previews\ Nov 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - XB - Preview

Metal Gear Solid revolutionized the spy/mission genre.  Metal Gear Solid 2 refined it.  Believe it or not, Splinter Cell has taken the great concept that Hideo Kojima created even further.  It takes it so far that Mr. Kojima himself told The Official Xbox Magazine that he would love to turn it into Metal Gear solid 3!  Nearly everything that you could do in MGS2 can be done in Splinter Cell.  But that's not what makes this game so great.  The cornucopia of additional gameplay features is unbelievable.  If you didn't think the Xbox was worth owning before, you will now.


The most obvious significant difference between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Splinter Cell (other than the graphics, which are beyond breathtaking) is the camera.  Metal Gear Solid 2 featured a near-perfect pre-determined camera that moved on its own as Solid Snake leaned up against walls and various objects.  While exploring, the camera was positioned in a permanent, third-person view.  Splinter Cell features a fully controllable camera that allows you, the player, to change the view at any time, regardless of how the character is positioned.  The result is something that feels awkward at first, but within thirty minutes, it becomes your new best friend.  It's the most brilliant camera I have ever used.  It does not matter how many times you move it around, or may objects stand in your character's way because the view is never blocked, never damaged or hindered in any way.  Whether you're leaning up against a wall or not, the camera can always be positioned in a near-perfect view that reveals your enemy's location.  If this isn't revolutionary gaming, then I don't know what is.


Another significant difference is the combat.  Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2's combat was rather motionless (you couldn't shoot and move at the same time.  Remember, it's a game of stealth, one that encourages the player to kill their enemies with clever actions, not by running and shooting).  While fun, the developers of Splinter Cell thought that they could do better.  And guess what?  They thought right.  Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell's version of Solid Snake) can draw his gun, crouch and carefully sneak up on his enemies.  He can move in any direction, but since this is not a first-person shooter, his movement is relatively slow (but definitely NOT boring).  Dodging enemy fire is next to impossible in good lighting, since the enemy has no trouble seeing you.  As small an addition as this may seem, it really changes the gameplay experience.  It played an important role in the demo, so I'm willing to bet that it's going to be an integral part of the final version of the game.  Either way, I love being able to move and shoot at the same time, whether it's truly necessary or not.


So far, Splinter Cell's visuals are out of this world.  What Gran Turismo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 did for PlayStation 2, Splinter Cell will do for Xbox.  Everything about the game is drop-dead gorgeous.  You couldn't be a human (let alone a gamer) and not be impressed by the graphics.  If you've ever wanted to play a game that looked like a computer-generated movie, now's your chance.  Every wall, every texture, every reflection, every shadow and every stream of light is perfect.  Graphics will get better with future consoles, but they will not get any better than this on PS2 or GameCube, and probably not on Xbox.  Splinter Cell has set a new standard that will force all other developers to work their butts off if they want to compete.  Graphics aren't everything, but when you've got a game that plays as beautiful as it looks, it becomes the competition's new nightmare.


Whether you can afford it or not, go and reserve Splinter Cell right now.  Some retailers are giving away a SC demo disc to those who put down $5-$10, ensuring that they will get a copy when it's released.  The latest issue of the Official Xbox Magazine features the demo as well, and some Electronics Boutique stores have it set up to play in their store.  Do whatever it takes to play this game, and do whatever it takes to buy it, because this is the biggest Xbox gaming event of the year.  On a must-play scale of 1 to 10, this game is a 20.  Don't walk, run to your nearest retailer and pre-order Splinter Cell.  I cannot stress this enough!

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