Review: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (PlayStation 2)

I remember going into an Electronics Boutique about 10 years ago (now its called EB Games) and looking for games for my newly purchased PlayStation 2 console. It was my way of differentiating from my brother. We had split down the middle in terms of gaming together and we would finally be able to play games on our own consoles. Carter the Gamecube, and myself the PlayStation 2.

The only two games I had at the time of receiving my PlayStation 2 on my 12th birthday was NHL 2003 and The Sims, but I wanted something more. And with my parents I would trot along down to the local Electronics Boutique, and there I would purchase my first new PlayStation 2 game…well it was actually two at the time: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Nascar Thunder 2003.

The box art for Splinter Cell and the back cover intrigued me greatly, describing Splinter Cell as “Stealth Action Redefined”. I had never heard of stealth, but it would prove to be one of the most challenging genres I would ever have to learn in a videogame.

You are Sam Fisher (voiced by Michael Ironside), a highly-trained agent of a fictional black ops division within the National Security Agency known as “Third Echelon”. In the first title of many, Fisher along with his team, including operations coordinator Lambert; Agent Wilkes, who is responsible for transportation and extraction, and Anna Grimsdottir, a computer and security expert at Third Echelon, must hunt and take down newly risen-to-power Georgian president Kombayn Nikoladze, after the country’s previous president was assassinated in the year 2004. Finding Nikoladze is a mission that takes Fisher across the countries of Georgia, United States, China and Russia, as you progress through 10 missions including T’Bilsi, the Chinese Embassy, the CIA, an Oil Rig, a slaughterhouse, and the Georgian Presidential Palace to name a few.

As Sam Fisher, shadows are your best friend. Sticking to the shadows throughout most of the game is a must and will allow you to avoid detection.

Years ago, I was stuck at a certain checkpoint on the CIA level and I thought I’d never be able to beat the game. Last year, I picked up Splinter Cell: Conviction for the first time, and upon beating that, I was able to prove to myself that I had the patience and determination to tackle a stealth-action videogame again. At the beginning of this month was E3 2012, where they announced the newest title in the Splinter Cell franchise, Blacklist, and from there, I knew I had to go back and beat Splinter Cell in order to get myself caught up on the series. As of yesterday, I was finally able to beat the game on a Normal difficulty.

So now its time to get to my review of the game, pointing out the high and low points of this game. All-in-all, I had a lot of fun, and returning to the shoes of Sam Fisher after many years always seems to be a treat for me. This month of June has definitely felt like the month of Splinter Cell, as I haven’t been able to start any other game until I could say I finished this one for good.

An image from a later point in the game, where you must interrogate a Chinese general possibly aligned with Nikoladze, and force him to access his computer files.

So what does Splinter Cell have going for it? Well its definitely got to be one of the most challenging games I’ve played in my life, that’s for sure. Stealth-action is almost hard to come by these days, but I feel Splinter Cell, as well as the classic Metal Gear Solid franchise revolutionized stealth-action for the consoles after the turn of the century.

Patience is definitely a huge aspect in this game, as well as memorizing and calculating certain movement patterns of your enemies if you want to proceed and take out foes without alerting anyone else. Shadows are your best friend in this game, and Sam is equipped with an arsenal of covert gadgets, gizmos and weaponry that you can utilize to your liking, so long as you don’t draw too much attention to yourself.

A light meter is shown on your screen in the bottom right hand corner above where you can scroll through your gadgets and weaponry. Sticking to extreme darkness will have your light meter stay on the left side, or as Lambert in-game describes, you become a “ghost’s shadow”. Avoid your light meter being on the right side, or you stick out like a sore thumb and are an easy target for enemies. Fisher dons the classic trifogal goggles, and can also switch between night vision and thermal vision throughout the game, both of which prove very important in some cases.

Fisher is equipped with two main weapons throughout the game:  a suppressed FN Five-Seven pistol as well as a suppressed FN F2000 assault rifle, which includes a scope and a launcher for some of the less-lethal devices such as ring airfoil projectiles, “sticky shockers” and CS gas grenades. Frag grenades can be found during the game if you like to play dirty. You can also collect sticky and diversion cameras to shoot from your assault rifle; the latter is very helpful because it allows you to make noise and activate a knock-out gas from the camera to disengage your enemies from a distance. Medical Kits are also provided through the levels, but be sure to save up, and this goes for everything. You can also grab characters in the dark, knock them out and drag their corpses away. Special characters may require interrogation, in order to gain more information or access codes to a keypad. As well in certain levels, you may need to use a higher-level security guard for a retinal scanner, as gaining entrance any other way will not work.

Ammunition is scarce in this game, as you have to rely on stealth and only stealth in some levels. Some levels range in difficulty, and can include utilizing lethal force if necessarily, or not being able to trigger up to 3 alarms before it is game over. So keep an eye out for which levels and areas ask this of you.

An image showing the Kalinatek building, the level after the CIA level.

This game does an excellent job of not only telling a compelling story through news wire cutscenes and conversations between Lambert, Fisher and Grimsdottir, but the characters in themselves are very memorable and you grow to learn more about them as the game progresses. As well, these characters span over mutiple Splinter Cell titles, so I’m anxious to see what the next few titles have in store for me and these characters. I can’t find much complaints about the game rather than bicker like a schoolgirl over its difficulty. This game sure kicked my ass several times, but in the end, its all worth it. I guess I would’ve liked to be able to use all my gadgets at some point. I found that the Air Ringfold Round and Disposable Picks proved unnecessary in my inventory.

In the end, if you’re hoping for a challenge, I’d definitely recommend the Splinter Cell franchise. I’ve already beaten two, I’ve got three more to go, minus Essentials for the PSP. Stealth-action is a genre that has always scared me, but more in terms of utilizing patience and silence as your weapon. It was never something I could understand thoroughly as a young 12 year-old boy, but now, I feel I’ve gained enough experience that I could tackle any game, big or small. So ha, take that Splinter Cell. I’m going to come down hard on the rest of you!

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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