By: Matt C. on April 26, 2003
If you didn't know, Splinter Cell was released on the Xbox late last year and it was met with critical acclaim by publications and online sites alike. Some of them even honored Splinter Cell with their "Xbox game of the year" award. Obviously not bad, but how does the PlayStation 2 update stack up against the original Xbox version?
Technically, Splinter Cell is still superior on Microsoft's console despite being released several months earlier. The graphics are sharper, levels are a tad larger, and you can download additional missions. Needless to say, if you own both systems, pick up an Xbox copy of Splinter Cell. However, PS2 owners should not feel ashamed, as Ubi Soft has done an excellent job of porting the game to Sony's console with very minimal losses.
Most importantly, Splinter Cell's essential stealth-based gameplay has been kept in tact. Metal Gear Solid 2 is based around stealth too, but Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell's hero) takes it to a whole new level with more moves (a lot more) and gadgets than Solid Snake. Even before the training mission (which is required to move on to the second level) is over, you'll notice that Fisher also controls a bit better than Snake. The left analog stick is used to move Sam around his environment, while the right analog stick is used to move the camera all around him. The camera doesn't adjust itself unless you move into tight spaces, so moving it and Fisher around at the same time requires some patience. Once you get accustomed to this setup though, you'll be glad that it was incorporated into the game.
Executing Fisher's other moves requires very little effort. Jumping, crouching, drawing/hostering your weapon, picking up bodies, grabbing enemies from behind, and more are all accomplished by pressing one button. Latching onto ladders and poles is easy too -- just walk up to it and Fisher will automatically grab on. As for the thermal/night vision goggles, just press right or left on the d-pad to activate them. One move I really love in Splinter Cell is the ability to use a guard as a shield. Other guards refuse to fire at Fisher when in this position and you can even raise your weapon towards another foe across from you and shoot. Just be warned -- even though you still have a human shield, bullets will start to fly in your direction once your gun is raised.
If you haven't figured it out yet, Splinter Cell is a fairly realistic game, so don't expect to run into rooms with guns blazing. Fisher has a health bar, but it only takes three or four well placed bullets to take him out for good. In addition, don't expect to fire your gun too often while running (or even walking) because your accuracy will fall through the floor. After you draw your gun, the camera automatically swings closely behind Fisher's head, yet off to the side so you can see what is ahead of you and aim accordingly. When you are in this position, you should note that you cannot move the cross-hair too fast or, once again, accuracy will diminish.
To assist Fisher in his covert operations, Splinter Cell provides him with plenty of gadgets and tools -- which range from simple lock-picks to sticky cameras, diversion cameras, frag grenades, an optical cable and more. The optical cable is cool because you can use it to peek under doorways before you actually open them.
Darkness is obviously a major factor in hiding and being sneaky, so converting Splinter Cell's trademark lighting effects was definitely Ubi Softs' top priority. As I mentioned before, the shadows and overall lighting look better on the Xbox, but the PS2 hardware still holds its own when running Splinter Cell. Throughout the game, I would often stop and admire the wonderful lighting effects in the environments around me. I also like the fact that many lights can be shot out, providing even more cover for Fisher.
Okay, so the lighting looks incredible, but what about everything else? Well, the animations and character models look great, but the textures aren't much to write home about. And fire and water doesn't look very convincing either, but this is understandable. As for the levels, they are extremely well designed and polished. Sure, the majority of the game is linear, but everything flows together so nicely it doesn't even matter.
Splinter Cell for the PS2 offers an exclusive Power Plant mission, which is a welcome addition because you can tell that it wasn't just thrown in at the last minute.
One thing some people may dislike about Splinter Cell is its difficulty. There are plenty of checkpoints and save spots in the game, but trust me, you're going to die quite often. Personally, I died less often in the later missions because I was becoming better at the game. Splinter Cell is challenging, but the challenge is fairly reasonable in my opinion. Also, another flaw with the game lies in the enemy AI, but it doesn't affect the gameplay all that much.
Now that I have finished Splinter Cell, I can easily see why it has earned such praise among the gaming community. This game simply rocks. The gameplay does start to wear thin, but once you reach that point, Splinter Cell ends. Some bonus features include an interview with "Sam Fisher", another interview with the man who provides the voice of Fisher, and more.
Metal Gear Solid 2 may have more dominate and developed characters and storyline, but Splinter Cell has better overall gameplay. Highly recommended.
Graphics: 9 Sound: 8 Music: 7 Replay Value: 6 Ingenuity: 8
Overall Score: 9.3
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