The Splinter Cell strikes back thread (take that Metroid!)

I’m extremely curious if anyone here is playing this. I’m trying to make up my mind between getting Live with MA or Ghost Recon, or to skip the Live experience for now and play some SC.

I wouldn’t get Live! for MechAssault unless vanilla deathmatch (with sprinkles) is exciting to you. As for GR and UC, well, if you have a PC…

It’s looking more and more like the “must have” games for Live! are the sports franchises-- NHL 2003 just came out and is Live! compatible, for example.

You can also download add-ons for games even if they’re not fully “live!” compatible. This is true of Splinter Cell (new missions, etc) as well as a half-dozen other titles.

I’m not trying to pimp a mag I used to work for, but…OXM this month has a demo of Splinter Cell (along with BloodRayne, TJ&E III, and others). If you’re on the fence, buy the mag and check out the demo for yourself. I’m a huge stealth fan and I absolutely loved it. I’ve already got SC, but I want to finish Metroid first.

I just got through the training, and I’m tremendously impressed with Splinter Cell. One little benchmark I use for games is, how much fun did I have in the training? Well, SC is shooting a perfect 10/10 so far. For me, the highlight was sound training room with the egg-carton style acoustic walls-- for obstacles, you’ve got hanging chains, a drop onto a metal walkway, and (of course) broken glass on the ground. The soundtrack was reduced to a heartbeat for this sequence, which was VERY cool.

Fantastic controls, with great (and amazingly varied) actions for Sam. It’s the first game I’ve seen where you can actually jump off walls, Tony Hawk style, to reach higher ledges. It’s also hands down the best lockpicking simulation yet-- you rotate the left analog stick and the vibration lets you know when you’ve hit a “pin”. Wiggle enough and it releases, then repeat. That’s representative of the detail the developers have put into every aspect of this game. The stealth elements are… dare I say… looking like they might actually rival, if not actually outstrip, Thief? It’s incredibly solid.

Visually, it is outstanding; the light effects, in my opinion, are superior to what I saw in the leaked Doom 3 alpha.* Good luck doing these lighting effects on a GC, and god help the PS2.

And, as always, I can’t say enough great things about a nice Dolby Digital setup for gaming. That goes double for this game, since noise can give you away as easily as being seen can. Hearing sounds convincingly pan around you to each individual speaker as you rotate the camera contributes greatly to immersion, plus having a big honkin’ subwoofer makes booms go BOOM. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the major reasons to play a hybrid PC/Xbox title like this one on the Xbox only.

As I play more of the game, I don’t know if I’ll get frustrated enough to drop this into the 8.5/10 range like Kasavin did (although, strangely, he was never frustrated in Metroid… hmm), but I can tell you right now that you WILL want this game if you own an Xbox and have any interest whatsoever in stealth-type gameplay.

  • Actually, I wasn’t impressed with the alpha. The lighting had a lot of weirdo side effects that ripped it out of “ooh” territory and right back into antiseptic graphics card demo territory for me-- which is about what you would expect for a leaked alpha, I guess. I was worried that playing the alpha would reduce my enthusiasm for the game, and my fears were realized :(

Interestingly, Kasavin’s review (8.6) is the lowest reported score for this game to date:

http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/21880.asp

The gamespot user reviews are averaging to ~9.2 so far, for what that’s worth. For comparison, Jedi Knight II Xbox got an 8.3, and Unreal Championship got an 8.5.

I’ll know more as I play more, but man, this game has sho’ nuff got the Bruce Leroy full body glow of a superstar title.

So far, I’m just not that impressed. I’ll admit having a little trouble with the Metroid Controls but damn, I feel like I’m fighting the camera every step of the way in Splinter Cell. Maybe after a little more time playing, but I’m just not having all that much fun.

And Wumpus, concerning the graphics, what are you smoking? You’re quick to jump all over the PS2 for resolution issues, but you can’t tell me you’re satisfied with the jaggy crap this game is pulling. It’s bad. Really bad.

I think EGM gave Splinter Cell an 8.5.

It looks really cool. Is SC much better than other sneak around type shooters?

Admission of ignorance: Who the hell is Bruce Leroy?

I am playing SC and it’s the most fun I’ve had on my Xbox since Halo. It forces you to be stealthy and it’s a nice change from run and gun. The whole presentation is also very cool. The graphics are slick and the sound is top notch.

That’s right Dave C. SC was only made to be played on the Xbox. The PC version will suck. To everyone else. Get an xbox.

Admission of ignorance: Who the hell is Bruce Leroy?

Hero of the one and only Last Dragon (http://us.imdb.com/Title?0089461), perhaps the greatest Karate Kid/softcore blaxpoitation hybrid mystical martial arts hokum featuring a 9 foot tall villain named Sho’nuff to be released in 1985. Available now on TNT and home video.

Oh, and I’m enjoying what I’ve played on Splinter Cell (its currently 2nd on the “to be played after Vice City pile”, right after Metroid). I’ve only really screwed around with the training and the OXM demo, but (framerate issues aside) its a damn good stealth game in the Thief (not Metal Gear Solid) mold.

And Wumpus, concerning the graphics, what are you smoking? You’re quick to jump all over the PS2 for resolution issues, but you can’t tell me you’re satisfied with the jaggy crap this game is pulling. It’s bad. Really bad.

Eh? It’s still 640x480, which is pretty much the max resolution for a standard television. This will vary by screen size (I hear Asher plays on a 5" black and white screen ;)) but it’s never going to look like an ultra-high-res 1280x1024 computer game. Some aliasing on a TV is expected, particularly if you have a quality large TV. My beef with PS2 is the even worse resolution than this; a lot of games use 640x240 on that platform due to the lack of video framebuffer memory… the complete absence of mip-mapping compounds the problem.

I’ll admit having a little trouble with the Metroid Controls but damn, I feel like I’m fighting the camera every step of the way in Splinter Cell. Maybe after a little more time playing, but I’m just not having all that much fun.

Did you go through the training? There are really only a few key moves you need to be good at. My game did come with a Prima mini-walkthrough of the first mission, which was helpful while I was learning what kinds of things I could and couldn’t do.

On a more serious note, I did run into one of the frustrating things Greg was probably referring to. On mission 2, as soon as I shimmied across the ledge to the newly opened window, I kept triggering a “body found” alarm. Which was mystifying, because all the guys in the level to that point were knocked out and/or dead-- who is finding them? I checked the forums, and it seems that unless you have ALL the bodies in COMPLETE darkness-- eg, no big toes sticking out-- some alarms will trigger at certain points in the level no matter what you do. That’s incredibly arbitrary and not intuitive, but at least now I know about it.

Finally… have you guys tried throwing cans or bottles? Pick them up, hit X to equip, then right trigger to throw.

I’m waiting for the PC version. Go keyboard/mouse!

Wellll… the analog control of movement is kind of important in this game, as the amount of noise you make is directly proportional to how fast you’re going. I’m not sure the digital on/off of WASD is going to cut it.

Also, you won’t be doing a lot of shooting, so the mouse isn’t as critical as it would be in, say… Serious Sam. This is a stealth game. One interesting design decision they made is to not let the player get ammo from dead bodies. That keeps you from going on regular shooting rampages. I almost ran out of bullets at the end of the first mission, in fact. This gently nudges you towards the stealthy elements of the game… which is not a problem, since they’re so well done and intuitive.

Not to ding NOLF2, but, by way of comparison… even though the stealth elements in that game were much improved over NOLF, they don’t even hold a candle to what’s in SC. This game may be the first true heir to Thief.

They actually have an interesting system in place to tackle that. It’s actually easier to be stealthy in the PC version than the Xbox version.

I’m far from anti-PC, but these digital control concessions may take away from the game experience.

I’m guessing that there’s a toggle-type key which switches you from “slow” to “medium” to “fast” movement modes? I think that’s inferior to the intuitive “the more I move this stick, the faster my character moves” approach.

Also, the ultra-cool lockpicking mode (rotate the left analog stick until you feel it “click” on a pin, then jiggle it in that direction, then repeat for subsequent pins) is going to be a complete loss on the PC with keyboard/mouse.

Not to mention the whole Dolby Digital thing I keep harping on. I love my PC, but I don’t have $2,000 worth of sound equipment hooked up to it. Sound plays a big role in this game.

Serious Sam and Unreal Championship are games that might be better on the PC. This one, better resolution issues aside, I’m not so sure…

Running out ammo is “gently nudging”? :)

That’s like saying having no savegame during a level “gently nudges” you to be more careful.

 -Tom

Well, I was fairly sloppy in the first level… as I expect many people will be, since they’re learning the many different ways you can resolve combat situations-- open that window and sneak in, or go through the front door guns blazing? blast the bigscreen TV and hide in the resulting darkness? grab a goon and hold him hostage in front of the second goon? throw an item to distract them then sneak by? climb that pole onto the roof? etcetera.

There were plenty of opportunities to sneak by people that I just blasted. Then I found myself with only two bullets left to take out a pesky security camera. Doh!

That said, you can pick up ammo from ammo boxes. However, this isn’t one of those games where health kits and ammo are lying around the level willy-nilly.

Here’s a little mini-review from a random ShackNews user… he gives some more examples of specific things in the game that make it cool:
http://www.shacknews.com/ja.zz?id=6031978

The only stealth game I’ve played is Metal Gear Solid, and that is what I envisioned SC being like. But Naked states above that this is more like Thief than MGS. Can someone explain the difference to a poor schmo who never played Thief?

Can someone explain the difference to a poor schmo who never
played Thief?

Unlike MGS, Splinter Cell isn’t 80% overwrought, non-interactive cut scene.

The lock picking mechanic is just a gimmick that doesn’t affect gameplay as far as I can tell (I’m still on the first level). It’s a neat gimmick, though. I don’t think the PC version would suffer much from its removal. For a nice unlocking system that’s actually sort of puzzling and doesn’t require a vibrating controller, check out my new favorite game Ratchet & Clank.

Analog speed selection, however, seems like it’s gonna be a pretty serious loss for the PC version of Splinter Cell.

Like I said, I’m only on the first level, but so far I haven’t seen much in the way of varying paths to each goal. You can either sneak by guards or subdue them, but the first level, at least, appears to have only only one physical route through it.

Can someone explain the difference to a poor schmo who never played Thief?

Well, the most obvious point to make would be that Thief focuses on the use of light and shadow, versus MGS’ emphasis on cover and hiding. The real difference, however, lies in the enemy AI and puzzle design.

MGS is a strictured, rule based stealth game - enemies detect you at a visibly defined radius, remain curious for a set period of time, and then return to normal behavior as if nothing had happened. Consequently, each guard’s behavior is utterly predictable, resulting in puzzle designs with a limited solution set.

Thief, on the other hand, is a little more open ended. Thief’s guards behavior isn’t nearly as strictly defined or predictable, which, when combined with the far less linear environment designs, results in a significantly more varied, and flexible, stealth gameplay experience.

Splinter Cell, while more linear in design than Thief, has that same sense of flexiblity in the guard’s behavior…they can be unpredictable bastards, which ratchets up the tension significantly.