Saturday, September 21, 2013

Splinter Cell - Double Agent

More Splinter Cell but with some iffy changes.
Review By JW ACE

First of all let me say that this is my first Splinter Cell game. The only reason I got it is because it is the first ps2 SC game to get fairly high ratings, apparently because Ubisoft finally gave proper attention to the quality of the ps2 game. So basically I am reviewing this game as it stands on its own, rather than comparing it to how it stacks up to previous SC games. Overall I enjoyed SC Double Agent quite a bit. It has really fun stealth action, some fun levels, but overall is way too short and just a little bit too buggy.

Basically in SCDA you are, as usual, NSA splinter cell guy Sam Fisher. This time you're sent to infiltrate an icky terrorist organization called the JBA.

GAMEPLAY: As you may have heard, SCDA is a stealth game. Overall, I have to say it's the best stealth game I've played on ps2. The controls take some getting used to for a novice like me, and you don't have the variety of actions you do in, say, Metal Gear Solid 3, but once you get used to how the enemy in SCDA acts, it is pretty darned fun to sneak around in the shadows causing havoc. The basic idea is to hide in dark areas, then when the enemy's back is turned, either sneak past him or else creep up and take him down quickly. You have a visibility meter that shows how exposed you are, and if you can hide in shadows and keep your meter to 0, the enemy can't see you (despite the fact that you can see yourself, and also you have a couple of flashlights on your head). You also have some nice weapons, mainly a silenced pistol and an assault rifle with a variety of attachments that can either kill or knock out the enemy. If you wanted, you could just rush around killing enemies, but you never have very much ammo, and also it is kind of difficult to fire at enemies quickly without taking damage. Basically if you must fire, it's best to do so strategically. It's no good to take down one guy but attract the attention of three nearby guards who rush in and start firing at you wildly, taking you down quickly. Better to wait for a guard to be alone, then shoot him quietly when he's not looking.

Oh yeah, and in some missions you aren't given any equipment at all, which is kind of annoying, and forces you to be a lot more careful about how you take on enemies.

A new feature for SCDA is the trust rating. During missions, you are given a nice variety of objectives to complete. Some of these objectives will please the JBA crime organization at the expense of the NSA, and others please the NSA but annoy the JBA. The Trust system is a great innovation, and though it's a simple idea, it's one of the cooler ideas I've seen in a video game. After a while you figure out that it's best to try and keep both sides pleased, and keep your trust meter in the middle. To do this you have to really think about which objectives to do, and weigh their impact on your trust level.

Level design is important in any game, especially in a stealth game, because you'll be spending so much time hiding rather than rushing through. Overall the level design is pretty good, although maybe a bit too linear. Often you have a few different ways to move around the levels, and can do objectives in any order you wish, which gives you a good sense of freedom.

STORY: I don't know if previous SC games had such lackluster plots and acting, but story-wise and acting-wise, SCDA is pretty poor. A few of the cut-scenes are nice-looking cgi things, but most cut-scenes look bad and use the more grainy graphics used during gameplay. Characters generally look lifeless, and the voice acting is pretty terrible and phoned-in. If the cut-scenes had been better, it would have been more fun to play through the game and do different objectives to affect your trust meter, so you could watch interesting cut-scenes that showed what happened. But generally the result is "you did X, so you got in trouble." Or "instead you did Y, so this happened."

Oh yeah, and also SCDA joins in an extremely annoying (to me) recent trend in games to have the storyline told in the form of being interrogated by a superior. As if we hadn't gotten annoyed enough by such shrill grilling in Black or Brothers in Arms, Sam Fisher has to defend his actions to an annoying NSA suit named Williams, who also calls you up now and then in-game to yell at you and basically make you feel more like doing objectives that are against the NSA's wishes.

So, obviously, I didn't enjoy the story much, but fortunately the gameplay is so strong that you don't really pay any attention to the story. The cut-scenes are generally over pretty quickly anyway, or you can fortunately just hit start to skip 'em if you choose. But it is disappointing that the innovative Trust system isn't backed up by better characters and storytelling.

NAME: SPLINTER CELL - DOUBLE AGENT
SYSTEM: XBOX 360, XBOX, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 

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