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PC Reviews: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell


Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Screenshots

The Final Say!


Splinter Cell - reviewed by Dean Malandrini
Review Date: 31 March 2003
Review Score: 9.9/10
Distributed by Ubisoft 

This is Ubisoft’s greatest accomplishment yet, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. You play an ex CIA and Navy seal who has been recruited by the NSA to become their point man for operations in a new government section known as Third Echelon. Their main objective is to protect the US from pending threats without being implicated.

Ubisoft’s fascination with lighting effects has gone completely overboard as though they never knew such effects existed before Splinter Cell. The game is a high tech version of Thief or for a more up to date comparison maybe Hitman 2. Without a doubt you can bet that every single level where you have to sneak around in the dark, there will be an outside light of some sort letting in bands of light through some hole that will be sprawled across either you or an enemy. The graphic detail is phenomenal and you have to crank the character detail all the way up to get the best out of the game; you can even see the stitching on Sam’s suit when in firing mode and without a doubt I have not seen such a detailed character EVER!

Three CD’s for a mere nine levels is a little disappointing, the 3D effects are pretty cool though I am yet to see any blood and I’m not sure if there’s an option I’m missing or there isn’t any. The third person view is a bit hard to get used to at the start, mainly because when you play a shooter game you tend to stay behind the character, but in Splinter Cell your movements are all in respect to the angle of the camera (your mouse control/mouse look), so if your looking straight ahead and you are pushing forward you move straight up but if you were to look to the left you’ll find you have to push right to continue on a straight path. What does this all mean? Well basically this means when you’re looking around, you have to continually change the direction keys that you are pushing.

In the training mission I was not too impressed with the controls, thinking that the games was going to suck because I couldn’t get my character “Sam Fisher” to do what I wanted. Fortunately after I finally got through the training mission and into a real one, I found that the training mission actually helped me a lot, and the controls weren’t that hard. You’ll find that if you play a lot of first person shooters and you jump into this one expecting it to respond like the rest of them, get ready for a surprise. The controlling of the character isn’t a bad thing it was just a bit different from your usual first person control. Now that I’ve got the hang of it, it’s sweet and I went back and had a crack at Soldier of Fortune 2. After playing that for almost two seconds, I wished that it handled like Splinter Cell. 

When controlling Sam Fisher you have heaps of movement options from the speed at which you move, to being suspended in between two close walls with your legs pushed up against them, you can even position yourself to hug the walls making you less visible. 

Speaking of which, Sam Fisher’s suit has detectors to tell him/you how visible you are to enemies. A very similar device to the lighting stone in thief, the more the indicator is in the dark the less visible you are, an easy way for you to tell whether or not enemies can see Sam. The enemy’s vision isn’t too good and at one point I jumped off a ledge landing a few meters behind an enemy, as he looked for me you could see that he wasn’t just cheating and moving around your general direction just to keep you in suspense which was a downfall of Thief. The developers of Splinter Cell actually give up and go back to their posts “phew that was a close one”. Making Sam’s use of both night vision and infrared goggles vital. Hang out in the shadows and a void getting seen at all costs, the name of the game is stealth, if you are seen by a guard he’ll most likely take some of your health, before you kill him, some lights and cameras are immune to your bullets as they are amour plated but if you can afford it, ammo wise, take out lights and cameras, the true folly of Sam Fisher.

Which brings me to my next point, for a guy whose had years of experience in the field and is one of, if not the best splinter cell operatives in the NSA, he sure is a bad shot, this guy can’t shoot for peanuts, under one meter from an enemy or a light you take the shot, and he misses I can’t believe it, another bullet wasted, and you don’t get many. Maybe in the training area Sam should have taken a trip to the firing range, the accuracy of his shooting is horrible, probably pointing out the importance of sneaking around and grabbing enemies from behind. Shooting may not be the main premise in the game but from his accuracy with a gun and the extra aids that are given to you, the obvious goal is to be sneaky. Sam does have some nifty gadgets to help him out, mainly because he can’t shoot to save himself and the gadgets are not unbelievable like many James Bond movies. Gadgets include opticfibre cameras to look under doors to see who’s hanging around, laser guided microphones to hear what’s going on in other parts of the game, the ability to pick locks, any lock, this way you can get into secret rooms but then again you can still open a door to the guard room. *Oops* He also caries a Palm (pocket PC) to keep track of all the important information he collects, though I wish I could write on mine as fast as he writes on his.

Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher, now usually I couldn’t care less who the voice is as long as its some guy, but Michael’s voice suits Sam Fisher perfectly, it’s the kind of situation where you say “hey Michael you sound like that secret agent” and not the other way around. Upon entering the second level, and listening to Sam speak to the NSA over his com link, I thought to myself “hang on a minute I recognize this voice” so you quickly grab the packet looking for the voice actor, there it is on the back “With Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher”, I don’t know that guy. His voice is that of a regular character from Star Trek or one of those shows you watch ALL the time but you just can’t place him. Note to self: find out what else that guys off. Michael’s voice isn’t just a guy talking through the game reading lines it’s as if he is there and experiencing what your playing you can hear the concern in his voice and the thirst for knowledge.

Sound effects and music are terrific, when walking around the music will escalate when you are discovered or when you are close to an enemy, sometimes it gives it away, but still it scares the "bajesus" out of you. Sound effects in the game also relate back to the character himself, movement around the game depending on the surface you are walking on and also the speed at which you move, will depend on how much the enemy can hear, thus giving away your position or just getting to the dark to avoid detection. There were no glitches or poor quality sounds in the whole game and every soundtrack & sound effect was flawless and as clear as can be, as if you were there yourself. With a decent sound card and a good set of speakers, you’ll be able to enjoy the game to its full potential.

You can’t go past Splinter Cell for PC as long as you’ve got a decent graphics card, as the fire on the oilrig will push your machine a fair bit, not to mention the options for movement and character interaction that is also very taxing on your system. But the dude still can’t shoot forbickies.

- Dean Malandrini

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