Author: Jason Smith
The year is 2004, you are Sam Fisher and it's up to you to save the world. That's the bottom line of the latest and probably most hyped game for the Xbox ever, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. In a simple comparison Splinter Cell would have to be seen similar to Metal Gear Solid on the PS2, however I can assure you it also goes a lot further than any game previously of this genre.
First things first, after you have watched the impressive opening sequence you will create a user account that will take you off for a brief, yet necessary training run (otherwise known as a tutorial). It's a great way to get an idea of Sams' basic abilities, and will prove vital to staying alive as you progress through various missions I just should mention that there is only one game mode and no multiplayer, however to be honest I would think there is no call for additional modes as the one available is more than adequate.
As you progress through the missions you will realise Sam is able to carry out some pretty mean feats. Physically he can climb walls, hang off ledges, sneak up and grab unsuspecting guards, rappel down buildings, hang from and crawl along overhead pipes, split jump up walls (where you can jump up and suspend yourself in a narrow corridor and allow a guard to pass below you) plus others as you will learn as you go along.
Gadgets are another thing that Sam seems to have an abundance of. You will find that you begin to rely on these heavily, things like low light googles, infra red googles, laser microphones, lock picks, optical cables with camera attached all assist you as you go.
As each mission starts you're given a specific set of goals which can be viewed by bringing up your HUD, however you will find that these will change more often than not as your progress through the mission and new information becomes available. I must admit that the missions themselves are very structured, in a sense that there will only be one way for you to proceed, for example only a certain door might open, or a door that was previously closed is now open after completing a previous task. I can see the reasons for this, otherwise people might wander off track, get lost and have to restart, but it does feel a little restrictive in what you can do at times.
Patience is another thing that you will require a fair amount of when playing Splinter Cell. You will spend a lot of time crouched in the shadows sneaking past guards as they turn their backs to you, or timing runs to sprint past security cameras as they scan the immediate area. Quite often at times you will be mere metres away from a patrolling guard, however the shadow you found to crouch in will suffice in providing cover until he moves on.
Check points are also extremely well implemented within the game, basically after you complete a fairly tense moment you will be prompted to save your progress before moving on to the next section. This is good in that it can save you lots of time instead of restarting the mission each time you make a mistake. Just be aware that you only have three save slots, this allows for you to backtrack to any of the previous three checkpoints but should definitely be more than adequate and so far I haven't come across a situation when I wanted to start further back than one of these three previous saves.
One word can describe the visuals in this game, Amazing! The attention to detail throughout the levels has to be seen to be believed. The explosion effects, fire, sunlight glare all look spot on. Their were even some stages of the game that I literally was sitting there amazed at what I was seeing, (for those wanting to get an idea of what I mean, check out the oil platform in one of the earlier missions). Cut scenes were also done extremely well and worked effectively to progress the game along to the next mission.
I would have to say that the Audio within Splinter Cell is as good as the rest of the game. The voice acting is impressive with emotion present throughout the game. Sound effects are also great, you can hear bullets ricocheting off metal stairs, water dripping, computer hard drives accessing, its all there!
Once again this area does not fail to impress. Sam's moves soon become second nature and the controls are set in a way to make it fluid as possible. Every button on the Xbox controller has a distinct role, and as you progress they are easy to learn.
Character movement within the game is precise and accurate, it was simple to walk along small beams, creak to the end of ledges without the fear of suddenly going to far and blowing your cover.
Simply put, this game is a must have! It belongs on the shelves on any serious Xbox gamer, and for me it has replaced Halo as the benchmark game for this platform.