Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Review


The Tom Clancy games have always emphasized stealth and planning, with mission success hinging on your ability to take out the enemy before they even know you're there.  Splinter Cell continues this tradition, but takes things up a notch.  You no longer have the benefit of a team of specialists at your disposal.  This time out you are a lone operative, infiltrating highly secure locations in the heart of enemy territory. 

Screenshots

You are Sam Fisher, an elite operative known as a Splinter Cell.  You are equipped with the latest in prototype stealth weapons and equipment, and are given broad freedom to carry out your mission.  You can steal, destroy, kill - whatever it takes to protect America.  Your missions are so secret, that if you are captured or killed the government will disavow all knowledge of your existence.

The game opens in 2004, after the CIA has lost two operatives investigating communications shortages plaguing the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.  You are sent in to locate the agents and report back on what they uncovered in Georgia.  This is the opening chapter of the first of nine missions that will also take you to an oil rig out at sea, Myanmar, and even CIA headquarters in Langley.  The mission objectives are varied, but are primarily centered on information gathering.  When the shooting starts in this game it often means that you've failed your mission.

To aid you in infiltrating secure facilities unnoticed, Sam comes with a wide range of stealthy moves.  The moves are easy to perform, and you'll get plenty of opportunities to use them all as the game progresses.  The animations used for Sam as he performs his moves are very well done, and his movement is always smooth and realistic.  Nothing ruins the mood more than a stealth expert that moves jerkily or looks stiff as a board, but you won't find that problem in this game.

You get all the basic stealth moves such as crouching, climbing, and moving with your back to the wall, but the game does not stop there.  You can shimmy along ledges, zip line down wires, and kick off walls to jump higher, to name a few.  The coolest move is the split jump.  If you're in a narrow corridor you can kick your legs out and hold yourself near the ceiling.  If an enemy comes down the hall, you can either shoot him or drop down on him from above.  He'll never know what hit him.

Sam also has a full arsenal of gadgets at his disposal.  Some are conventional such as his silenced pistol and lock pick set.  Others are far more high-tech, like a microwave camera jammer and optic cable - the optic cable can be slipped under doors to give a glimpse at what lies on the other side.  The headset that you see Sam wearing in the screenshots provides night vision at the flick of a switch, and later in the game provides thermal vision as well.  These are quite handy when you find yourself in dark areas, especially since your enemies won't share your advantage.  Accessing all of these items is quite easy using the game's quick inventory system.  Pressing the Black button let's you scroll through your gadgets without ever needing to take your eyes off of the action. 

One of your less glamorous gadgets, but an important one nonetheless, is Sam's PDA.  It serves as a means of keeping tabs on your mission objectives and includes mission notes which provide you with hints on how to complete your mission.  You can also download data from enemy computers onto data sticks, and then read these via the PDA.  These data sticks provide you with all sorts of good information and intel, including personnel, security, and map data.

As mentioned earlier, the game emphasizes stealth over assault.  This requires you to stick to the shadows and move quietly, trying to go unseen by guards and cameras.  In fact, you'll find that you use your gun to shoot out lights and cameras far more often than you will to kill enemies - you're far better off sneaking up behind them and knocking them out than opening fire on them.  To aid you in your stealth, the game provides a meter which measures your relative visibility.  This meter takes the level of light around Sam and the amount of sound he is generating into account to let you know how likely it is that he'll be detected.