Release Date: Out Now
MGS2 was a great looking game and had some unforgettable sequences, the trouble was you had to sit through interminable codec conversations and lengthy and mostly pointless cut scenes. Coupled to its twat of a playable character (Raiden), its annoying old-school boss battles and clunky control scenes, we thought there was a lot of room for improvement.
So Konami, we reckon what MGS3 needs is a cool hero (back to Snake please), a tighter control system, no time wasting link sequences, some cool gadgets for you to play with and lots of different locations.
Well what have we here?? It's Splinter Cell and it has all of the above! Based on a Tom Clancy story, Splinter Cell puts you in the boots of Sam Fisher, the operative at the sharp end of Covert NSA unit 'Third Echelon'. Sam is sent to investigate the disappearance of two CIA agents, and that's where the game starts.
Third Echelon is so secret that the US government don't even acknowledge its existence, so Sam obviously has to get in and out of locations unseen, and if anyone does see him, then that's probably the last thing they ever see!
From the start SC shows off its graphics engine with superb lighting and shadows, and you soon learn to use the shadows to your advantage. Equipped with night vision and thermal goggles, Sam quite likes the dark. He also has a selection of devices to help him along the way, including lock picks, a laser microphone and an optic cable for looking under doors. His smart modular assault weapon fires not only 5.68mm live rounds but also a range of ammo; from non-lethal projectiles to remote controlled cameras.
The use of stealth and specialist weapons has never been done better, and with practice Sam will become a clinical killing machine as you guide him through the varied levels (which get better as the game goes on). Clearing sections of enemies can be truly gripping and tense, and the control interface and the smart over-the-shoulder view works superbly.
Unfortunately, some inconsistent AI and/or collision detection means that occasionally enemies appear to be psychic and bullet proof, other times deaf and blind. Shooting someone once in the face should put them down, you shouldn't need to riddle them with bullets.
Sam's animation is excellent most of the time, but he seems to struggle to interact with some obstacles and having to put bodies down when you open a door is daft.
Even with a few noticeable flaws, Splinter Cell is one of the best Xbox games so far and provides a tense, challenging experience, and downloadable levels on Xbox live promise an extended lifespan. It's like MGS2 with much better and varied levels, but without the painful link sequences and weird sci-fi bits (and we think that's a good thing).
- Great graphics and lighting effects.
- Good sneaky bits and tense atmosphere.
- The gadgets.
- Some iffy interaction with obstacles and questionable collision detection.
- Tough difficulty means repetition.