Get out your night vision goggles and hide in the dark, as for it’s time to start the ranking of Splinter Cell. As always, you can find the rank itself here while the blog acts as the reasoning for my decisions. I will be playing all of these on PC, and the games I will go through are Splinter Cell 1, Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory, Double Agent, Conviction, Blacklist, and whatever the future holds for the series. With that out of the way, let’s jump right into it.
In 2004, a man named Kombayn Nikoladze takes over the Eastern European country of Georgia. The U.S. government knows he is up to no good, so they form a new division under the NSA known as ‘Third Echelon’ to investigate the issue. You play as Sam Fisher, the man in the field as he goes around the world to investigate and stop the Georgian government from doing anything nefarious.
I wasn’t expecting much from a game released in 2002, but I came out this game surprised by how featured and deep it is. This game has better stealth mechanics in 2002 than other games do to this day, with things like controlling how fast you move as it correlates to how loud you are, what material you walk on creates different noise levels, using darkness to hide and how easily you are spotted depending on how dark your area is, the various tools at your disposal, and more. The amount of stealth mechanics is impressive, and I am surprised more stealth games haven’t really picked these up yet.
The stealth mechanics coincide with the controls, which also prove to be solid. While the controls can feel clunky at times, the amount of things you can do makes up for that. You use the scroll wheel to control your speed, can choose whether to shimmy across poles or zipline more discreetly, wall jump, wall jump into the splits, and more. The combination of controls and stealth mechanics creates a surprisingly tactical game, which is refreshing considering most of the stealth games I have played are either light stealth or Hitman-style of stealth.
Speaking of Hitman, Splinter Cell gives you a good amount of tools to use that allows you to play the way you want to play. You don’t have to touch a single guard (unless it’s a mission requirement), or you can kill your way through levels (unless otherwise stated). You can do this with the tools at your disposal, which includes night and heat vision goggles, a silenced pistol, and optic cable to hear things from farther distances, a silenced assault rifle which includes shock rounds, air rounds, smoke grenade launcher, camera launchers and camera launchers with noises, and more. While I used a lot of these tools to dispatch enemies, I also found myself dispatching just as many lights. Darkness allows you hide bodies and keep from being seen, and darkness never felt more important in any other game.
In terms of the story, I didn’t pay it much attention because it didn’t feel all that unique. It plays out like any other espionage story, so I didn’t pay it much mind. Still, the plot felt believable, and it did what it set out to do. The characters were also alright, with Sam Fisher and his no BS approach to things taking the spotlight. Overall, the story elements were fine, but at the end of the day I just wanted to bag and tag dudes.
When it comes down to it, a lot of my complaints around the game are more technical nitpicks than anything else. The game itself looks good for a 2002 release, but some of the cutscenes scale down to a low resolution that loads awkwardly and looks terrible. Lockpicking in this game is the worst lockpicking mini-game I have ever played, with it consisting of spamming buttons until it is unlocked. There are very little auto-saves in this game, which feels a bit outdated for a 2002 game. Throughout this game, there are a lot of bodies to move, which makes not being able to open doors while moving bodies pretty annoying. Finally, for how important sound is, I wish there was some sort of sound gauge to say how loud I was.
In conclusion, I think Splinter Cell is a solid first entry into the series. The game impressed me with its stealth mechanics and controls, and I can’t wait to see what they do in future entries. The first game has set a pretty high bar, so let’s just hope the other games can reach it.