Release Date: April 8, 2003
In UbiSoft's third person shooter "Splinter Cell," you are Sam Fisher, part of the elite Third Echelon team which has just lost contact with two of their agents and fear the worst. Having excelled in covert ops, you are the only one capable of completing these missions and are the country's last hope. Equipped with the finest gear known to man (night vision goggles, lock pick, optical cable, binoculars, SC pistol, etc.), stealth is the key to your survival. If you are ever caught, you are on your own, and there will be no government intervention. War will be avoided if you accomplish the mission, and if you fail, everything goes to hell. Talk about pressure.
You won't get very far in your mission if you do not use your environment to your advantage. The surroundings are your best friend, and the naked eye might prove to be your most powerful weapon. The gameplay might take some adjustment because instead of charging headfirst into danger, you must stealthily wait in the shadows and examine the conditions in order to figure out how to bypass the upcoming enemy or obstacle. With the ability to rotate the camera a full 360 degrees, you must carefully search for objects with which you can interact, for they are not always easy to spot since most of the missions occur at night. The illumination is sparse and provided by a few light fixtures. Depending on the type of light fixture, you might be able to shatter the light bulb to provide more shadows among which you can hide. When moving around in the streets and buildings, make sure to use these spots wisely. You will also need to depend on your athletic prowess in order to jump, double jump, climb, duck, wall repeal, and even rope slide to advance onto the next section.
The graphics are just awesome because the game's background, surroundings, and character motions are magnificently rendered, extremeley detailed and seem pretty realistic. The game also has some nice cut scenes that introduce the situation and current events to the player. There are two types of cut scenes: footage from the FNW news channel broadcast or Sam Fisher's current operations. These cut scenes follow with the storyline and are fun to watch the first time around. The only downside to the gaming graphics is that the camera angles get awkward at certain locations. For example, if you hide underneath a cloth, you will not be able to see what’s going on because the cloth is blocking the entire screen. This only occurs in one mission, however, and I have never encountered a problem in the others.
Not only are the game's graphics good, but the sound is also excellent. With Splinter Cell, the music fits the game perfectly. Generally, it's a subtle ambient tune that isn't really noticeable, but when the enemy “gets startled,” the sound immediately changes. Depending on the mission, that will either entail dogs barking or some fast-paced music to convey a sense of danger. The game also includes dialogue, which allows you to overhear "enemy" conversations as well as carry on conversations with your Third Echelon crew. The only way to truly experience the superb graphics and sound is to actually play the game.
The gameplay is just amazing, and you must at all times pay attention to your Stealth Meter. This indicator shows how “visible”you are to the enemy, depending on lighting situations as well as sound and movement. The farther you are to the left of the Stealth Meter, the less visible you are. In training, you will truly understand the meaning of stealth. If you are not careful and go past the acceptable visibility range, the enemy will go on alert and try to find the person or object they believe they see or hear in the shadows. Once the alert has been sounded, the enemy units become more cautious and walk around with their weapons drawn. Once you understand how to move around quietly, you are prepared for the missions.
There are a total of 10 missions. The difficulty of each mission varies, depending on the objectives as well as total amount of alerts allowed. Your first mission is the training mission, where you must learn a total of 25 different actions, including: camera angles, which are controlled by the right analog stick; grabbing onto a ledge; climbing a ladder; using a zip line; climbing a vertical beam; crouching to pass certain areas; and one random skill which I never used, the split jump. The split jump is where Fisher is in a secluded alley or hallway, and he braces himself in a split position and fires on unsuspecting enemies who walk under him. You will also learn hand-over-hand climbing, climbing a fence or lattice, putting Sam’s back to the wall, double jumping, sneaking through an area without being noticed, unlocking doors, grabbing an enemy, opening keypad locks, and using retinal scanners. If you ever forget how to perform any of the actions, you can press the select button, which will open your OPSAT to observe the new information attained. Sam is equipped with a suit containing photocells. During the stealth operations you will be required to shoot out lights or cameras. The only way to do this is with the gun so you’ll learn about firing the pistol. If you cannot take out the lights and cameras, you must pass by them stealthily, using the shadows to your advantage. When you take out the lights, you will then be required to use night vision goggles to observe the path. You will also learn the importance of hiding the enemy’s body. After you have passed these objectives, you are ready for almost any mission.
The other nine missions are where the fun starts. The missions would be the police station where the objective is to locate the two missing CIA agents, Blaustein and Madison. The intro video informs you of what exactly occurred to the two agents. While spying on Georgians, they stumbled upon a huge army and were captured. You then head on over to the Defense Ministry based on your leads from the previous mission to discover President Nikoladze’s secret. After retrieving the data, your partners found a lead to an Oil Refinery where the they have been relaying their communication data. You are required to retrieve the information which is being held by the technician, who you must follow. This mission probably uses the most amount interaction with the environment. We then find that info is coming from none other then the CIA HQ. We must find the person leaking information. I could go on forever, but I won't reveal any more mission details so you can explore the rest of the game by yourself.
One warning that you should always keep in mind is that some of these missions are all based on timing. If you missed your opportunity, you may not know it and I would suggest restarting the mission. One such mission is the retrieval of data in the Chinese Embassy. If you do not kill the guards who are destroying the data fast enough, you cannot advance in the game. As always, remember to pay attention to your OPSTAT, for there will always be new objectives.
The items in the missions differ, depending on what is necessary to pass the level. The complete list of items that one can have are: med kit, flares, optical cable, camera jammer, laser mic, 5.72 mm pistol, lock pick, SC-20k, smoke grenade, diversion camera, ring airfoil round, sticky shocker, and sticky camera. Once you get the game, you will understand what each of these items does. I’ll give you a little briefing about the SC-20k, which is the strongest gun you can have in the game. Not only can you fire single shots, but it can also go semi-automatic, which is very helpful when there are a bunch of enemy units around. Not only can it do that, but it can also become the sniping rifle by hitting the R3 button. It also has a secondary fire slot to fire the following items: smoke grenade, diversion camera, ring airfoil round, stick shocker, and sticky camera. These are very helpful in distracting the enemy or looking forward. Use these items wisely, since you only get a limited amount of these secondary fire items. Do not go on a crazy shooting spree in this game, as bullets are scarce. Everything is explained in the manual so make sure you read it carefully! One last thing -- when in sniping mode, remember to use the L1 button to stabilize your gun. Unfortunately, I found out about this little tidbit after I beat the game.
There are only a few save spots, depending on the mission. They place these save points at very crucial locations or after you have passed a crazily impossible sequence. Make sure to take advantage of it and save. If you wonder why there are so little save points, it’s probably because they also have checkpoints. These checkpoints are your respawning point if you cannot reach a save point. A few downsides to this convention: if you cannot beat the section and decided to quit, you will have to revert back to your previous save point (which can be quite far back), and you may sometimes accidentally miss your objective and hit the next checkpoint. Make sure you pay attention to your objectives as well as your crew members' words because they give you crucial information in order to complete the objective.
The game is so well designed that I will definitely recommend this game to anyone out there. I have never played the Xbox version so I cannot give a detailed comparison of the two, but UbiSoft has surely outdone themselves this time. Not only are the sound and video great, but the game play is awesome as well. With only a few flaws, the game has got to be one of my favorites. This game is definitely worth the retail price tag.
Score : 9.6 / 10
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