Tom Clancy is well known in the gaming industry, his company Red Storm Entertainment produced quite a number of hugely successful titles. The majority of these titles fall under the Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear series, although they have developed many very entertaining releases in the past. Recently acquired by Ubi Soft Entertainment, Tom Clancy and Ubi Soft's Montreal Studios have gone and done it again with Splinter Cell.
You are Sam Fisher working in the field of covert operations for the United States Government and the National Security agency, although they deny your existence. You are a Splinter Cell, a lone field operative, stealthy, quick, and effective, supported by a remote team of specialists. Sent in to locate two missing operatives and gather intelligence, your mission it to remain in the shadows, under the cover of darkness. Leave no trace on the maps, no witnesses, and get out alive. Welcome to Third Echelon.
Splinter Cell emphasizes stealth in every respect, movement, positioning, and attitude. Keeping your back to the wall, crouching, and moving along slowly as not to disturb enemy forces are the key to survival. Your gun is only to be used as a last resort; the level of ammunition provided reflects this. Alarms are prevalent in Splinter Cell, preventing an enemy from reaching these is of critical importance. Not only is the development structure and concepts behind the title sound, their implementation clearly reflects a polished and well-developed title to say the absolute least.
Aesthetically, Splinter Cell is very pleasing to the eye; object models and lighting effects are absolutely superb. Character movement is extremely fluent and quite realistic, while the texture work is beautiful in nearly every respect. Lighting effects are the supremacy of Splinter Cell however; the developer has taken the time to provide accurate lighting and fully dynamic shadow effects to the title. If you shoot out every light in a room, it will go black unlike many titles. Wall lights, ceiling fixtures, and even lamps cast shadows, providing a highly detailed immersive environment. Although maxing out the settings in the game requires a very powerful system, the detail is completely scalable and the title runs very nicely on slower machines as well, a testament to the level of optimization and efficiency the developers have done to produce this highly polished title.
The gameplay in Splinter Cell is easily it's strongest element. Although the learning curve is a bit steep, once you begin to understand the basic concepts the rest should come naturally. A third-person action title, players can use many different tactics to achieve their objectives, whether it is by using an enemy as a human shield while firing or simply grabbing a soldier from behind and interrogating them with the threat of a pistol to their head. One of the coolest maneuvers however is one that allows Fisher to rebound off one wall in a tight area and remain upright, thrust between the two walls, an excellent way to avoid that patrol guard. If you should happen to get into a nasty bloodshed battle with an enemy soldier, often the best practice is to remove the body and place it into a dark corner or hidden location as not to have another soldier come upon it and sound an alarm. Fisher's speed is can be adjusted by the position of a mouse wheel, shift the wheel up to move faster and vice versa. Voila, we now have an exceptional technique, allowing for an extremely accurate, quite precise system to determine how quickly you want to move. Whether it is crouching along at a slow pace, as not to make much noise, or sliding down a cable, the action and gameplay is Splinter Cell is nearly perfect in every respect, one of the greatest demonstrations ever produced in the genre.
Shooting is a very interesting element in Splinter Cell. Although you may find yourself targeting more lights and cameras then enemies, Ubi Soft has taken a very unique approach to this aspect of the title. When you need to fire a weapon, the camera switches to a first-person over the shoulder perspective, allowing you to aim and focus your shot. Your movement is somewhat inhibited when aiming a weapon, and albeit a much slower process than one might expect, it provides extreme realism and a new approach to the genre.
Mission design is one of the most important aspects for games in the genre, and Splinter Cell really emphasizes this element. Each mission contains a different objective, whether you are capturing a colonel to open a retinal scanner, disabling a laser grid, performing reconnaissance, or simply overhearing a conversation, players will be amused by the wide variety of objectives available. Unfortunately, Splinter Cell can be somewhat tedious at times as the mission design lends itself to that of requiring many quick saves and reloads if you mess up, which often is not hard to do. Fortunately, these saves and loads are easily completed, and execution times are very quick in comparison to most games of this type. Generally, Splinter Cell succeeds in this aspect, and the well-designed and planned missions are a successful element of the title.
One aspect in which Splinter Cell really shines is the weapons and tools available to Sam Fisher. Many little gadgets, from laser microphones, optical cables for looking under doors, sticky cameras, lock picks, camera jammers, rappelling equipment, not to mention wall mines or your standard issue pistol are common in Splinter Cell. Players are also given a set of night vision and heat vision goggles, as many missions will require you to venture to dark locations swarming with enemy forces. Heat sensitive goggles are very useful for scouting out and locating enemy troops, and avoiding a confrontation. This wide variety of weaponry and gadgets are a great asset to the title, and add much in the way of replay value over the life of Splinter Cell.
Sound is likely one of the best aspects of Splinter Cell, the title emphasizes stealth in every respect and the sound reflects this. The sounds generated and volume is based on the speed and material walked across by Fisher. Should you alert a guard or raise suspicion, a tension building background stream begins, wonderfully crafted and perfectly executed. Besides these realistic effects that greatly add to the atmosphere of the title, the speech and dialogue is exceptionally done. Splinter Cell features some of the best voice acting seen in any recent title, although with people like Michael Ironside at the helm as the voice of Sam Fisher, one would expect a good performance.
Splinter Cell succeeds in nearly every respect, something few modern titles are able to accomplish. From its absolutely gorgeous visuals, superb sound and voice acting, complex and intricate gameplay, and solid mission design, Splinter Cell is easily one of the best shooters produced to this day. Although it doesn't quite revolutionize or reform the genre, Splinter Cell comes pretty close, and that is an understatement to say the least.