Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Review
Splinter Cell is a great game on its own merits, and it offers a slick and rewardingly suspenseful gameplay experience that's sometimes reduced to frustrating bouts of trial and error.
It's easy to see why Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is one of the most highly anticipated Xbox games of the season. For one thing, it features some impressive production values, including hands down the best lighting effects seen in any game to date. For another, its main character has a surprising variety of moves and gadgets, all designed to help him stay hidden from his enemies and dispatch them quietly or get by them cleanly. So the game's definitely got a lot to like about it. However, you should know that Splinter Cell is not the genre-redefining game it claims to be (don't believe the "stealth action redefined" bit that's written on the box), but rather another in an increasingly long line of stealth games that incorporates all the good and bad traits of this love-it-or-hate-it action subgenre. Splinter Cell's actual gameplay is very similar to that of other stealth games, including 1998's Thief: The Dark Project, which proved that sneaking through the shadows and using clever gadgets to avoid or eliminate powerful enemies could make for a memorable experience, or the recently released and equivalently good Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Comparisons aside, Splinter Cell is a great game on its own merits, and it offers a slick and rewardingly suspenseful gameplay experience that's sometimes reduced to frustrating bouts of trial and error.
The title of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell refers to the unusual role of its main character, Sam Fisher, a highly trained and experienced commando working for a top-secret military organization, Third Echelon, that's attempting to rid the world of a high-tech terrorist threat. If he's caught, the US government will disavow its affiliation with his mission. Worse yet, one false move and Fisher may inadvertently instigate World War III. So the pressure's on, but Fisher's as cool as they come. Though he's skilled as a soldier, stealth is his only real option, and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance as he undertakes a number of highly dangerous, high-stakes covert operations.
The game's plot, which is set in the near future, is straight out of a Clancy thriller and involves Fisher taking on Clancy's favorite tag team: the Russians and the Chinese. The story is rather disjointed (perhaps purposely so), since between missions you'll just see snippets of fake newscasts that supposedly help you understand what's going on. These rather unimpressive cutscenes unfortunately aren't up to par with the game's other visuals, and they aren't nearly as interesting as some of the conversations Fisher will eavesdrop on during the actual gameplay. At any rate, don't go in expecting Splinter Cell to be Tom Clancy's answer to Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid games, as the storytelling and gameplay of Splinter Cell are completely different from the story and gameplay of that series.
Despite being Third Echelon's right hand, Sam Fisher is on a need-to-know basis and is largely kept in the dark about the exact nature of his objectives. Fortunately, he's extremely resourceful, armed or unarmed. A preliminary training scenario will familiarize you with the basics of being Sam Fisher, but you'll nevertheless need a lot of practice to become truly proficient in the role. Throughout the game, the right analog stick lets you freely move the camera, which generally works well to give you a good situational awareness but sometimes gets cramped up in tight spaces. The other controls also take getting used to but work effectively, enabling you to perform an array of maneuvers that collectively make Splinter Cell feel like a pretty believable super-spy simulation.
In fact, aside from the pretty lighting effects, the variety of moves at Fisher's disposal is probably the highlight of Splinter Cell. Sam has something for every occasion: He can run swiftly or tiptoe carefully depending on how far you tilt the left analog stick forward. He can also move quite quickly from a crouched position, and if you tread carefully while crouching, you'll be almost invisible and almost silent. Fisher can climb ladders, chain-link fences, and more. He can rappel down walls (and kick through glass windows while doing so), climb hand over hand (or using all four limbs) across horizontal pipes, and zip across downward-slanted ropes or wires. He can put his back against a wall and lean or shoot around corners, he can peek around doors that are slightly ajar, and he can make soft landings or perform evasive rolls. Fisher can also kick off a wall in mid jump, and his coolest move (though it isn't very practical) allows him to stand in the splits atop a narrow passageway and then either shoot unsuspecting opponents or drop down to deliver a stunning blow.
Sneaking up behind an opponent allows Fisher to either knock the foe unconscious with an elbow strike or a pistol whip or grab the enemy and take him hostage. Fisher can then use the opponent as a human shield against other enemies, or in some cases interrogate him or force him to do such things as activate retinal scanners that otherwise prevent passage. He'll eventually have to dispatch his hostage one way or another, and then he can pick up and move the prone body out of sight of enemy patrols. Fortunately for you, unconscious foes will awaken only if discovered by their allies.
- Player Reviews: 158
- Game Universe:
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (DC, GBC, N64, PS, PC),
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (XBOX, PC, GC, PS2, MAC, NGE),
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 (XBOX, PS2, GC, MOBILE),
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear (PC, PS, DC, PS2, GBA, MAC),
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (XBOX, PC, PS2, GC, GBA, NGE, MOBILE, MAC, PS3),
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (PC, XBOX, PS2),
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (PC, XBOX, PS2, GC, GBA, MOBILE, PS3),
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm (PS2, NGE, MOBILE),
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (PS2, XBOX, GC, PC),
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (PC, XBOX, NGE, PS2, GC, DS, 3DS)
- Number of Players: