Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy
After years of 'modern' shooters that try and copy Call of Duty wholesale, it's a good time to re-release the original Splinter Cell games
- A new chance to play three great games
- A breath of fresh air in the current gaming environment
- At times these games have aged badly
- The HD coat of paint doesn't necessarily help
These games are something of a foil to the Call of Duty games and their carbon copies. The thinking man's shooter, even all these years later, Splinter Cell is compelling.
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After years of 'modern' shooters that try and copy Call of Duty wholesale, it's a good time to re-release the original Splinter Cell games as a trilogy on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. They don’t necessarily look good in this newfangled 'HD' but their gameplay style is so different to cookie-cutter modern standards that they almost feel like a brand new set of games.
Tracking the career of the all-American superhero Sam Fisher, Splinter Cell games keep the ammunition down, and the stealth high. Those modern games that claim 'stealth' gameplay rarely offer more than an invisible cloak to travel between arcade shooting-gallery style set pieces. But the early Splinter Cell games were different. The many exotic environments you’ll be visiting across these three games are filled with pools of darkness. By staying in these shadows, Fisher is almost invisible, and the games then becomes about sneaking from shadow to shadow and silently taking out guards — or bypassing them entirely.
To make things more interesting, there are a variety of environmental tricks in Fisher's bag to help create the illusion that he’s the über stealth soldier. He can use ziplines like a pro, shimmy across ledges in walls, and even balance himself between two close-together walls so that guards and soldiers pass underneath completely unaware. The consistency between the three games is amazing; back in the good ol' days, Ubisoft realised it was on to a good thing and didn’t need to mess with the formula, so you’ll be doing much the same thing in all three games.
There was a dark time after these games' original release when Call of Duty happened, and we ended up with Splinter Cell: Conviction. Please, if you have had the misfortune of playing that game, still give the HD collection a chance: they’re chalk to the cheese that Splinter Cell has degenerated to.
It’s just unfortunate that time has been so hard on these games. Even with the HD coat of paint, you’re looking at three games with some very forced lighting effects; there’s literally a line between white and black at times. Cut scenes are usually horrendous, with HD-but-cheap facial expressions and stiff animations. In-game, things are a little better but environments tend to look functional and barren rather than the interesting, fleshed out locations we’re used to exploring now.
None of that really matters when the gameplay is so sound. Even now, controlling Fisher is a dream, and unnecessary deaths (due to accidentally straying from the shadows) are rare. Because these are stealth games, patience is required to be successful, and the game’s mission objectives are essentially puzzle boxes. Hardcore shooter fans will likely be bored, but figuring how to get to point B while staying out of the patrol routes of guards X, Y and Z should prove to be a satisfying change of pace for others who might be new to this genre.
The games also do a great job of throwing you interesting environments and objectives to explore. The third game in the trilogy, Chaos Theory, does this best (and is the one that includes the Bank infiltration level, which is the best spy game level bar none), but the other two aren’t that far behind. Really, they’re everything that the Bond games (and films) of recent times have lost sight of; the feeling of successfully sneaking into dangerous, highly secure compounds is thrilling stuff.
One thing that does bear mentioning is that these HD remakes feature no multiplayer. That’s a huge pity, since the multiplayer that these games offered was a lot of fun, but despite this there’s still plenty of content for Tom Clancy fans to sink their teeth into.
It’s far from the best HD remake collection that is or will be available, but the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy pack is still a whole lot of fun.
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