Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HDPlatform: PS3
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Three games on one Blu-Ray disc
Single player only.
All games remastered in high definition
Initial install required
When I found out that I was on duty for reviewing the Splinter Cell Trilogy compilation I was excited. I absolutely loved these games when they first came out on the last round of consoles. The original game offered a fresh take on the stealth genre. Pandora Tomorrow introduced a revolutionary online multiplayer experience unlike anything ever seen before it and Chaos Theory brought with it an incredible leap in visuals and honed the online experience to perfection with things like cooperative play and clever use of the player’s voice that, to date, hasn’t been replicated. Needless to say, the potential for a compilation of all of these three games on one disc is amazing. I love these games and I want to love this compilation. But I don’t.
Graphically, the first two games in the series show their age. Soft cloth physics was a big thing then and, at the time, the lighting in these games was impressive in terms of the use of light and dark and how it integrated into the gameplay. These were great looking games! Given the graphical leaps seen in today’s games, and how they look today, these sorts of things don’t stand up as well. Chaos Theory, on the other hand, looks impressive in full HD. When it was released, Chaos Theory featured things like normal mapping and HDR lighting that made it one of the best looking games of the time. These things weren’t standard like they are now, especially on consoles, but even today this game looks pretty nice. As I played I found that all of the games seem to suffer from some hiccups in their frame rates. I don’t remember this so much playing the originals. I’m by no means a technical expert when it comes to these sorts of things but it looks sloppy to me.
Splinter Cell games have always sounded great, as they had good musical scores and featured excellent voice acting. All of that is preserved here. Michael Ironside is perfect as Sam Fisher. It’s not a case of one known voice actor either as all of the other voice actors perform equally as well in their roles. The music is has a high tech feel to it that fits the espionage theme. It also creates a great sense of tension when sighted or being hunted. It’s a good example of how much impact the musical score can have with a game.
Metacritic scores of 91, 87 and 94 for the original three games (in order of course) respectively speak for themselves. These games were really good! In 2003, Metal Gear Solid ruled the stealth genre and there was little in terms of competition. Competition is a good thing as it forces improvement and Splinter Cell did just that as it moved the stealth genre forward and online.
To this day, the individual games themselves still play great. The gameplay stands the test of time. I will even argue that these three games are better than the two Splinter Cell offerings on today’s consoles. What troubles me about this compilation is not the source material but the execution of the actual compilation itself. This could have been so much more. Be it timing issues for the holiday season, technical issues beyond my understanding, or just laziness. Regardless, the potential to make a truly special compilation is there but the execution falls short.
My absolutely biggest issue with this compilation is the lack of any of the online multiplayer game types that came with Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. The single player campaigns stand up on their own. If you haven’t played these games before, it might well be worth your money. Even I can’t argue against getting three good games for $40. But these games brought so much more to the table than just what their single player campaigns did!
In a landscape dominated by Deathmatch, Splinter Cell’s unique “Spies vs. Mercs” multiplayer was unlike anything done before it. Pandora Tomorrow introduced this and Chaos Theory perfected it. To be good at the multiplayer took time and learning. Too much for some, but the reward was an experience beyond anything I had played before. Chaos Theory didn’t just bring cooperative online play to the series but also used the player’s voice as a gameplay element. The game actually measured how loud or softly you spoke. Talk too loud when an enemy was nearby and you’d startle them if your voice exceeded a certain threshold. This was pretty cool, but using it to your advantage to create diversions during coop online play was unreal. I’m still waiting for a game to do something like this again. Unfortunately this compilation features none of this greatnes and it’s really too bad.
Another inexcusable oversight is the omission of any sort of inverted control options. I’m an inverted player, just as a large percentage of gamers are and I looked high and low for the ability to change my y-axis controls to how I prefer to play and I found nothing. I’m sure Ubisoft has good reason for this but, wow, how do you not give players the option? Heck, even the original games had this option. Someone please tell me I am missing something here and I’ll gladly strike this criticism from my review.
As I mentioned earlier, what’s there in the single player games is good stuff. Splinter Cell arms you with an enormous amount of power. There are several really cool weapons and gadgets that you can choose to use or you can try to stay away from weapon use and rely on your stealth abilities alone. Sticky cams and non-lethal ammunition are too much fun to play with. Levels offer a variety of paths in which they can be completed. Do you lie in wait in the shadows or attack from above? The series even skirts with having you make some moral decisions. Do you kill everyone in your path? Or just subdue them? Getting through levels, and entire games, without casualties is possible for those that want the ultimate challenge. Either way, make sure to clean up after yourself. Simply leaving bodies out in the open where they can be seen by other NPC’s will alert them to your presence. The story lines are equally as engaging featuring near future scenarios that feature just enough to make you think they’re entirely plausible but they still manage retain a sort of James Bond feel.
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