Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Review
One of the most popular, most successful, and best-looking games for Microsoft's Xbox is now on the PS2, and in certain ways it's better than the original.
One of the most popular, most successful, and best-looking games for Microsoft's Xbox is now on the PS2, and in certain ways it's better than the original. Reminiscent less of games like Metal Gear Solid and more of games like Thief: The Dark Project and Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is a stealth-driven action adventure that sends you, as operative Sam Fisher, around the globe on numerous highly secretive and very dangerous assignments. It all goes down like something straight out of a Hollywood action thriller, complete with plenty of big-budget production values. The game isn't above reproach: Just like its Xbox counterpart, Splinter Cell for the PS2 is a relatively short single-player-only game consisting of heavily scripted missions that can sometimes turn into trial-and-error exercises that undermine the game's otherwise pervasive sense of suspense. The graphics have also lost some of their luster in translation, though some worthwhile new features and gameplay tweaks make Splinter Cell for the PS2 more than just a watered-down Xbox port. And at its core, it's a great action game, one that's already met with tremendous acclaim.
Additionally, this version of Splinter Cell replaces the Xbox version's unimpressive in-engine cutscenes with better-looking prerendered cutscenes, and the completely redone intro does a better job of setting the stage. And while the new cutscenes aren't frequent, they do help tie together Splinter Cell's otherwise disparate scenarios. It's also worth noting that those who've already played Splinter Cell on the Xbox or PC will find that the story and the levels in Splinter Cell for the PS2 take a few short detours. There are enough little changes that hard-core Splinter Cell fans would do well to give the PS2 version a shot, if only to see the new power plant level, which is spliced into the middle of the game. It's also worth noting that the simultaneously released GameCube version has most of the same qualities as the PS2 version but doesn't get the power plant level, yet it does have slightly sharper graphics, faster loading times, and some clever if gimmicky connectivity features with the Game Boy Advance. At any rate, if all you wanted to know was how the PS2 version of Splinter Cell stacks up to the others, now you're all set.
Or maybe you're still wondering what a splinter cell actually is. The game's title refers to the unusual role of Sam Fisher, a highly trained and experienced soldier working for a top-secret military organization, Third Echelon, that's attempting to rid the world of a high-tech terrorist threat. If Fisher'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 fighter, stealth is his only real option, and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance as he undertakes a number of 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.
In fact, the variety of moves at Fisher's disposal is probably the highlight of Splinter Cell. Sam has something for every occasion: He can move quite quickly from a crouched position, and if you tread carefully while crouching, you'll be almost invisible and almost silent. He 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 behind doors that are slightly ajar, and he can make soft landings or perform evasive rolls. Fisher can also kick off a wall in midjump, 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.