Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent

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Complete Review & Description

Splinter Cell is arguably one of the most hyped games to date. The Xbox version received immense critical acclaim, but because of the style of the game, I decided to only rent it and instead opted to pick up the PC version of the title. You see, I’m the type of person who would rather play shooting games with a mouse and a keyboard, because I find it difficult to aim with the analog sticks of the consoles. I think I would have rather had to deal with the controller instead of the keyboard, but it works well ehough in this exciting game.

Splinter Cell is the story of Sam Fisher, a badass who is employed by Third Echelon, an intelligence gathering organization. The employees of Third Echelon are a small group of people whom the Government doesn’t even acknowledge as existing. They are Splinter Cells, working for the military operating under the fifth freedom. For those who don’t know, those who operate under the fifth freedom basically have a license to kill, and can do whatever they want for the purpose of their missions without facing a jury afterwards. As Fisher, you are given the fifth freedom…to an extent. Splinter Cell progresses through a series of different missions that take Sam Fisher to a variety of locations. At the beginning of the game, you are treated to a training mission that teaches you how to do the crazy things that Fisher can do, such as climbing pipes, climbing ladders, and sliding down a rope or two. You also learn the basics of the game that will become very influential to how the game plays out: things like aiming, shadows, and speed control. After that, it’s pretty much up to you how you chose to progress in the games nine missions.

The fifth freedom should mean that you can basically do whatever you want. However, it doesn’t really. You still take orders from others, and because of that, parameters are setup before each of the missions, and the linearity of the title is established. Often times because of this, you have to replay the same chunk of a mission dozens of times before you can get past it, leading to you wanting to punch the computer. While I enjoyed it very much, I don’t think that I’ll be going back to it any time soon. Most of the areas require you to do things one exact way, with little to no explanation of what that exact way is.

Fisher is a secret agent, and therefore cannot afford to be caught. Literally, if he gets caught he’ll lose his job, and I’m sure there’s no work for washed up military bad-asses in this economy. Anyhow, Splinter Cell’s massive levels are filled to the brim with oddly placed lights, dozens of guards, and in some levels civilians that will cause quite a stir if they see a creepy middle aged man creeping around their terrace. As Fisher, you need to constantly be monitoring your environment, especially watching the way your shadow is cast. If an enemy sees your shadow, they’ll investigate, and using the shadow of your foe, you can escape most situations unharmed. This however is questionable, as sometimes I’ll make a lot of noise and not be heard, but other times I’ll end up being heard when being as quiet as a mouse. To escape these situations, you have to utilize computers, lock-picks, and a variety of other stealth items, including a nifty scope that allows you to see under doors.

As Fisher, it’s ultimately your goal to not kill people. The most important part of your mission is your survival, like I said. Killing people often leads to a body being discovered, unless you put the corpse in a good location. Good locations are typically dark, and in the night both Fisher and the corpse thrive. Fisher must always be sneaking through the dark, and with the aid of night vision goggles and a handy on screen meter that tracks the light you’re in, you only need to worry about the noise your making. Noise is also an important factor, because the A.I of the enemies in the game is incredible, and if you are making more noise than a virgin on prom night, odds are you’re going to get caught. This however is questionable, as sometimes I’ll make a lot of noise and not be heard, but other times I’ll end up being heard when being as quiet as a mouse. Noise can prove to be an advantage though, as sometimes throwing a can or a bottle in the opposite direction you’re going can lead an enemy to go investigating, leaving the path open to you.

Another problem was the controls of the game. While the aiming was much more refined, what with a mouse and all, the jumping in the game was atrocious, and almost makes me be willing to give up mouse aiming for a handy control pad. Further more, the in game prompts and tips don’t change if you re-map the keys. And, being that I’m forgetful, I would constantly press the space bar, the games defaulted action key, instead of the shift key, which I set it to, and every time I did, I said damn it.

Graphically, Splinter Cell shines. On my GeForce 4 Ti4200, the game ran as smooth as butter…after I downloaded the latest drivers for it. That bothered me a bit, since I never download them for any game, and this was the first one to demand it. You’d think that I wouldn’t need to, considering the NVidia logo prominently displayed on the games box. Anyhow, I must say that the lighting effects in Splinter Cell are superb. With the impact of the lighting on gameplay, I would be shocked and dismayed if they weren’t as good as they are, but fortunately, you can tell the amount of work that went into creating the lighting effects engine. Also good are the character models and the level designs, both with individual quirks that you appreciate, such as minor movements and realistic setup respectively. Ultimately my favorite graphical feature was the way that blankets and sheets move when you run through them. I spent 5 minutes running back and forth through a hanging sheet in a morgue in the game, and loved watching it flutter and sway back into place.

The audio is very well done as well. It’s a good thing these days that consoles are up to the task of computers in regards to graphics and sound quality. The voice-overs in Splinter Cell are well done, and the grizzly-voiced Fisher is the star of the show. He sounds a bit like he’s got cancer or something though, and I think he should get that checked out if he hasn’t already. The music is particularly well-done, but you don’t really notice it at first. However, should you get seen by an enemy or a civilian, the music gets tense and moody to express the heightened alert. While just walking along, you’re treated to a quiet and slow melody that you can barely notice. Given the importance of the sound effects in this game, this is not one I’d recommend for the hearing impaired.

Overall, Splinter Cell was a bit over hyped. It’s a slow, mechanical game that’s very rigid and ultimately teeter-totters on being aggravating before finally progressing into another similarly aggravating situation. Fortunately, it does what it does very well, and provides the ultimate in stealth experience along the way. Don’t buy this game if you’re looking for something along the lines of Ghost Recon or Soldier of Fortune, because if you do you’ll be sadly disappointed.

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