One of the major contributors to the slow-but-inevitable demise of the arcade light-gun game has been the fact that whether you're shooting futuristic cyborgs or zombified circus clowns, it's all pretty much the same. Konami threw a refreshing spin on the formula in 1999 with Silent Scope, a game with a surprisingly engrossing piece of proprietary hardware and a greater focus on accuracy than had been paid by previous light-gun games. Konami has gone on to develop three more Silent Scope games and is now putting all four games into a single package on the Xbox in Silent Scope Complete. The fundamental problem here, though, is that the Silent Scope series has not been exempt from the law of diminishing returns. So after a full four games and little innovation on the core concept, it's just not a very appealing package anymore.
The plots behind the four games in Silent Scope Complete, which include Silent Scope, Silent Scope 2: Dark Silhouette, Silent Scope 3, and Silent Scope EX, don't really carry much narrative from one game to the next, but the general conceit of sniper versus vicious terrorists remains fairly consistent. The Silent Scope experience is at its absolute best when you're actually behaving like a sniper--that is, when you're picking off enemies from great distances. Unfortunately, you don't even get halfway through the first game when Konami apparently loses sight of this fact. Therefore the game quickly devolves into a by the book rail-based shooter, complete with a camera that moves automatically through rooms and corridors--and pauses while you dispatch of everyone onscreen before moving on.
The "scope" of your sniper rifle is represented by a circle that zooms in on wherever your targeting reticle is, though you can zoom out by pulling on the left trigger, which is useful because your reticle can move about the screen much faster when you're zoomed out. The game forces you to balance between speed and accuracy by giving you a countdown clock to play against, in addition to a slow reload time. You'll notice that a few tweaks are made to the formula as you go from Silent Scope to Silent Scope 3, including the addition of a single, final pass/fail shot at the end of certain missions. Moreover, Silent Scope 3 and Silent Scope EX both aid you with a little autotargeting. These minor discrepancies aside, however, it's apparent that Konami didn't really put a lot of work into refining its formula from game to game.
Part of the appeal of the Silent Scope games for the arcades involved the mounted sniper rifles that had LCD screens inside the scopes. It's pretty amazing how immersive it is in being able to look into the scope to see a zoomed-in view of the screen right in front of you. As a result, it's pretty obvious why much of each game's appeal was lost in translation to consoles. To address this issue, Konami has teamed up with gaming peripheral manufacturer Pelican to design a special sniper rifle for Silent Scope Complete. The home rifle, which will run you a little more than the price of the game itself, mimics the behavior of the arcade rifle by providing a clear scope and a proximity sensor that, in theory, will trigger the zoomed-in rifle perspective when you put your eye up to the scope, which is really just a clear tube that lets you see through to your television screen. We say "in theory" because our experience revealed that the scope sensor was very difficult to calibrate, and its functionality was real hit-and-miss. You can configure the rifle to ignore the scope sensor so that you can use one of the rifle's other buttons to bring up the zoomed view, but this doesn't alleviate the fact that we had to turn the screen brightness way up to even calibrate the rifle properly. Ultimately, Pelican's peripheral isn't a very suitable replacement for the arcade rifle, and we found our performance to be significantly better when we just used a standard Xbox controller.
The visuals between the four different games included in Silent Scope Complete vary a little, with Silent Scope 3 and Silent Scope EX sporting slightly better textures and some extra special effects. However, the differences are pretty subtle. The newest game in the bunch is Silent Scope 3, which came out in 2002. Unfortunately, you're still looking at a group of games originally intended to run on five-year-old arcade hardware, and it shows. People, buildings, cars, and trees are all extremely blocky and are wrapped in unwaveringly poor-looking textures. Color-banding on textures is a near-constant issue, and it's generally almost impossible to distinguish an enemy from his surroundings. There are occasional flashes of technical and artistic inspiration, such as the heat-sensing and X-ray filters that will turn on in certain situations, but these are few and far between. Technically, the graphics in the game are pretty much on-par with what you've seen in the arcade versions, but the visuals in the Silent Scope games have not aged well at all.
The graphics may look aged, but the sound design in all versions of Silent Scope is downright annoying--and always has been. There's a fair amount of voice acting, though most of it belongs to your nameless, faceless operations coordinator. Apparently, the voice work is purposely designed to come across as fuzzy and tinny, as though you were hearing it through an earpiece. It's unclear whether the voice actors or the people writing their dialogue are native English speakers, but there's a breakdown somewhere in there because most of the dialog sounds awkward and unnatural. It's probably bad enough to be funny, but unfortunately, you'll hear most of this funny stuff repeated so many times that it loses any comedic value it might have had. The sound of your rifle is good enough, though the clipped "Argh!" let out by almost every enemy you face is pretty shoddy.
The versions of the Silent Scope games included in this package are all faithful enough to the originals, but the problem is that even with all four games included in a single package, there's just not a lot of value here. The Silent Scope games worked in the arcades because you could throw a couple of quarters in the machine, have a good 15 or 20 minutes of sniper fun, and then walk away without any further commitment to the game. But in the context of a console game, where you're more likely to want to sit down and play for a longer stretch, the Silent Scope formula simply does not endure. Having four different deviations of the same basic blueprint only makes the shallowness of the gameplay that much more apparent. That said, if you're already a steadfast fan of the Silent Scope series, this is the best console game to bear the name, both in terms of value and quality.