Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell for the Microsoft Xbox was one of the most highly anticipated games of last year. It now makes its way to the Playstation 2, and in some ways, improves on the original.
Akin to other games such as Metal Gear Solid 2 and the more recent Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is a stealth-action game that puts you in the role of Sam Fisher, a soldier part of a super-secret government organization, Third Echelon. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is a relatively short (about 16 hours) single-player game composed of mission-based levels that require stealth more than action. While the graphics have lost some of their glitter in the PS2 version, the overall game play is still intact. With new features and tweaks in the game, Splinter Cell for the PS2 is not only a faithful port from the Xbox, but also delivers a great new experience.
Sam Fisher must travel around the globe on highly critical and secret missions against the threat of a terrorist attack against the United States. One slip up, and he could cause World War III. At the beginning of the game, Sam Fisher is given an assignment to find information on two missing agents. After the dead bodies of the agents have been discovered, the plot thickens when two new threats emerge: the Russians and the Chinese. Being on a need to know basis, Sam Fisher is taken on various missions from the CIA headquarters in the U.S. all the way to a power plant in Russia. As resourceful as Sam Fisher is, he must keep quiet and out of sight as he is out numbered and limited on supplies. The pressure is on, as the U.S. government will disavow any knowledge of his actions if he’s caught.
A few sacrifices had to be made in order to bring Splinter Cell over to the PS2. Graphically, the PS2 version lost some detail and is not as bold or pronounced as the Xbox version as well as the loading time, which is longer and more frequent, since the levels have been separated into sections making it feel discontinuous, but are more or less intact. Also, the downloadable level, which is available for the Xbox, isn’t included on the PS2 version and the blood effect has been completely removed for reasons unknown. With fewer guards and more health packs available, the game itself has been made easier for the PS2 version making it feel somewhat less rewarding, but the challenge of trial-and-error is still present.
Since new features and changes stand out from the original Xbox version, hardcore fans should note that it is worth checking out. The in-engine cutscenes for Splinter Cell on the Xbox version has been replaced with around 30 min. of better, more impressive prerendered CG cinema and a new 4 min. intro, which gives a better representation and sets the stage for things to come. A new cinema is shown each time you finish a mission and does a good job at telling the story. Though not a big change, an alarm detector has also been added during game play. It shows the amount of alarms that are allowed to go off. If you go over the limit, then it’s mission failed. In addition to having the original nine missions, an exclusive mission has been generously offered on the PS2 version making a total of 10 missions. This new mission takes place in a power plant and features Sam Fisher in a new artic white camouflage outfit, which can only be seen on the PS2.
The game play on the PS2 is very similar to the Xbox version. The sheer number of moves that Sam Fisher can accomplish and the stealth factor are high points of the game. Sneaking up behind your opponents and grabbing them gives you the option to either use them as a hostage or just knock them out. Picking up your opponents and moving them to a shadowy area after knocking them out is required, if you don’t want any alarms to go off. If an ally discovers a knocked out opponent, they will wake him up and will move back to where he was originally posted. In helping him with his stealth, Sam Fisher can climb walls, pipes and fences. He also has the ability to balance off two side-to-side walls using his legs and feet to support his balance. Rappelling off a building is a neat feature used to go to lower levels or to surprise the enemy. Caution must be taken place as Sam Fisher might slip and fall from going too low. Tight ropes also play a role as he uses them to slide to other parts of the building.
Although the number of weapons is limited, they are very effective at getting the job done. These weapons that Sam Fisher uses are a pistol with a silencer and a SC-20K, a modified rifle that has the ability to use different types of secondary weapons. Examples of these secondary weapons include smoke bombs, a sticky camera to give a better view in strange, hard to see areas, and a distraction camera, which distracts opponents from their post and uses knockout gas on them. Another feature available on the rifle is a scope. It’s very effective against far off enemies and getting a better kill shot. An alternate weapon at Sam Fisher’s disposal is a grenade. A very effective, easy to use weapon against multiple opponents at a far away distance, it can also be lethal at close range, and must be used wisely. These weapons are mainly used as a last resort if stealth fails or if the enemy corners Fisher.
Sam Fisher also comes with gadgets to help him out though his missions. Fisher’s goggles, when used, produces both night and heat vision abilities. Night vision is best used in dark areas to help see the enemy or booby traps on the walls. The heat vision, in bright foggy areas, allows him to see the enemy before they see him. His goggles are one of the handiest gadgets in the game, and when used properly, can also make a great weapon against the enemy! The goggles also contain a magnifying scope that gives you a better site at far away things. It’s not the most useful gadget, but very cool to use. The lock pick tool is a great gadget used to help pick locked doors. Lots of doors will be locked, so it will become very convenient to have in your collection. It’s a very cool feature that adds to the interactivity of this game, but can be tedious when attacked by an enemy. When using the lock pick, the left analog stick must be turned until you find the pin and start to wiggle it until it becomes loose. It must be done several times before it becomes unlocked. He also has a mini-camera that he can use under doors to see what’s on the other side. Enemies could be next door, so it’s a good idea to use it before you enter an unknown room.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is one of the best games to come out this year, and will surely please any fan of previous stealth action games. The replay value is very limited due to the predictability of the enemy’s A.I. and the scripted dialogue, but definitely makes for a fun experience. You’ll have a great time playing through the missions and experimenting with the moves and gadgets at your disposal.