Splinter Cell is the anti-Metal Gear Solid. Sure, at the core, they are both stealth based action games, but thatís really where the similarities end. Instead of the fanciful storyline and characters of Metal Gear, Ubi Soft is trying to give you a different experience. This game strives to give you nothing less than the most realistic look at the life of a special-ops agent, in a real-world crisis scenario.
The storyline is believable to the point that itís an interesting commentary on the current state of world politics. As we learn, through entertaining segments of the First News Network, the ruthless leader of the former Russian state, Georgia, has a bone to pick with the United States. An all-out cyber-attack is launched, initially focusing on military communications and transportation systems. Predictably, chaos ensues. Also rather predictably evidence leads to the involvement of the sleeping super-power China. This brings us to the dawn of World War III, which seems like a requirement in a game of this nature.
Sneaking around is the name of the game and Sam Fisherís capabilities are tailored to the task. You hide in shadows, peak around corners, knock unsuspecting guard unconscious, hide bodies in closets, shimmy across pipes, repel down buildings, and everything else thatís generally considered sneaky.
To enforce the reliance on tactics, the combat elements are intentionally sparse. Sam can strike with his elbow, but has no other means of hand-to-hand attack. You have two main weapons, a pistol and a semi-automatic sniper rifle. Thatís really the extent of your offensive capabilities. Sure youíll have a few grenades, and the GameCube exclusive Sticky Mine adds a new twist (too bad you have to link a GBA to use it), but the real idea is to avoid as much combat as possible.
Thankfully, the stealth action is greatly enjoyable. Utilizing shadows more effectively than any non-horror game ever created, itís never been more fun to hide in the corner. Gameplay tends to be slow and deliberate, as youíll need to develop and execute your plans with meticulous precision. There are plenty of situations warranting gunfire, but itís much more fun to sneak up on your prey.
As fun as this all is, it ends up being the strength and the ultimate weakness of the game. As you progress, things never really change. In other words, it begins to get tad repetitive. Itís also unfortunate that there really is no difficulty curve in this game. Itís never easy, but it never really reaches out and challenges you. Thatís partially due to the average enemy AI that leaves obvious holes to exploit. Since you move a bit faster, you can run in circles around a bad guy, until you get behind him and knock him out. Thatís unfortunate to say the least.
The GameCube version doesnít look or sound as good as the Xbox original, but it definitely gets the job done. The graphics are sharp and detailed. Shadows still look great and give you the feeling that you really are damn hard to see. The game also features some exceptional fire and smoke effects which are used to great effect in certain areas. On the down side, character models are a little blocky and some of the environmental and sky textures can appear grainy.
Splinter Cell is a great game that just falls just a bit short of being exceptional. While you do have different ways to accomplish some tasks, that doesnít hide the fact that the game is completely linear, leaving you with no real sense of exploration. This would be fine if the game presented a superior challenge, but it never extends past the intermediate difficulty level it begins with. Unfortunately, it all begins to feel a little flat after a while. Once you reach the climax, the abrupt and extremely disappointing ending, is sure to leave a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
· · · PBMax