It's quite apparent that the lines between console and PC games have become increasingly blurred. PC games used to be the more sophisticated beast, with complicated controls, deeper storylines, less action and more thinking required. Consoles mainly accommodated the "pickup and play" audience that wanted something that didn't require reading a 400-page manual to play, and going through screens of configuration options just to make it work.
Lately, it seems that the games from the two different platforms are encroaching into each other's market. For example, the Playstation 2's Metal Gear Solid features controls and plot that are easily as intricate as a first person shooter on the PC. And then there's Max Payne for the computer, where your only goal was to kill everyone using big guns and look cool doing it. You used to be able to guess at the level of game detail by the platform it supported, but those days are long gone.
One of the more popular game strategies is to take the best from both the PC and game cart realms, and forming a sort of middle ground. These are games that happily sit on the fence and try their best to appeal to both types of gamers. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is a great example of this hybrid game design, and it has the lineage to prove it.
Released last November for the Xbox, Ubi Soft's Splinter Cell's was heralded as the next "must have" game for that system. It combined Tom Clancy's conspiracy-filled plots with Metal Gear Solid's stealth like gameplay, and tossed in some high-octane action as well. Now, Splinter Cell makes it transition to the PC and attempts to deliver the high-end gameplay as the console version, which as some other cart ports have proven, is not an easy task.
The game starts off with the re-activation of ex-government agent Sam Fischer into the NSA, an organization that quietly cleans up political situations before they become a mess. Sam is sent on a (supposedly) quick spy and rescue mission, when he learns of an intricate plot to start the next world war. From that point on, Sam is the official "Splinter Cell" operative entrusted with preventing this scheme, and is sent all over the world to silently sabotage the enemy's machinations.
Sam starts off each mission with relatively few objectives. Go to Point A, steal information off this computer, spy on Mystery Guy B, shut off the security grid at Point C ... etc. But as each mission progresses and Sam learns more, the NSA gives him new, more difficult objectives. So even though there's only a limited amount of total missions, the sheer number of sub-missions will keep you occupied for a good amount of time.
With each mission, you get equipped with the latest in high-tech spy technology. There's the Wire camera, which allows you to see underneath doors and search for enemy guards or security systems. You also have the Laser Microphone, which is able to eavesdrop on conversations that are far away. Also available is the Camera Jammer, which emits microwave pulses that disables the circuitry of security cameras. These items are certainly not of the outlandish nature found in James Bond or XXX, and by mimicking real-world hardware, help center the game firmly in reality.
Splinter Cell has only two traditional weapons: an assault rifle and a silenced pistol, but players will find that the most effective and versatile weapon available to them is Sam himself. Sam has a plethora of attacks and evasive moves at his disposal, which become essential in silently dispatching enemies. Sam can drop down off of walls and knock out enemies, sneak up behind them and hit them with the butt of his pistol, or run up to enemies and administering punches until they fall. These moves make combat interesting, due to the sheer amount of options available and are extremely satisfying upon successful execution.
Although Sam can kick ass when forced to, a big part of a spy's job is to not be seen or get caught, and Sam proves himself adept at silent infiltration and evasion. Running out in the open probably isn't the best way to go undetected so Sam has plenty of alternative means of getting around, and in order to do well in Splinter Cell, you must master their use. Crouching is the most basic and most used way of darting in and out of rooms without being discovered. Sam can also slide along a wall, which minimizes visibility but also allows you to peak around corners for enemies. He can also shimmy down and across pipes, climb fences and hang off ledges.
Get used to the darkness, since it is Sam's main form of cover, and you'll be engulfed in it for about three quarters of the game. At the bottom right-hand side of the game screen is a "darkness" meter, which shows how well Sam is concealed by the shadows. The lower the concealment, the more visible you are to wandering enemies and in turn, they will be more likely to sound the intruder alarm when looking in your general direction. Thankfully, night vision goggles are equipped for every mission, so even though the game takes place mostly in darkness, you'll at least be able to see your surroundings in black and white (which can make for some exciting ambushes on unwary guards).