Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Review by: EirinnMy introduction to Splinter Cell
So many times game developers have taken a perfectly good console title and ported it to a handheld, and it ended up being a complete bust. So much so, that it's made hardcore gamers with actual game quality standards want to personally fire everyone at their favorite game development studio and r
eplace them with chimpanzees. We've fussed about it, written online articles about it, even had printed articles about it published, and yet they just don't seem to catch on. It makes one wonder what exactly their Research and Development teams are doing with all of that monetary backing they get. Some possible answers to that question might be:
-Making paper airplanes out of it
-Using it to wallpaper their offices
-Making bonfires with it to roast marshmallows over
Whatever the answer may be, it certainly isn't that they're using it to find out what the consumers actually want, else they would cease the senseless porting of console titles to handheld systems.
Which brings us to Splinter Cell for the GBA. Yes, not only have they once again ported a console title to a handheld, but it's quite probably the worst possible genre for porting to a handheld: a stealth shooter. So can it break the long streak of games that have suffered from BadPortitis?
These graphics won't wow you in the least, but they're solid. They don't look bland or pixelated in the least, and they manage to successfully communicate the spy mission atmosphere in a modern way, which is very nice indeed. In fact, the way that the environments are designed to give that feel of a modern spy theme is what bumped my graphics rating up from a seven to an eight. They really did impressive job on creating the right atmosphere here.
The sprites all look very realistic for a handheld system, and coupled with the environments, level, and equipment designs, they communicate the intended theme well. It's nice to see that this game's developers didn't go overboard with gadgets and futuristic designs, or retro spy designs, or even worse, futuristic gadgets mixed with stomach-turningly seventies/eighties retro levels and character designs like some game's developers do all the time *cough*James Bond games*cough*. Excuse my nasty cold, those coughs are dreadful.
Though I've already touched on the backgrounds and level designs a bit, it's worth noting some of the specifics here as well. The lighting here is low in most places, and at times, almost non-existent. This definitely adds to the feel of the game, as it makes the experience offered by the title feel all the more realistic. We can't have rainbows and sunshine, or fluffy bunnies and pretty birds everywhere in a stelthy spy themed game (no matter how cute the bunnies are). We're infiltrating buildings and stopping criminal masterminds, not holding hands with unicorns while skipping through meadows and farting rainbows. And while all of this was kept in mind by the developers, they did take care to balance the realistic atmosphere with good taste, and not make the levels drab or depressing. Well done, Ubisoft.
The levels are designed well for looks, if not always for the actual gameplay, but then this isn't about me and my mindless rants about ridiculous objectives that tear at the very gamer soul inside of me, while making me traverse tedious obstacle course-like levels at high speeds, or having shootouts while sitting still out in the open, unable to move like...oh, I don't know...anyone with a brain would. No, that part is for the Addictiveness section. For now, I'm all smiles, as the developers successfully made good level designs in almost every situation. Again, Kudos Ubisoft.
-The game shows no "Bonds" with worn out spy shows from thirty years ago
-No more lame puns from me
-Nice overall approach to graphics
The music here is fitting, changes with the intended mood as you progress through various points in the game, and is decently composed, but it's far from being a masterpiece of GBA audio. Sadly though, either the music didn't change from one level to the next, or each track was just so similar to the next that I never really even noticed a difference. But I suppose if redundancy is a game's only issue in the audio section, then it must not be all that bad. In fact, I actually started to play this game with my own music playing at one point, and found myself stopping the song so I could hear the game's background music. That's a pretty good sign if you ask me. One downside of the music is that after you put this one down, you won't be left with much memory about the audio at all.
The sound effects are decent enough, if not always accurate. They get the job done, and they'll never get on your nerves. Good enough for detail? I hope so, because there isn't much else to say about them. They're more or less just there to keep the game from feeling incomplete, but they never really do much for gameplay. They're like the hundred and fifty FPS titles we'll see released over the course of the twelve months: most of us really wouldn't care if ninety-five percent of them never saw the light of day, but the developers feel like life without them would be incomplete, so we just play along with it.
-Nice enough music to play along to
-Not an FPS
Oh yeah, one word isn't enough for the entire category...right. Okay, how about "Meh. Same old same"?
Okay, so it's a plain and simple spy game story: Bad dude wants to do bad things. Stop him like everyone is expecting you to do, but manage to surprise them while doing it". So many times I've wondered why they always expect one man/woman to handle an entire terrorist organization, army, or whatever else they face. Well this game doesn't do that! Or at least that's what I'd like to say, but that would be a lie. So yeah, that's what we get here once again, but like I always say, a story is no worse the fifth time you hear it than it was the first time, so I won't hold it against the game that it's entirely and completely predictable from the moment that you see the game's box art until the time that the credits roll. Kind of like CoD fans don't hold it's redundant gameplay against it, and cherish whatever it is that they find enjoyable about it. Probably the fact that Multiplayer lets you shoot people that you don't like right between the eyes, and not get in trouble for it. Huh. Maybe I should give the game a try after all, and invite some...uh..."friends" to play with me.
-I finally understand CoD fans
So there isn't that much to do here, but that doesn't mean that what you're offered isn't any good; it actually is. In fact it's a nice title as far as handheld shooters go, and it does offer at least as much as you would expect from a GBA shooter title.
There are a decent number of levels to play through, and the stealth themed gameplay and controls offer a nice addition to the game. You are indeed given a gun, but it doesn't always come with ammunition, and even when it does, your overall rating in each level is affected by how many shots you fired from it (hint: less is more). So basically you're placed in a building filled with armed enemies that want nothing more than to put a few bullets in you, and then you're asked to refrain from shooting anyone if at all possible. Sounds fair enough, right? While we're at it, why not just make Sam talk the bad guys down instead? In all seriousness though, I think it's a nice touch that you're not supposed to fire.
Now for the downsides.
election is almost non-existant. You have two weapons, one lethal (a Handgun) and one non-lethal (Smoke Grenades). The gameplay manages to make this extremely limited arsenal more than sufficient though, and it actually makes sense. I mean, what spy is going to pack an AK-47 into an office while trying to avoid being detected? So while it takes away from the depth, it does keep the game on the realistic (and fun) side.
Next up on the negative list: redundancy. The game is fun enough, but after the fourth or fifth level, it all starts to feel the same, look the same, and even sound the same. Too much of a good thing, maybe? At the very least it's too much of a decent thing.
-Extremely limited ammunition forces you to use strategy and stealth
This is a good game with a nice approach to side scrolling handheld shooter gameplay, and it was able to hold my attention for a few levels. However, as I stated in the depth category, the repetition got the best of me after a while, and I became bored with it.
The next real problem for the addictiveness factor is the fact that the game has a habit of dropping you right in the middle of a situation where beating it requires knowledge of the the level's layout and goal at least in part, and sometimes in it's entirety.
See the problem? How can I possibly know what the objective of a level is if you don't tell me? Or how do I know where every pitfall that will send me plummeting to my doom is, if I've never played the level before?
And my personal favorites: the sniper scenes. In these scenes, you switch to a first person view (so much for that "not an FPS" highlight) and must snipe out several enemies before they can shoot you three times. The problem? Well there are a few of them actually. First off is the fact that you're lying out in the open, and cannot move. If you get shot once, the enemy doesn't have to adjust their aim, as you don't even flinch, and so you will be hit a second time very quickly if you don't take them out immediately. The second problem is that the gun's sights are painfully slow, and you must move from the far left to the far right with no stopping at any point, as enemies issue from both sides of the screen. Finally, the last level requires you holding the A button to speed up the sights movement, but the tutorial never bothers to tell you that you can even do that. I wasted so much time on that one before I discovered that the A button could do that.
Really, Splinter Cell on the GBA is a good game with some almost innovative gameplay, but with no depth by way of options or modes, the addictiveness here is only a fraction of what it could have been. Sadly, Ubisoft made the same mistake we've seen so many times before, and assumed that good gameplay with no depth was good enough. Add to that the unfair level designs (I left a few examples of this out), and you have a recipe for Video Game disaster.
First things first: I'm rating a little higher on this category than I normally would. In fact, the game itself only gets a five in difficulty from me, but the fact that it sometimes drops you directly into situations that intentionally leave you in the dark as to what you're supposed to do, along with the other cheapshots I mentioned in the last category, bumps the rating up by one. It would be higher, but those cheapshot scenes aren't so hard once you get past the cheat factor that they sneak in on a new player.
Simply put, once you know how the game works, you won't have any trouble beating it, but it will definitely take your full attention and some strategic planning.
Though not without it's fair share of faults, Splinter Cell is a decent game that offers some pretty good stealth/shooter action for a handheld system. So while it may not be the best game on Vizzed (far from it. Like as far as I am from being uncool. Yeah, that far), it's worth checking out if you're just wanting to play through all of the good GBA games on the site.
In the end, I didn't regret playing this one, but I wasn't really glad that I did so either. I probably won't touch it again in the near future, but if I decide that I want to play a short stealth/shooter blend, this will probably be what I go for. Based on fun alone, this one could be worth your time, depending on your game preferences, but as for my personal recomendation, I neither encourage nor discourage playing this one. It's a good game, but nothing about it is that special, save a few aspects such as lock picking and sneaking up on unsuspecting guards, or tossing a smoke grenade in the midst of a crowd of enemies. Splinter Cell is not without it's charm or fun moments, in fact it has plenty of both, it just falls short of greatness because of it's lack of depth and change of pace in the game. In short, Ubisoft actually did manage to make a good port from a Console to a Handheld. The impossible has been done. What's next? A good Justin Beiber song? Yeah....let's not get carried away...