Release Date: February 10, 2004
Over the years, the meaning of these two words, and the expectations that they're raised, have changed significantly. Back in the 16-bit days, "arcade-perfect" meant that the game sprites sort of looked like the ones we saw in the arcade version, and the MIDI music might have sounded like the thumping tunes of the arcade if we tilted our ears (and our minds) a certain way. Back then, people were happy with this, because it was all that was feasible. If they wanted a true arcade fix, they would (surprise!) go to the arcade and play the real thing.
With the advent of the 32-bit machine and beyond, gamers were finally able to experience home versions that did their arcade counterparts justice (barring some load times). Once this happened, such adaptations became expected, and standard fare. There were still some arcade machines too powerful for whatever crop of home systems were out at the time, but as consoles got more advanced, the gap narrowed, and the need to go to the arcades to relive the same experience dwindled.
Still, what about arcade ports where mere duplication of the native machine's graphics and sounds are only a part of the equation? What about those games where capturing the arcade experience goes beyond simple looks? A great deal of arcade games are based around a gimmick of some kind-shooting, dodging, driving, or even dancing. If one wants to bring the experiences from these to the home, some special accommodations usually need to be made.
("…and that, little Timmy, is where peripherals come from.")
Most sit-down racers at the arcade suffer, for example-only the wealthy could ever hope to afford a Cruisin' or Daytona USA machine, and there is no economically-sound home equivalent. This is where home steering wheels come into the picture, though they're usually just a patchwork substitute. (Good luck finding a set of pedals, for example.) Fighting gamers have it comparatively easy. Six-to-eight-button joystick setups are still very much in demand for consoles, though finding one that has a precise stick can sometimes be a challenge.
Gun games fare well also; light guns have been around for years, and they're easy to make, distribute and take home for a relatively low cost. Still, some of today's arcade light gun machines have extra gimmicks to them--Time Crisis for example-that require compromises. These usually come in the form of extra buttons (and perhaps a directional pad or two) added to the light gun unit so that a button can be assigned to duck or throw grenades. It's a good solution, but still, for the absolute purist, it's just not the same.
Which brings us to today's subject: Silent Scope Complete for the XBox. This collection of games and its advertised Pelican-manufactured peripheral (sold separately; insert rolling of eyes here), the Silent Scope Light Rifle, aim to change all that. One purchasable package gives you the entire Silent Scope trilogy on a single disc, and then some. The other gives you a large green sniper rifle peripheral, complete with scope, head-tilting sensors, kickback simulation, shotgun pump-action, a directional pad, most of the XBox's buttons, and compatibility with the XBox's other light gun games.
Okay, so there aren't exactly a multitude of those to speak of, but it's a nice gesture.
These games, in the arcade, had a large mock sniper rifle as its main control. A player moved the sniper rifle around, and once it was close to the enemy, they could look inside of its scope and automatically see a magnified view. It was quite ingenious, actually. Silent Scope Complete aims to duplicate this experience as best it can; you can still look through this gun's scope, though the magnified view appears on your actual screen except through said scope. Alternatively, one can also play this game with the controller and an on-screen sight, Operation Wolf -style (hoo boy, I just love how I end up dating myself with every review I write).
This bold concept almost works. It's a shame, too-one can almost feel the love that went into making this whole deal, and for a while, one will want to work with it. Sadly, as it stands, it's just a little too flawed for me to tell the public at large to rush out and buy it. It's not hard to get tired of the shortcomings of either control option, though the games are very much playable. Just be prepared to take some lumps.
I'll get the aesthetics out of the way first. The disc contains "arcade-perfect" versions of the Silent Scope series, including a "new" game, Silent Scope EX, which contains an all-new selection of sniping scenarios, and the loosest story in the series since the original game. No facelifts have been given to the graphics. It's one heck of a trip to boot up the first game and instantly be transported to the Dreamcast days, let me tell you. As you get into the sequels, the graphics get better, but everything is still incredibly dated as a whole. It never looks any better than your late-generation Dreamcast game, people. Luckily, it's not so much a bad thing as it is just very noticeable.
The soundtrack is also the same, though luckily it holds up much better than the graphics do. I find, however, that it's hard for me to say anything about it. There isn't much of a theme to it--it's all just erratic action-packed theme songs from start to end. None of it particularly pounds at your ears, but none of it puts you to sleep, either. As it is, the sound effects of gunfire and your commander ("The enemy is going to shoot!") are louder and more dominant.
Either way, there's not much reason to concentrate on how the game looks and sounds, because most people have seen it all before, and are likely more concerned as to how its gameplay holds up after so many years, both with and without this new toy. Unfortunately, with or without the neat-looking expensive rifle peripheral, "arcade-perfect" still doesn't enter the picture when talking about this collection.
The first way you can play is with the controller. The crazy thing about this is that, the more primitive the game in the series, the more primitive the controls are. The first game only gives you three speed settings for your scope movement, and only the fastest is anywhere close to what's really needed. The sequels give you finer tuning for both your normal and zoomed-in sights, and the third game gives you a "magnet" option which makes getting to targets much more bearable.
This means that for each Silent Scope game, you have to reconfigure your controller mechanisms from scratch, and each time you want to change them, you must do so for all the games, one by one. Would a universal configuration screen have been so tough to add, if only for ease of use? Magnet mode for something outside of Silent Scope 3 would have been quite the help as well. It's possible to get used to controller play to the point where it's possible to actually have fun, but even so, as one plays, all the time, they will likely be saying to themselves, "using the gun has to be better than this."
The bad news is, that statement isn't as true as it ought to be. The good news is, it's close.
It takes a good while to get the sniper rifle working, and even then, it doesn't work the way you'd expect it to. The biggest problem is that when one tilts their head in front of the infrared sensor to bring up magnified sight, it can take a while (up to a whole second) for the sight to come up, and even longer (one to three seconds) for the sight to go away and be able to move the gun around at a normal speed again. This will happen no matter how high your scope sensitivity is turned up or down. Different room lighting can yield different results, but it's still a crapshoot in most cases.
In the case of the first two Silent Scope games, this shaves off valuable seconds from your timer, and leads to one getting a "game over" screen sooner than one should. In games without a time limit (3 and EX), this isn't so much a problem as it is a mild annoyance, and the gameplay is much more enjoyable. (I won't rule out the possibility that my gun was faulty, but everything else worked the way it should have. Heck, it's a nice gun, very responsive overall. I'm just going to chalk it up to the inherent shortcomings of infrared sensing as a whole-whatever those may be.)
Luckily, this can be worked around by getting your gun's sight in the general vicinity of where you might want to shoot next so that by the time the sight reverts back to normal, you're already there. This is done more by human judgment than anything else, so it's not a perfect solution, but it helps quite a bit. With this workaround in place, the entire experience is far better than the controller, though you will soon realize that your limbs aren't quite as precise as an analog controller and you'll end up shaking on your shots (which is actually quite normal and to be expected, though I remember it threw me the first time). Such are the travails of becoming a professional anti-terrorist sniper in 15 minutes' time.
Silent Scope Complete is a valiant effort to recreate a different breed of arcade experience at home for a somewhat affordable ($90-$100) price. Unfortunately, there are still a few bugs in both control systems that truly need to be addressed before the home edition becomes either identical or superior to the arcade. The game-plus-gun route is recommended for true sniper fans, completists, or the simply curious, that also have a lot of patience on their hands. It's certainly recommended over the normal controller route, which is an exercise in frustration for hours until you finally get used to it. Given all of the fundamental shortcomings, in the end, even the fact that the entire trilogy and then some is now on one neat little disc is precious little to get excited about.
This collection is a nice placeholder, but if you're seriously jonesing for the real Silent Scope experience, without the hassle, hunt down a machine at your local arcade (or even a remote one). Though this collection of titles and their companion peripheral try hard, it's still not "arcade perfect". There's a great deal fun to be had, but the control difficulties and the fact that these games get pretty old pretty fast (even with the added extras and mission modes) almost dilute whatever fun is there.
If only there were some way to rent the gun and try it before buying it.