Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
by Ubi Soft Entertainment
OK then let's get one thing very clear from the top of this review, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is the greatest game on the Xbox and one of the best games of all time. It's certainly the best stealth game of all time. It makes Metal Gear Solid 2 look outdated, more so than is possible to imagine. Now you're wondering why this game hasn't got 10/10 when it's so brilliant? Well there are some problems for deaf gamers and this has to be shown in the overall mark but bear in mind that this is the game of the year, of that there is no doubt at all.
Almost two weeks ago I returned home to find that Splinter Cell had arrived in the post. Now I had read previews about the game and from what I had read it seemed very good indeed but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. The first part of the game you play is the tutorial, it isn't optional you have to do it which as it turns out is highly important as Sam Fisher, the character you play as, has a lot of abilities that Solid Snake could only dream about such as, the split jump. Of course on entering the tutorial the first problem for deaf gamers becomes obvious, the cutscenes are not subtitled. This isn't a disaster though as the gist of the cutscene is given to you in text after the cutscene has finished and by pressing the A button you can skip the cutscene altogether. The tutorial is given in text and the messages can be repeated by pressing the switches on the walls.
"You are Sam Fisher. You must leave no trace on the physical or political map. Remember: Although killing may compromise secrecy, the choice between leaving a witness or a corpse is no choice at all. You are a Splinter Cell."
Taken from the TC Splinter Cell Synopsis Ubi Soft Entertainment©
Sam Fisher works for the Third Echelon, a black-ops NSA sub-agency. As with most Tom Clancy games, your job is to carry out counterespionage and combat terrorism amongst many other things. You'll find yourself gathering important data and scuppering terrorist organisations. Sam can look after himself although he's no superman, so stealth is definitely the number one priority. Sam is only used as a last resort so failure is incomprehensible. Fear not though because Sam has the most amazing gadgets to help him through the missions. Sticky camera, laser microphones and fibre optic cameras are just the tip of the iceberg. As well as gadgets, Sam also has some impressive weapons at his disposal such as the SC-20K. When you equip yourself with a weapon the crosshair stays in the middle of the screen. The control is superb and every bit as accurate as using a mouse on a PC. Sam's ability to hide in the darkness is crucial and manipulating the light to your advantage plays a part in this game like no other ever created. All in all there are nine missions in four different countries and while this might not sound too impressive the missions are huge and will take hours just to complete one.
The game uses the new Unreal game engine. The graphics as a result of this are simply superb although it is the games use of light which is the highlight of the game. Learning to move in the shadows is vital to being successful at this game. Everything gives off a real time shadow and it is simply stunning to witness. Walk past a notice board with the notices blowing around and for each one the shadow is behaving realistically. The light sourcing capabilities of the Xbox are getting a full workout in this game. The games cutscenes are perhaps a little disappointing and look nowhere near as good as those seen in Metal Gear Solid 2 but to be honest with you, this isn't a problem when the in game graphics look so great.
The problems for deaf gamers really come with the nature of the game. The ability to hear is always going to help with a game such as Splinter Cell. The whirring of a security camera or the footsteps of an enemy are things that are simply not shown visually. There is a stealth meter onscreen that shows how well you are covered from visibility. What you really need to know are the noises of others and this is not shown. All information is given to you through text and speech during a mission, and the important stuff can be recalled by pressing the start button and looking at either the goals, notes, or data section. Another factor that increases the frustration is the fact that the game can only be saved at checkpoints and sometimes the gap between each checkpoint is fraught with danger. Of course if you're prepared to redo a section time and time again, you'll be aware of the dangers but this is small compensation for a deaf gamer. One thing I can say in the game's favour though is that it makes great use of force feedback. The sensations you get when using the lockpick are fabulous. A special mention must also goto the developers for subtitling the bonus features in the game. These are really interesting and show you various aspects of the game's design and even include a humorous interview with Sam.
What can I say? What rating do I give the game that is just so damn excellent and yet has so many problems for a deaf gamer? Put it this way consider what I have said in this review. The game is superb. If you're willing to put up with the problems then go out and get the game, be prepared for some frustration but rest assured that you're playing the best Xbox title to date. However if, like most gamers, you don't want a hard time and were only casually interested in stealth games then maybe you should avoid Splinter Cell because, hand on heart, there is a big reliance on the ability to hear in order to be successful in the game.
Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10 It is with a heavy heart that I give the game such a score. If you're prepared to struggle with it replace my mark with a 10/10 but there is a big reliance on hearing your enemies.
Deaf Gamers comment: In all honesty stealth games of this nature are difficult for deaf gamers. Difficult but not impossible. Very nice to see the bonus features subtitled.