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XBox Reviews: Splinter Cell


Splinter Cell Screenshots

The Final Say!

Splinter Cell
 - reviewed by Tory Favro
Review Date: 29 November 2002
Review Score: 9.8/10 
Distributed By:
Ubi Soft

"Would you like an XBox with that copy of Splinter Cell?"


Splinter Cell is the name of the latest game to come out of Ubi Softs Montreal Studios and quite frankly the best game I have played in quite some time. Which as you might guess is quite a claim considering how many games I am lucky enough to play across all formats. Splinter Cell is the sort of game that doesn't come out every day and is sure to change the way that you look at videogames. At the very least, the creation of this game justifies the purchase of an XBox so you can play it.


The sheer level of detail in Splinter Cell is frightening and really demonstrates what the XBox console is truly capable of. If there is a graphical effect, it's in this game. Splinter Cell goes beyond what you know videogames to be and then ups the notch considerably, setting new heights for those who come after.


Splinter Cell Features

  • Players 1
  • Genre: Third Person Action/Stealth
  • Rating: M15+
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • 5.1 Dolby Digital

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Before we get into the review proper, it wouldn't hurt at this point to let you know that Splinter Cell was created by author extraordinaire Tom Clancy. Immediately with that level of storytelling onboard for the ride, you know that you are in for one hell of a treat.


You play the role of NSA operative Sam Fisher who is ex CIA, ex Navy Seal. The NSA has created a sub branch called Third Echelon to help protect the Fifth Amendment, the Amendment that protects the basic four amendments before it. Third Echelon's agents are known as Splinter Cells that have the discretion to do whatever it takes to uphold the Fifth Amendment.


Under the auspices of his Fifth Amendment, Sam Fisher and other Splinter Cell operatives can act without regard for the law and other governing agencies, however like other secret agents, if caught, the government will not acknowledge him as one of their own. There are risks, but if it means people sleep better at night, it certainly is worth it.

I remember seeing screenshots of this title quite a number months ago and believing what I was seeing to be doctored images of flames licking walls and floors and real time lighting engulfing a room with shadows that seems to have a life of their own. Then after receiving the game for review, I realised that is was all real after all.

The way the game is designed makes players feel truly as though you are Sam Fisher and all that goes with being a super duper uber spy and stealth man. The most meticulous attention to detail drags you into the gameworld and it's a place that you are not going to want to leave. The gameworld in Splinter Cells is practically photo realistic for the most part and there was not a moment of action that I could fault in the game.

It's important to say at this point that this game is not a Metal Gear Solid 2 killer by any means, in fact it does both games an injustice by comparing them to each other as other than the stealth component, in my opinion, they share nothing else in common. Anyone who has played both games would certainly agree with me.

The main feeling I got when playing this game was an acute sense of tenseness, of feeling that my moves had real consequences and almost that this was not just a game. This is the same sort of masterful storytelling that Tom Clancy brings to every one of his novels. Throughout the whole game you must think or you will be killed... repeatedly. This is a thinking person's title, make no mistake about that, the number of puzzles combined with the absolutely uncanny AI will keep you on your toes constantly for the length of the whole game, there is no let up and no room for sloppiness.

Splinter Cell is one of the most intelligent games that I have played in some time. Even when I had to repeat a level a number of times, it was slightly different each time. I had to approach a guard and creep up behind and knock him out. At the third attempt where I was sure I had my timing right, he was no longer patrolling the same area and I had to rethink my whole strategy. This happens all the time in Splinter Cell and is brilliant.

For those who want to run and shoot their way through this game, forget it. This is not the game for you at all. The less enemies that you actually confront the better. Third Echelon operatives work in stealth, preferably with the enemy never even knowing they were there until it is too late. So make sure you sneak, sneak, and then sneak some more.

Everything in this title is wonderfully animated, most of all our hero. Everything is so silky smooth and is a true indication of what developers should be capable of on XBox. The number of moves that Sam has at his disposal are staggering and you will need to gain expertise with every one of them. Most of the time will be spent with Sam in a crouching position and the way that he moves is so realistic it is incredible. When both Sam and other characters walk within the game there is no awkward stiffness, everything is done with a natural fluidity that is unnerving.

Throughout the game players will be astounded by the high quality of the audio. Ubi Soft Montreal have taken no shorts with any part of the game and the clarity of all sounds is an integral part of the way that you approach different scenarios. Quite often all that will give away an enemy is a faint rustling of leaves or the sound of glass tinkling as it breaks. Conversations can be overheard as well and I was amused to listen in on some of them that had all the hallmarks of natural conversation. This may be anywhere that you go, from on the street to where some corrupt cops can be overheard rifling through a drunk's pockets for his cash all the way through to the NSA itself. There are also numerous conversations between Sam and his NSA contact Lambert as well. And guess what? You know how your mouth moves when you speak (well most of our mouths do), Sam's moves too with uncanny syncing to voice. When Sam interrogates someone, their speech is also lip synced which is amazing and not normally implemented in other, lesser, titles.

When playing the game you might also find that you recognise the voice of Sam Fisher and you would be correct as Michael Ironside voices our hero. His deep tones are reassuring and are perfect for the character of Fisher. As the game progresses and things hot up even more, it's possible to hear the urgency in the men's voices when they speak to each other and the emotion conveyed is palpable. The voice acting is the equivalent of a big budget movie and the variety of voices and accents perfectly conveyed in clear audio is great. Also if you get the chance, move the camera to watch Sam carefully when he is talking to Lambert, because yes, there are facial animations as well for the dialogue. Even Sam's idle animation is realistic when you are not controlling him. For the audio alone, I would recommend trying to get your XBox hooked up to 5.1 surround sound to get the most out of the title.

Sound is also used to tell players when they have been detected with a bass sound and then music corresponding to the level of urgency or danger that Sam finds himself in. The sound of this music only adds to the tension as you attempt to either become a shadow or shoot your way out of a situation.

As with any other super agent, Sam has access to different tools and gadgets, most of them situated in the here and now and a couple of them just around the corner such as an adhesive camera that can be fire from his weapon and then utilised to assess what dangers lie ahead. For the most part I found myself using the lock picking tool for pesky doors and the fibre optic camera to get a sneak peek at contents of rooms and the like. When using the lock pick, the game would bring up an interior view of the lock's tumblers that you are picking. By moving the left stick around you could find the correct way to get a tumbler down and move onto the next one till you could open the door. This was time consuming as it would be in real life (I guess) and more than once, I was caught unawares whilst picking a lock. Sam also has a customised Palm PDA that he uses to record important message and information that can later be accessed in the game to store items such as pass

The lighting in Splinter Cell has to be seen to be believed and is an integral part to how you play the game. Sam's stealth suit has photo cells in it that give him an indication how visible he is and it is well worth it to stick in the shadows as much as possible to avoid detection. Only go into the light when there is no other option left to you. The levels are lit from real time light sources such as lamps, fluorescent globes, candles and computer monitors that all cast real time shadows from themselves and also from Sam as he moves about. This is yet another cause for concern as Sam's shadow can give him away as well. It's often safer to switch lights off or shoot them out and then use Sam's night vision goggles to make your way around. This is also the only way to get around the many armoured security cameras that operate around the area. Take out the lights then sneak past them.

Unlike many other games where your foe can still move with ease in the pitch black, in Splinter Cell your enemy is as subject to the darkness as you are. Proof of this is taking out the lights, switching to night vision and watching as they stagger and grope around in the darkness for you.

Always think with this title and the way should become apparent to you eventually. Use your brains and the technology that Sam has on his person and you should be alright. I'll wager there are times that you honestly feel you are stuck as I did, but make sure that you persevere as the rewards are well worth it. Remember though you have weapons, this game is not a shooter and the guns are a last resort to making your way through the game. An interesting part of using the weapons is the transition from your normal point of view to an over the shoulder view looking down Sam's pistol arm. It's done seamlessly and there are no glitches done in the animation.

Splinter Cell has my highest recommendations possible and is money extremely well spent on a videogame. The level of thought and degree of skill by Ubi Soft Montreal has to be seen and experienced to be believed. If you own an XBox, you must purchase Splinter Cell!



- Tory Favro

Copyright 2002 www.impulsegamer.com