Sunday, August 23

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Review

I played on: Xbox
I paid: £1.50
Available on: Xbox, PS3, PC 
Notes: There exist three versions of the original Splinter Cell, Version 1 on the Xbox, PS3 and PC and Version 2 on the Gamecube and PS2, and lastly the Gameboy Version. This review is for Version 1 only.

Splinter Cell came out in late 2002 and aimed to challenge the legendry Metal Gear and Hitman series as king of the stealth action genre. To do this Ubisoft offered players a new way to sneak around threats than both its competitors. Metal Gear Solid had players using the environment to hide behind and sneak around patrolling guards. Hitman used social stealth and the idea of exploiting disguises to hide in plain sight just walking straight past unaware guards. Splinter Cell would offer players state of the art lighting effects and interactive environments allowing them to vanish into the shadows. Honestly, this era of stealth gaming was amazing! Instead of copying one another, each series tried a different approach leading to considerable variety and quality content. With both the Metal Gear and Splinter Cell series seemingly gone for good this golden age of the stealth genre is truly over. Let’s look back fondly on one of the best with Splinter Cell…

You play as Sam Fisher, a spy for the newly formed branch of the NSA known as Third Echelon. What starts as a simple mission to discover the fates of two missing CIA agents quickly leads to conflict with the Asian country of Georgia. Instead of missiles or nuclear weapons, this war is fought via information terrorism. Large scale cyber attacks are launched against the US military and it’s up to Third Echelon and Sam to prevent this conflict from boiling over to a full-scale world war. The military politics of this story were very interesting but what helped keep it grounded was Sam himself. As an ex-navy seal, Sam is jaded about both his work and the world around him. He’s aware that the acts and nature of his work aren’t black and white. It’s his relationship with his daughter, Sarah, that keeps him connected to things. Even though it’s never directly stated you can tell Sam does the violent and morally grey things he does to keep her safe.

I’m afraid I must make a confession here, until playing it for this review I’d never played Splinter Cell. In fact, I’d only ever played Chaos Theory. Because of this, I was expecting the first game to be a massive downgrade in terms of gameplay but for the most part, I’m happy to say I was wrong. Splinter Cell really excels at its ninja style of stealth gameplay. The aim of the game is to stay hidden in pitch-black darkness. To help in this you have a meter on your HUD that lets you know how hidden you are. This as well as the impressive lighting effects that hold up and still impress me in 2020 make this stealth possible. Most of the places you're sneaking into will be lit up like a Christmas tree so you will need to shoot out lights rather regularly. If you’re lucky then you’ll be able to save some ammunition and just switch the lights off instead. Despite which tactic you use guards will notice and react to each disturbance. If you’re smart you can use this to your advantage by waiting by the broken light or switch to ambush them. To take out guards you can simply shoot them with your pistol or custom rifle, or you can bash them in the back of the head for a knockout. One of my favorite moves through is to grab them from behind and then drag them into the shadows to be knocked out.

This wouldn’t be a spy thriller unless you also had some cool tech and gadgets to play with. Of course, you have Sam’s iconic multi-vision goggles that allow you to see in the dark with night vision or easily pick out threats with the heat vision. Then you have the number of cool gadgets Sam can fire from his rifle such as the sticky cam, sticky shocker, tinfoil ring airfoil round, and so on. These mostly provide more ways for you to observe or take out your prey nonlethally.

While Splinter Cell is a master of stealth and tension it fails when it tries to be something it’s not and that’s sadly too often. Parts of the game will try to be a full out shooter with Sam having to defend an area, take out waves of attackers, or just traverse a literal minefield. These sections are what holds the game back from being a masterpiece. Simply put, the game is made to be played slowly. The controls and movement style Sam use are made to silently stalk prey through the shadows or quietly line up that headshot from a dark corner. When you have to run and gun you just feel much slower to react than your aggressors which creates some incredibly frustrating sections.

In short, when Splinter Cell is playing to its strengths it’s a damn near masterpiece but all too often it falls to its flaws. If you’re a fan of stealth games or just Tom Clancy’s style of a political thriller then it’s certainly worth a playthrough. Even today the graphics, story, and stealth gameplay all hold up wonderfully. You’ll just have to stick to it and push through those moments of action that drag the experience down.

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10

No comments:

Post a Comment