Sunday, August 17, 2008

Splinter Cell Series:

Games: Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory, Double Agent

Systems: Xbox and Xbox 360

Releases: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007

When ever someone asks me, “Why did you buy an Xbox?” I give them three answers. Halo, Ninja Gaiden, and Splinter Cell. Thus it is only fitting that I dedicated some time to the third member of my holy Xbox trinity. Splinter Cell is a stealth action game developed by Tom Clancy and Ubisoft. This series revolutionized the much neglected stealth genre, and produced some of the best looking games on the Xbox.

The plots for this series always take place in the near future, and typically revolve around a catastrophic event that could trigger World War III or worse. The main character, Sam Fisher, is the best of the best in modern day spies. He is selected by Irving Lambert, an old friend, to be apart of the black ops team for the NSA called Third Echelon. The character development is remarkable in each of the tittles. The actors give top notch performances, and the events portrayed are realistic and exciting.

The first three games stuck to the generic prevention of world wide threats, but the fourth title, Double Agent, took a different approach. Fisher and Lambert get wind of a plot to set of numerous WMDs throughout the United States. Without the approval of Washington, they decide to infiltrate the terrorist organization. Fisher goes along with the dangerous idea presumably because his daughter died leaving him alone in the world. Throughout the game there are tough choices that have to be made. Fisher can’t appear to be a spy, but at the same time he’s suppose appease the US government. By the end of the game Lambert is dead, Third Echelon is dissolved, and Fisher is on the run from the CIA. Double Agent presumably sets up the next Splinter Cell game entitled Conviction.

The gameplay for the Splinter Cell series consistently improves from title to title. The first game is arguably the hardest to complete. There are numerous missions where no alarms can be triggered; no guards can be killed, etc. You have to be the perfect spy. No one can know that you were there. The second game, Pandora Tomorrow, is more forgiving then the first, but still requires a greater degree of stealth then Chaos Theory or Double Agent.

Pandora Tomorrow introduced the first multiplayer aspect to the series. Players pair up into teams of spies and mercenaries. The spies are given a set amount of time to complete various objectives, and the mercenaries attempt to prevent the spies from succeeding. When playing as a mercenary there is no third person perspective, and the gameplay is very similar to a FPS Tom Clancy game. Spies are the equivalent of a non-lethal Fisher. The action is intense, and the tension of some matches is incredible. Unfortunately, this revolutionary multiplayer has a high learning curve that often shuns away new players. The community never really hit record numbers, and many games suffered from connection issues.

Chaos Theory and Double Agent improved some of the faults of the first attempt at Spies vs. Mercenaries, and also introduced co-op. Players take on the role of two new recruits to the Third Echelon. My personal nick names for them is Blue and Red—based on the color of thier goggles. There are about a half dozen awesome missions that you can accomplish with a friend. Each require team work unique to the co-op mode, but ultimately the gameplay is very similar to the single player campaign.

To accomplish your missions the NSA provides you with some really cool toys. There is the infamous sticky camera that can be shot from an attachment on your gun. This device will scout out numerous areas, and can also be used to distract and/or neutralize guards. My other favorite spy tool is the sticky shocker. This weapon can take out numerous guards who always seem to stand in large puddles of water. In addition to these devices, there are not so standard military weapons. The third game upgraded Fishers arsenal to include a knife (the best item in the game), an electronic jammer connected to his pistol, and a shotgun and sniper attachment to his rifle.

Of course all of these tools are useless in the wrong hands. Luckily Fisher, and the other spies, has amazing acrobatic agility and strength. The player can take full advantage of the levels environments. The famous split kick will allow the spy to hide in narrow hallways. Climbing across rooms on pipes, and crawling in air vents, is vital to moving across heavily guarded areas unnoticed. There is nothing like snapping the neck of an unsuspecting enemy has you hang upside down from a pipe. The game does an excellent job of providing multiple paths and numerous ways to complete each level. This is especially true in Double Agent and Chaos theory where more aggressive gameplay is allowed aka the stupid but ballsy style.

The Splinter Cell series has provided me with countless hours of entertainment. The games are solid from top to bottom. Gorgeous graphical presentation, top notch sound, and smart and adaptive gameplay create a unique experience every gamer should try at least once. The overall series gets 5 out of 5 with a special recognition to Chaos Theory. This game introduced the preeminent upgrades to the series, and propelled its popularity to new heights. If you have to pick only one Splinter Cell game to play, then make it Chaos Theory.

1 comment:

Jason Strizich said...

In all actuality, the term "console wars" in about to be an obsolete term. Due to large companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision. Exclusive titles are becoming a rare commodity, the Wii is outside of this standard due to its unique nature. For example the only games that have come out and are coming out for the 360 this year is, Mass Effect, Ninja Gaiden, and Fable 2, the same standard applies to the PS3: Uncharted, LittleBIGplanet, and MGS4. So when someone decides to ask you why you get a console... just smack them and say, "shut up noob"