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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox) artwork

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (Xbox) review


"Splinter Cell is one of the more hyped and anticipated games I've seen lately. People said it was going to be better than Metal Gear. People said it was going to bring an entirely new gaming experience. People said it was going to be the best Xbox game to date. The front of the box even says ''stealth action redefined''. Were they right? Read on. "



Splinter Cell is one of the more hyped and anticipated games I've seen lately. People said it was going to be better than Metal Gear. People said it was going to bring an entirely new gaming experience. People said it was going to be the best Xbox game to date. The front of the box even says ''stealth action redefined''. Were they right? Read on.

You are Sam Fisher, a middle aged legend in the area of covert intelligence gathering. You haven't been out in the field for quite some time. Sound familiar? One day you're called out of retirement to investigate the disappearance of two CIA operatives in Georgia (it's a country near Russia). Seems simple enough, but naturally you'll stumble upon someone's plot for world domination. The story is like that of a stereotypical Tom Clancy novel. Communists are trying to take over the world, and you must stop them. The story wasn't written by Mr. Clancy himself, but he did ''consult'' on the story. Whatever that means.

GRAPHICS (9/10) This being a stealth-oriented game, lighting is very important. A shadow can be the difference between life and death. Knowing that, the makers of Splinter Cell focused alot of the Xbox's power into this area. The results are marvelous, breathtaking at times. You'll definitely find yourself pausing at times going ''Whoa'' and just admiring the lighting. Every light acts like it would in reality, every object has a PERFECT shadow. When Sam walks behind a grating or an ornate metal gate, the shadows are cast crisply and perfectly onto his body and the surrounding area. In the first stage there's a street light with some moths flying around it- you can see their shadows accurately rendered on the ground and on Sam's face. I can safely say that you won't see lighting this good anywhere else. Sam's two extra-vision modes (night vision and thermal vision) are amazing. The night vision has a crazy blur effect going on- the farther away something is the blurrier it is. You've got to see it in motion to appreciate it.

The levels through which Sam must creep are large and well detailed. The textures are pretty much flawless. There aren't really any what you would call ''pretty environments''. Sam spends all of his time sneaking through embassies, sewers, oil rigs, etc., but they all look perfect, and give the gamea sort of gritty, modern feel.

There are a few small things that keep me from giving this game a perfect 10 in the graphics department.
1. The characters (other than Sam, who looks and moves like a real person) could have been done a bit better. They work, but don't look as good as they could have.
2. The cutscenes interspersed throughout the game are complete trash. I know, cutscenes don't matter too much, but Splinter Cells' are just flat out horrible.
3. The collision detection in relation to dead or knocked out bodies is non existant. If you drop a dead guy next a door half of his body will go through the door. They didn't even bother with it. Dead bodies go through EVERYTHING. Having body-collision-detection like in Hitman 2 would've been a big improvement.


GAMEPLAY(7.5/10) I'll start with the bad news. The A.I. is slightly flawed. When you're spotted by the guards, you can just run and hide (if you can manage to find a suitable hiding place) and they'll forget about you after a minute or so. This same problem was present in Metal Gear. Some highly paid mercenaries protecting the dude who's about to take over the world wouldn't just give up after seeing a ninja dashing through their highly guarded compound. I guess game developers still haven't come up with a way to realistically deal with that situation. However, this won't happen to you TOO often because most of the time when a guard spots you, you'll be very close to him and he'll either shoot you down right away or at least give a pretty good chase. At least they're rather perseverent chasers and won't give up on you when you cross a certain invisible line. Sometimes during a firefight guards will just charge at you with guns blazing instead of staying in cover and doing something intelligent like tossing a grenade. Granted, sometimes they WILL stay behind cover and toss that grenade, but just as often they won't. Their behavior isn't consistent.

In one of the earlier levels I came upon an aggravating situation. I had killed every single person and disabled every single camera in a building. When I went to exit the building an alarm sounded along with the warning ''A body has been discovered.''. How the hell did that happen, I wondered. There was nobody alive to DISCOVER the bodies. Must've been a cockroach. I had to drag all the bodies up 3 flights of stairs to an *especially* darkened room before it would let me leave. Annoying. There is absolutely no excuse for something like this in a stealth game.

Another thing that bothered me a bit was Sam's aiming capability. Whenever he's in motion, his accuracy is way off. If you're just tip-toe-ing along it's fine, but if walking or running, killing a guy quickly is nearly impossible. Your bullets fly all around the guy. Also if you fire a series of bullets in rapid succession, your aim goes to hell. I realize why the developers did this- they want you to play STEALTHY! If you DO have to kill somebody (which isn't encouraged) they want you to be crouched in a shadow, and they want you to take one well aimed shot at his head. I see their point, but come on fellas, this guy is supposed to be a trained assassin- he should be able to take accurate shots while walking, running, or doing cartwheels.

So that's all the bad. Now for the good. Splinter Cell isn't really based around killing- in a few of the missions you're not allowed to kill at all, and often killing people causes a ruccus, which will get you killed. That being the case, there are only 2 guns in the game. That's right, TWO GUNS! You've got a silenced pistol and an experimental assault rifle, that's it. It may seem like a measely number to some people, but it's sufficient. The emphasis in Splinter Cell is more on stealth than killing- this is where the gadgets come in. (Note: Most of the gadgets are fired from Sam's multi-purpose assault rifle). There's the Ring Airfoil Projectile and Sticky Shocker (whose purposes are to incapacitate an opponent without killing him- killing is bad). There's the Sticky Cam, which is a sticky remote control camera shot from Sam's rifle that will allow him to observe areas before he enters them. There's a Gas Grenade that knocks out guards. Wall Mines blow people up (the only really un-stealthy weapon in the game). There's the Diversion Cam, which is fired from Sam's rifle, sticks to a wall and makes noise. When a guard approaches it you press the Y button and a cloud of knockout gas is released. There's the optical cable, which you can slide under doors to see into a room before you enter. Lockpick for picking locks. Last but not least is Sam's Headset, which gives you the options of either Night Vision or Thermal Vision, which are very useful. You enter a room with 2 guys in it. You can quickly shoot out the lights and flip on your Night Vision. While they blunder around in the darkness, you can make your escape, or knock them out, whatever.

Sam is also in pretty good shape for an old guy. He can move in a standing or crouching position, at various speeds in either position depending on how much you press on the thumbstick. The optimal creeping position is crouched, moving very slowly. You'll be completely silent, and therefor invisible. He can climb pipes, hang from pipes, move hand over hand on pipes, shoot his guns from pipes, and drop on people and knock them out, from pipes. He loves his pipes. He can go back-to-the wall ala Solid Snake, and shoot around corners while in this position. He can roll around. One of the cooler moves in the game is the ability to rappel down walls. This is a badass ninja ability if I've ever seen one. While rappeling, you can jump into the wall you're on and smash through a window to enter a room. You can also shoot your weapons. Imagine this: rappeling down the outside of an office building on a dark night. You come to a lit office, there are two guys with AK's inside. You pull out your silenced pistol, shoot them both in the head (through the window) then make your entry. Good espionage ninja action there. Is there a ledge slightly out of your reach? Fisher can jump towards one wall and kick off of it, propelling himself just high enough to grab that ledge. Then there's the more offensive minded moves- you can pistol whip people, elbow people to knock them out, grab people to use as human shields, or grab people and interrogate them. The sheer amount of stuff you can do is pretty nice, definitely one of the high points of the game.

One more thing that might be considered a downside to some is the difficulty level. If you're not patient, Splinter Cell might really piss you off. There were certain places that I had to play about 12 times before I could get past them. Maybe I just suck, I don't know, but the game is hard. I've looked at a few other reviews, and people seem to agree with me. There are parts that you will have to try many, many times. Alot of the retries result from not considering every aspect of your current situation. If you really take your time, analyze the situation, concentrate and think like a spy you'll make it through. This could be too much for some people, but I think it's how real stealth games should be.

Another thing I liked was the limit on number of times you can be spotted. Metal Gear seemed a bit out of control in this aspect, where you could be spotted 10 times in one area, hide each time, and the guards would just act like nothing was wrong. In some levels of Splinter Cell, you're not allowed to be spotted once. This isn't simply an arbitrary limitation, there's a reason behind it. Example: If an American ninja commando is spotted inside the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, WW3 will probably break out. Most of the levels have a limit of 3 or 4 alarms- this makes sense to me. If you make too much of a ruccus they'll pull you out. They really want you to be stealthy. However, in one or two levels the alarm limit thing is ridiculous. There are situations when the bad guy knows you're coming to assassinate him, he's trying to make his escape, and he's alerted his guards that there's an intruder in the compound. In other words, your element of suprise is blown. Why have a limit on how many times you can be spotted in that scenario? You should just be able to plow your way through to the head honcho and kill him.


SOUND (9/10) Sound is a critical part of any stealth game, and Splinter Cell is solid in this area. Different surfaces make different noises when shot. Sam makes a different amount of noise depending on how fast he's moving. You hear enemies walking or talking around the corner.

The voice acting is a mixed bag. Sam is voiced by some really badass guy, he actually sounds like he could be a government assassin. The voices of the Russian and Chinese guys aren't too great to listen to, they kinda sound like they were done by an american guy doing a corny Russian/Chinese impersonation, but it's tolerable.

The ambient music of Splinter Cell is dark and low. You won't find yourself going ''Wow, this music is great!'' or anything, but it sets the tone of the game. In typical stealth game fashion, when you're spotted some fast tense music will come on. If you manage to evade the enemies for a while, eventually they'll go back to their patrols and the music will stop. This seems a bit unfair - I'd like it to be something more like this...You get spotted, there's a loud noise of surprise. No music. You run away and hide for a while, then leave your hiding place thinking you're safe, only to round a corner to meet up with two guys with machine guns pointed at you, and you die. The music lets you know when it's safe to leave your hiding place- that's dumb, and it's a feature of all stealth games.


OVERALL (8.5/10) In conclusion, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is an audio/visual masterpiece that makes good use of the power of the Xbox, but is somewhat hampered by a couple of small but annoying gameplay issues. Is it the best Xbox game? Is it ''stealth action redefined''? Is it better than Metal Gear? No, Not Really, and Maybe. A more suitable title would've been ''stealth action improved''. The focus really IS on stealth. It's literally impossible to just kill everybody and move on. If you simply try blunder your way through the levels you'll find yourself playing them over, and over, and over, and over again. You've got to be aware of your surroundings and what you're doing at all times- how much light is in the area, how fast you're moving, what sort of surface you're moving on, how many guards are in the room in you're right now, and how many guards are in the NEXT room. Splinter Cell is all about stealth, sometimes even to the point where it gets annoying and you just want to kill everybody and run through.

Is it actually BETTER than the famed Metal Gear? It's certainly longer and more difficult. Also it's more of a pure stealth game. You'll find yourself going to insane lengths to not be seen by that guard, where as in Metal Gear you could just shoot him in the face and run past. I suppose it all comes down to taste. Do you like your stealth action hardcore, or medium? Do you like a darker, more gritty setting or a bright nicer-looking one? Do you like your storylines modern and realistic or more fantastic and anime-esque? Do you prefer to kill Communists or Vampires? The choice is yours.

Down at the bottom of the startup screen is the option ''Download Levels''. Someday when I have Xbox Live I'll be able to download new levels of Splinter Cell to play; that's pretty damn cool.
I look forward to Splinter Cell 2. If they iron out the few problems I've mentioned, Splinter Cell will be the premiere stealth-action game franchise.



Rating: 8.5/10

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Community review by goatx3 (November 26, 2002)

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