which you would like Sam to move, much like an accelerator on a car. In another excellent maneuver, he can actually kick his way through windows. It’s an amazing move that truly has to be seen to be believed. What’s great about Splinter Cell is that it successfully engulfs you in the spy atmosphere. As you progress through the game you’ll really get the feeling that every single move you make can have an impact on the balance of the world. You’ll feel that little adrenalin rush hit you every time that a guard passes by your hopefully competent hiding spot. This game provides the type of rush that comes with being nervous and on edge; my palms were actually quite sweaty when I finally was able to put this game down.

Speaking of having to be seen to be believed, Splinter Cell is an amazing visual treat. Everything (with the exception of those comparatively ugly news clips) has been crafted and rendered with exquisite results. Thanks to some superb lighting effects, everything emits a very realistic feeling that is unparalleled by most of the competition. There are also some neat shadow tricks thrown in as well. Shadows will warp on and around people and objects so if you’re not careful, your shadow just might peer through a slightly open window. On the PC the game looks incredibly great and holds up to the Xbox version very well. Since the PC has many more video options to turn on or off, you can adjust the visuals as you see fit. There are a few problems with some of the texture work and collision detection but overall, this is one beautiful game.

What isn’t so pretty is the game’s general structure. The missions are extremely linear and it really hurts the gameplay quite a bit, not to mention the replay value. Much like the enemies that you’re pitted against, the game is very communistic in nature. Don’t expect to have the freedom to go on a killing spree because it’s just not in the cards. You’re given a very strict agenda and if you deviate from it by say, killing a certain amount of guards, the alarm will magically sound and you have failed. I understand the need to impose some sense of reality in the atmosphere but it really detracts from the gameplay quite a bit. I’m not a big fan of artificial limitations, especially when they’re imposed to keep the gamer on a very specific track. You’ll also notice a lot of scripting in the game, far too much for my tastes. Sometimes enemies won’t go through their sequences until you’ve activated a specific trigger on the level. Most of the time you’ll have to step across a specific plane in order to get the next sequence of guards to go through their paces. This can be quite frustrating, especially when you peer around a corner and begin to wonder when that damn guard will move so that you can get along with the mission. Of course he’ll begin his movements after you step over a very specific piece of the environment.
Page 2 of 3