Product Type: Ubisoft Xbox games
Newest Review: ... Sounds tough! The game itself is split up into different multiple missions. In each of these missions there are objectives that mu... more
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox)
Member Name: mrfunkyman
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox)
Date: 10/02/03, updated on 01/04/05 (662 review reads)
Advantages: Gameplay, Graphics, Sound
Disadvantages: Gameplay, Controls
This is a somewhat difficult review to write - Splinter Cell (SC) has taken me through moments of pure gaming heaven, and of deepest joypad-smashing hell.
Possibly conceived by Ubi Soft as an answer to Metal Gear Solid, SC is set in the Tom Clancey universe. This has a number of implications - firstly, the engine shares a number of traits with former Clancey titles such as Rainbow Six (ie. twitchy controls and faux-realistic physics). Secondly, the plot is penned by Clancey himself - although, as a basic cautionary tale of nuclear paranoia and sinister middle-eastern alliances, he could have knocked it up in twenty minutes on the back of a cocktail napkin. However unsophisticated, the storyline is fairly effective - surely due, in part, to its relevance to current events, but also to the excellent mock-CNN newsflashes which pop up between stages.
Visually, SC is an absolute treat. Special mention must go to the wonderful lighting effects throughout, which even manage to lend an 'Ooh!' factor to the mind-numbingly tedious training level at the outset. The orange haze of sunset filtering into the dusty warehouse where the game begins is the first of many atmospheric touches you'll encounter. Realistic shadows, gorgeous flames and explosions, and jaw-dropping image filters for night and thermal vision all contribute to a sumptuous and immersive gameworld.
Not forgetting the sound, of course, which also does its bit. Music (sparse and broody), voice acting and weapons fire are each acceptable, but the subtle spot effects really shine - the rustle of clothing, the sound of an empty shell dropping to the floor, and the sickening crunch of debris underfoot as you creep towards an unsuspecting enemy.
Crucially, these elements are more than just eye (and ear) candy - sound and vision form the basis of the gameplay. You'll spend much of your time ensuring that the enemy cannot see or hear you, whilst you can see them - p
robably in order to neatly lodge a bullet between their ears. It's essential to consider how much sound you make while walking, and how to cover yourself in shadow. Whether this means sneaking by whilst the enemy's back is turned, or resorting to taking out light bulbs with your silenced 9mm, is up to you. And in most of these situations, either solution will work to some extent - it's up to you to choose the safest or most efficient solution. This 'sandbox' approach to level design extends to other elements of the game - either catch that guard in a chokehold and pull him into a dark corner to 'dispose' of him, or just try your hand at sidling by (even if that means missing out on some essential data held in his satchel). Alternatively, why not try an all out fire fight?
If only such noble principles applied to your routes and goals. Your method of traversing a level may be your own choice, the path you take is certainly not. Progression is often a case of finding the correct 'type' of door which allows you to pass. This rigid A to B framework shatters the illusion of a living, breathing environment, one which the developers have obviously strived very hard to create in other ways.
And niggles dog the gameplay from start to finish. Intense combat is nigh impossible due to the precision controls. Errant enemy AI can promote a 'kill all and move on' approach, undermining the multiple solutions offered. The user-controlled camera often becomes oddly restrictive. And the 'checkpoint' based save system is simply inappropriate - you'll find yourself sitting through the same cutscenes repeatedly (reciting them word-for-word) to reach difficult sections.
It would be easy to take these flaws with a pinch of salt, however its not the case. The game can and will be a frustrating experience, and depending on your nature those moments make finishing a level 10 time better than before. It would
be easy to draw comparison's with Metal Gear: Solid, however, for me Splinter Cell is a better game, more fuild, realistic and enjoyable.