Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell is a Stealth/Political Thriller video game created by Ubisoft back in 2002. I’ve always known about the Splinter Cell franchise ever since growing up during the PS2 era. At that time, I never had the gaming intelligence to play a game as complex and difficult as Splinter Cell. 15 years later, I decided to give the franchise a shot and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve personally done in terms of jumping onto a new franchise. I started playing Splinter Cell back in 2017 but never got a chance to complete it in a short span of time. It took me two full years to get around finishing this game but it was worth the wait. Now, let's get right to the reviewing, shall we?
In terms of gameplay, Splinter Cell is meticulous in its approach to the stealth genre and expertly executed. Never have I ever played a stealth game quite like this, even when I've played the Metal Gear franchise.The amount of sheer freedom given to the player in terms of how to approach a certain situation is refreshing to say the least. Ubisoft’s developers took the stealth genre into new territory with gameplay mechanics that I've never come across. The flexibility of movement in Splinter Cell is one of the best in the stealth genre. For example, Fisher can mantle onto and climb along ledges, hang from pipes, and perform a "split jump" in narrow spaces to mantle up a steep wall. For a game in 2002, this is unheard of and goes to show you how talented Ubisoft can be when they’re on their ‘A-game’. The intense moments of the game arise not from close encounters with NPCs but rather when trying to evade them in terms of stealth. I’ve struggled at first when it came to understanding the basics but as time passed, I saw myself becoming more skilled and quiet with my approach to the situation at hand. The weapons given in this game are well-balanced and fun to use. At the same time, it requires a level of skill to properly handle them, which adds to the overall realism of Splinter Cell. The gadgets are fantastic and range from Stick Diversion cameras to camera-hacking guns. You will feel as if you truly have complete access to CIA’s weapons and arsenal. The camera view is ahead of its time in terms of today’s third person games; I saw it as something that wasn’t executed right until the PS3 era. During my play-through, I never felt like the game was a chore, except when I would repeat a section for failing it. This game does not hold your hand, but it respects your intelligence. Slightly frustrating issues aside, Splinter Cell is a masterful stealth game when it comes to gameplay, especially if you’re a fan of the stealth genre.
Splinter Cell is a Political Thriller at heart. I was at the edge of my seat at certain points in the game, and the newsreel cut scenes done well enough to create that tension throughout the campaign. Playing Sam Fisher for the first time made me realize why he is so beloved among Splinter Cell fans: he has charisma and a strong personality that brings his character more grounded in reality. The dialogue in the game is well-written, to say the least. The typical CIA lingo is present but it never felt tacky or contrived; rather, it felt like it was taken straight out of a Tom Clancy novel, which is always a good thing. The antagonists in the game are well-rounded, not one-dimensional in their motives. I felt like they could pose as real-life figures who would pose some serious threats to 1st World Countries like the U.S. and made me think whether someone like Grinko or Fae Long could exist in our world. The locations that take place in the story are memorable to say the least, not just in terms of how they appear visually, but the tone and art direction for each location truly made me feel like I was in that country and city. While there was some backtracking in terms of locations used, I felt like those locations warranted another visit from how well they were realized in the game. The story has a great mystery that continued to tease and amp up the tension and thankfully, the reveal at the end was worth the wait. Some nice plot twists sprinkled here and there too, but the overall plot was interesting enough for me not to care about plot twists or other literary devices that I'm accustomed to in political thrillers (see MGS). The ending of the game, however, was decent and a bit underwhelming, but I played the Ubisoft Shanghai version of the game so I will reserve my judgement until i play the Montreal version. Overall, the story was executed well and I can safely say it’s a story that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Atmosphere (Graphics/World Design/Art Direction/Music/Sound Design) [9.5/10]
From all of the PlayStation 2 games that I’ve played over the past 17 years, never have I been so stunned by a game’s graphics than Splinter Cell. Some of the best art direction in terms of location design I've seen in years. I honestly want to visit some of these locations now after playing the game. Not only this, but the attention to detail and graphical advancements in this game are noteworthy to say the least. Using an advanced physics engine to render real-time cloth movement when passing through a curtain door is a sight to behold. I can’t imagine how people reacted to it back in 2002. The atmosphere evoked in this game is bar none; you truly feel like you’re in Georgia infiltrating a military base and the music that accompanies you along the way does a great job of maintaining that espionage atmosphere throughout the game. The sound design really impressed me and never did I encounter a situation where the audio wasn’t a huge helping hand when going in stealth. It’s an amazing piece of audio engineering on Ubisoft’s part and helps with the overall immersion of the world. Overall, the presentation was outstanding and I love seeing developers push the envelope when it comes to graphical technology and sound design.
I think by now, you can safely assume that I found Splinter Cell to be a fantastic game. It has great replay value due to the sheer depth of the gameplay and overall, It was a great start to a legendary franchise. I hope this series never ends as there’s so much possibilities to achieve with it, both narrative and gameplay wise. I highly recommend this game for those who love stealth and those who love old school game design tendencies. I would not recommend this game to those who get frustrated easily because this game does not play around; it will never hold your hand. Now, I have to really start playing the rest of the games in the Splinter Cell series and may end up reading the novels as well.
Score: 9.25/10 (Editor's Choice)