Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: May 3, 2004
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was one of those rare titles that could, and did, sell a boatload of Xboxes by simply gracing the system with its presence. Now, a year and a half later, Ubisoft aims to do the same, albeit in a different capacity. Whereas the original sold consoles, Microsoft undoubtedly hopes that the sequel’s addictive multiplayer component will sell subscriptions to their online service. But what of those people who are unable or unwilling to join Xbox Live? Is the single-player mode up to snuff or are these people to be left out in the cold?
Sam Fisher and the Third Echelon team are at it again, only this time, the veteran spy is up against an extremely covert and very well organized group of terrorists. While on a routine mission to protect the interests of his government, our protagonist stumbles onto an ominous plot (codenamed Pandora Tomorrow) to unleash a deadly biological agent on United States soil. The enemy is quick, smart and prepared, and Sam will have to traverse the globe in an effort to catch the guerrillas, who always seem to be one step ahead.
Not being a James Bond take on the world of espionage, guns take a backseat in Splinter Cell, especially since ammunition isn’t particularly abundant. This forces the player to use his or her stealth abilities whenever possible, conserve bullets when force is necessary and rely on Sam’s gadgets. Many of these items are non-lethal alternatives; jammers and chaff grenades block pesky surveillance cameras, while ring airfoils, gas grenades and flashbangs will take down foes without killing them. Additionally, gadgets such as the sticky shooter, which attaches itself to an enemy and sends out an incapacitating shock, can be cleverly fired into pools of water to neutralize multiple opponents at once.
Sam also returns with a full repertoire of special maneuvers, many of which see much more action than in the original. The ever popular split jump is one such ability that was little else but a novelty in the first game, used only on one or two occasions. Pandora Tomorrow corrects this by constructing its levels in such a fashion that these skills are not only useful, but oftentimes essential. There have also been a few additions, such as the exceptionally handy SWAT turn. Essentially, this maneuver allows Sam to bypass well-lit doorways without being noticed; rather than fighting a group of three of four enemies, the player can now just use this little number to continue unnoticed.