Welcome to the world of super agent activity. As the government's last resort, you are Sam Fisher, an agent to a super secretive sub-agency of the NSA. Taking the role of a recon, a spy and an assassin, it is your job to iron out issues that go far beyond the scope of police work. If you die or become captured, your existence will be denied. However there is one thing that can not be denied, and that is the success of Splinter Cell on the Xbox. Could the same be predicted for the PC version?
Gameplay - 8.5/10:
After an extensive training session, which is compulsory to complete, you are finally into the heat of the game. Most of the basic maneuvers are covered, from the sub standard climb to the relatively useless wall-to-wall 'splits' trick. I say relatively useless because, well, it is hardly ever used in the actual game, but a treat to witness nonetheless.
Naturally, you start the game off with somewhat little access to weaponry and gadgets. However as the game progresses and gets a little bit harder here and there, your arsenal improves and soon enough your one propeller short of becoming inspector gadget. The training won't cover most gadgets so you sort of have to pick them up on the fly, like the laser mic, but there is a handy ingame manual describing the use of most of these gadgets.
Throughout the game my impressions on the AI were generally mixed. In some instances, you have to admire the detail gone into producing a life like experience. For example, when you take out all the lights in a certain room any enemies that happen to enter the room will notice this and act scared and paranoid. However, on the other hand, at times the AI can be a little rough. This is most noticeable in situations where a gun battle is your only viable option. Sometimes, after you have shot an enemy dead, another enemy a few feet away won't even turn a head to see what the fuss is, while at other times they seem to react to your ambush like it was more than expected.
Despite the fact having goggles which feature three bright green lights probably defeats the concept, the dark is your best friend. As soon as your visibility meter tends towards the left enemies will have a hard time seeing you allowing for stealth like gameplay to be carried out. If your quick enough to kill any guard before they set off the alarm then stealth probably won't be much use to you, however for the best experience Splinter Cell has to offer nothing is more satisfying than successfully performing an intense operation in a high security area without the slightest suspicion from the guards. Patience and surveillance is certainly the key to success in Splinter Cell.
The real beauty of the gameplay in Splinter Cell is that you chose how you want to play the game out. It is said that one can finish this game without killing more than 1 person. Although I'd prefer not to try and test this theory it is certainly apparent stealth is almost always an option over conflict. However if you don't enjoy taking things with caution then there is always a gun handy.
Finally, the last point I'd like to bring up about the gameplay is the environmental interaction. Simply put, I'm not even sure if the entire single player game allows you to use every move available. You can climb fences, slide down poles, use walls and other objects as cover, glide across wires and cables, and much, much more. The only problem that arises here is that since many missions require these moves it is hard to recognize where one of these moves might be applicable. If you happen to miss an important pole to climb down which is vital to progress in the mission, you find yourself running around in circles looking for somewhere new to go. If you keep your eyes open for anything that can be interacted with it shouldn't be a problem, but one is bound to go undetected sooner or later.
Being based around the latest in Unreal technology means Splinter Cell's visual appeal is nothing short of magnificent. Everything from the visual effects to the modelling has been rendered with perfection and precision. Perhaps the strongest point of Splinter Cell's graphics can be found in the lighting, which is touted as a dynamic real-time effect. As far as visual effects go, nothing beats creeping through beaming light from a cracked wall or window with real-time shadows being rendered in the process, it simply looks stunning.
Animation wise, Splinter Cell proves impressive again despite a few disjointed animations here and there. An example of this is jumping on top of knee size ledges, where Sam Fisher will usually do a full jump first then climb onto it while he is in the air. Nothing overly serious, but it is noticeable. Luckily it isn't a widespread issue as most animations are very smooth indeed.
Controlling Sam Fisher is either a very easy or relatively challenging exercise, depending on how you play. If you decide your not going to worry to much about exploiting the environment to your advantage then you will have little to master as far as controls go. However if you want the full experience, there are quite a few moves to learn, and you seem to just keep learning even past training well into the missions. At times you simply forget or just don't recognize situations which could be dealt with by a special move, however as time goes on you will begin to notice when certain moves are appropriate. Much of the time the game purposely makes you do a certain move just to keep the uniqueness alive, which is a good thing.
As far as execution goes, even the most difficult moves are easy to perform giving Splinter Cell an extremely efficient controlling sub system. For example, to climb or slide down objects you simply run into them or at the most press jump. If there is a problem it isn't how to perform a move, it is when.
Whether the similarities to Metal Gear Solid 2 are present or not, Splinter Cell comes off as a very strong game. There is a reason as to why this was so successful for the Xbox, not just because Xbox gamers finally had a answer to the PS2's MGS2, but because it gave hours of great gameplay and looked good while doing it. If you've had your fix from the Xbox version then this may not appeal to you, however any PC gamer who has yet to play Splinter Cell should not miss out, this is the PC's ultimate special operative/agent experience.