RETRO – Forget James Bond’s Vodka martinis and Cate Archer’s short skirt in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell! In a real-life spy work, there is nothing romantic. Sam Fisher, ex-CIA, ex-Navy Seal, and currently NSA agent does not have the time for women or casinos during missions, or kill half of China/Russia’s army: our hero mostly uses the shadows to get forward, and only uses his weapons as a last resort. When watching CNN and you see the news of an international terrorist organization’s leader having an accident, then you guessed right that Sam Fisher was behind the “accident”.
If I were to base an opinion about Tom Clancy purely on the games released, I would think that Mr Clancy rather hates the ex-soviet countries, as all of them seem to attack a Nato country, and then the USA and only the fierce Anti-Terrorist units can save the day. The story is something similar in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: In 2004 the Georgian president is assassinated, and a new leader called Kombajn Nikoladze has become the leader of the country. His schemes are threatening world peace.
This time however not a team, but a man is sent in to stop the enemy, he is the only one who has the authority to kill anyone anywhere: to save the lives of Americans, and the other four values: free speech, freedom of religion, will, and to destroy fear. (Well at least according to the game as the American Constitution does not talk about this too much). Of course, all of this is served as a bit more realistic spy movie, where if our hero gets captured, the USA will deny its existence.
I sneak therefore I am
That is the summary of the story for the game. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is a more advanced version of Metal Gear Solid. Although we are in an entirely different environment, the gameplay is the same: we play as a highly trained special agent, who we have to sneak into buildings and complete super secret objectives.
“Super secret” is not just an exaggeration: our hero must not be seen by the guards (within a reasonable limit)… otherwise, the alarms will go off, and the entire army will be on our neck. This means that those who grew up on NOLF, IGI, SOF, and Wolfenstein, will be unable to exterminate entire military bases as if we hear the sirens too many times the mission will fail.
We also do not have weapons that allow us to slaughter hundreds as this Sam is not a “Serious” one, so no John Woo battles with dual pistols, AK47-s, flamethrowers rocket launchers (you get the idea). We only have a Silence Pistol, and later a Silenced machine gun.
In fact, the die-hard FPS fans will even be sadder by the following: in this game, there is no corpse eviscerating, and we cannot waste ammo too much, as we cannot get ammo from fallen enemies. However, the pacifists will be also disappointed as we will have to use our weapons in some of the most dangerous situations. It is important to note that a good headshot is worth a lot in this game, as the enemy at times has body armour and other defences. As ammo is scarce, we will need to measure our shots, and right shots are a must in this game.
It is important to note that a good headshot is worth a lot in this title, as the enemy at times has body armour and other defences. As ammo is scarce, we will need to measure our shots, and right shots are a must in this game. The point of the title, however, is not the combat. In Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, we have to gather information and infiltrate locations where they do not expect us. Avoid the guards, and solve difficult situations behind enemy lines.
Behind enemy lines
All of the missions begin at a location near the target that is not dangerously close to the enemy. Usually, in the beginning, we have a clear goal: hack a PC, or force a Chinese or Russian colonel to spill out some information. Of course between us and the target, many guards are aided with a near-perfect AI. We will have to monitor their behaviour and try to outsmart them, pick up on their routine.
The less we disturb them, the more chance we have to sneak past by them. If we are forced to use our weapons, it is imperative that we control the situation! It is not a problem if we get injured a bit, we can still use bandages to heal ourselves up (these can be found on the maps).
However the problems arise when the alarm is raised (in some missions this will lead to failure), or when the enemy calls for reinforcements as they’ll kill us instantly, and Sam Fisher is not a macho 80s action hero. In such situations, we need to kill the only guard or knock him out, or to disable the alarm, or hide from the enemy.
Ivan is not stupid
The enemy will look out for Sam’s every move: they will hear his steps, shots, and other noise caused by him. They will see corpses left behind or knocked out comrades (a great feature is that the knocked out enemies can be woken up by their allies).
It is important to make a distinction between minor, and master mess ups. If the guards only see some shadow movement or soft noise, they’ll just investigate it, and get back to their post if they do not see you. We can also create an advantage with the alarms, as the enemy when investigating the noise will allow us to knock out the enemy or kill him.
My favourite was always when I would shoot out the lights, Ivan would go there and have no idea what happened, I would then knock him out, or if I had enough ammo, would just shoot him in the head. So we will have to figure out how the enemy works, and use it to our advantage. One tip that we receive in the game is that when the suspicion is getting higher for the enemy guard a powerful music part plays for us.
We will have to expect a large force, or some friends of the lone guard to visit us. Besides the guards, we will have fixed security cameras. Since No One Lives Forever, I have been watching how they handle them. If I shoot the camera will it activate the alarms gimmick? Well in Splinter Cell we can keep shooting the cameras the enemy and the alarms won’t mind. Only if the enemy is close and, they hear the shots.
However, I must say that the developers took the realistic route: some cameras have a bulletproof coating, which means we have to use other ways to pass through the line of sight of the machine. We can take out the lights to cover the room in darkness, or we can shimmy under the camera so it won’t spot us. If our protagonist would not be working for the NSA, he would probably be a circus acrobat as he can do such professional jumps and other special moves that it baffled me at times.
These actions are needed when we will need to dispose of the enemy quietly, or we have to reach a certain spot that is difficult to reach. In the tutorial luckily we can practice all of these. The most fun move is the Jean Claude Van Damme type jump where he suspends himself in the air with his legs on the wall. Sadly this could not be used too frequently in the game. To emphasize the stealthy nature of the game, the creators only allowed the use of the pistol to take out the cameras and the lamps. Of course, the headshots can still be valuable in missions.
There are however soldiers that we cannot kill during a mission: those soldiers have to be captured, and interrogate them, or use a retina scanner on them. In such situations, we get to experience incredibly tense conversations, and the fear can be felt from the captured soldier or civilian. Especially when they yell: PLEASE DO NO HURT ME!, while Sam is interrogating the delinquent.
If we get what we want, then Sam can either knock out or kill the person. I usually shot them in the end, just to make sure the guy is not found later alive. Another fun part I need to mention about the movement is that we can use ledges to our advantage so that we can map out the level below us. We can also peek from behind cover to see what is on the other side.
Perfect Dark Zero
Our hero has one common feature with the vampires: he loves to be in the dark and will do anything to stay in it. Light and shadows have a primary role in the game. The more light we are in, the easier it is for us to be caught. Because of this people will start to check for cameras all the times that need to be shot out.
Of course in the darkness we are also blind, luckily our hero is equipped with night vision goggles, and infrared goggles (luckily China and Georgia does not have this). The enemy soldiers will just stumble in the dark, and will only notice us if we are close to them. So it is not too difficult to kill them in the dark.
The developers did think about this, and our life is not easy since the night vision goggles are useless to us in the day, or when there are many bright lights. There is no need to shoot out the lights, as we can just switch them off, and it’s fun to knock out a soldier who goes back into the room trying to switch on the light.
The Google also has the infrared mode that is at times mandatory to use for certain mission sections, and locations. As there are sections where this mode allows us to figure out where the enemy is.
Although we will have to use the night vision goggles a lot for the missions, which diminish the quality of the graphics, luckily we will have all the time to enjoy the graphics in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. The developers did fantastic work on the light-shadow effects. I have not seen anything like this in a game ever.
Every object, a person has its own shadow, and these shadows place are determined by the source of the lights. The lights can sometimes create incredible visuals: at the beginning of the tutorial I was amazed when the sun shined in through the ventilators, I was also amazed how a giant plasma TV shined a light into a dark room.
What is the cherry on the cream is the animation? The developers used the motion capture technology scarcely, and most of it was figured out by them. Sam moves like a Ninja, crawls, runs, and fights with real authenticity. Besides the graphics, we have to talk about the sound design that is top-notch, and the music reminiscent of spy movies.
Michael Ironside was a great choice for the voice of Sam Fisher, who sometimes is threatening, sometimes very cynical, and sometimes communicates in such a way that he does not trust in his bosses. The secondary characters are also well voiced.
It’s a hit!
Splinter Cell is an astonishing game, but not without its issues. The AI can be a bit weird at times, and too stupid. There are some bugs in their behaviour and can be exploited. Also, Fisher himself is not a great melee fighter and fights slowly (I mean it’s okay to reload a gun slowly, but he does not have to reload his fists). Still, I recommend Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell to everyone who wants to dabble in the world of espionage for a while. It is one of the best stealth games out on the market.
+ Great Levels
+ Amazing graphics
+ Great atmosphere
– Sam Fisher fights really slow
– A few AI bugs
– A bit easy
Genres: Sneaking, TPS action
Release date: November 17th, 2002