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April 6, 2003
Splinter Cell - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
27/3/2003UbiSoftUbiSoft China1M15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
KBStereoYesNoNoneNo

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Climbing the fence, shadow results.
It's been the debate of the last couple of months. No, not PC Vs console, but rather XBox Splinter Cell Vs Playstation 2 Splinter Cell. Much has been mentioned of Microsoft's insistence that the XBox version be released prior to Christmas last year, and indeed the game sold extremely well and gave the console a massive boost particularly due to the stunning graphics and use of light and shadow as a crucial element to the gameplay. But the extra 5 months development time has done wonders for the Playstation 2 game. Not only has the game been ported faithfully, but also has an extra mission, better controls, and over 30 minutes of cut-scenes to tell the story.

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The moves are excellent.
The story in Splinter Cell serves as a nice backdrop to the action. You play the role of Sam Fisher, a member of a sub agency of the (American) National Security Agency call Third Echelon. The Third Echelon deploys Splinter Cells, or highly trained operatives, into various locations around the world in 2004 to uphold American values. In doing this job it is your task to bring stability to the world and prevent World War III. Naturally, if ever captured your existence will be denied by the governments. As you progress the missions are reported in TV styled news network presentations, who naturally get many of the facts, including your own existence, wrong.

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Expecting spiders?
There is little doubt that UbiSoft have taken much inspiration from Konami's stunning Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (which has also just been re-released) with much of the action based upon the characters stealth abilities, rather then action. But sneaking around isn't all you'll be able to do with a wide variety of weapons on offer to dispatch enemies. The primary weapon of choice for Sam is the SC-20K AR rifle, which has a secondary fire mode for gas grenades, cameras etc. Some of the other items that can be used during the missions include a pistol, lock picks, wall mines, chemical flares, frag grenades and Medikits.

Overall the gameplay is impressive. Drawing a weapon is performed by pressing the R2 button while R1 fires the weapon. As is becoming standard these days you can enter a sniper mode simply by pressing the R3 button. As previously mentioned this game has a strong emphasis on the use of light, or lack thereof, to progress. In the bottom right of screen you are given a visibility meter which shows how much light you are in, an how easily spotted you will be. Fortunately in many places you can turn off the lights, or shoot them out for cover.

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Check out the rays of light!
There are some minor niggles with the game. Firstly while it works well the use of a camera which rotates around the player eliminates the need to stick your head around the corner as in real life. Despite the freedom of this camera it is still sometimes very hard to see exactly where you should be going, or objects to climb on. Also disappointing is the way in which you can climb some pipes and poles, but not others a few meters away. Obviously this is to keep the game as linear as possible and in that regard the game is a little too linear for my liking. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty which allows you to complete some tasks in the order of your choosing, or skip them all together, Splinter Cell forces you along a fairly linear path.

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Using the night vision goggles.
One of the biggest questions which people have been asking about this game is how exactly it is different from the XBox version. Firstly let's start with the obvious. Yes, the XBox version does look better. The frame rate has dropped a little in the Playstation 2 game, especially when turning, but it's never a problem. The small details and some texturing looks a little better in the XBox game as well, but give the extra memory it comes as no surprise. The Playstation 2 game has also been given an extra level set on an oil rig, which is about an extra hours play or so. The biggest addition however is a 4-minute introduction and cut scenes between the levels totalling about 30 minutes. This adds a great deal to the storyline and is something that XBox owners sorely miss.

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Check out the wall textures.
The graphics in this port aren't quite up to the standards set by the XBox, but there have been some nice additions. The development team has added in a heat haze effect for the fires and ripples on the water. Despite not quite being up to the standards of the XBox title, the texturing in this PS2 port is amazing. The 30 minutes of cut scenes look amazing, and while not up to the standards set by Square, are certainly not worth skipping. During the game the right analogue stick is used to rotate the view. While it's not as smooth as the XBox game, there is some jerkiness, it's quite effective and allows you to view the surroundings. My issue with this however is that it sometimes gives you too much view around corners removing the element of surprise.

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Sitting in the light isn't good.
One thing that Splinter Cell does excel at is the use of sound as an integral part of the gameplay. Walk over different surfaces and not only do your feet make different sounds, but these sounds can then be heard by the enemies. Walking over broken glass will almost always get their attention while creeping over it slowly should allow you to pass safely. The music is also atmospheric. Get spotted and the tempo picks up while it slows down during the quieter periods of the game.

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Using the heat goggles.
The debate shall continue as to which is the better version - PS2 or XBox. When you look at the positives to each - better graphics and small details on XBox or 30 minutes of cut scenes, extra mission, better controls and more graphical effects such as heat haze on PS2 in my mind there is a clear winner - Playstation 2. As a game UbiSoft have introduced some wonderful gameplay elements in the strong use of light and shadows as well as sound. There aren't too many problems with title, a couple more missions would have been nice and a multi-player mode could have been very interesting. Still, this is a fine game that should be in every action fans collection.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSNot as pretty as XBox, but close, and better then most PS2 games.
92%
SOUNDAt last a game in which the (often terrific) sound is vital to success.
95%
GAMEPLAYWhile the game contains some flaws it is tremendous fun overall.
91%
VALUESplinter Cell is a game of quality over quantity and will be replayed.
85%
OVERALLThose doubting the Playstation 2 could replicate the XBox will be astounded by this port. Sure, there are some slight modifications and loss of detail, but it's hardly noticeable and given the age of Playstation 2 this game a remarkable accomplishment. The addition of the cut scenes and extra mission make this game worthwhile. Get it now.
91%

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