The fourth in the Splinter Cell Series sees stealthy agent Sam Fisher going undercover in a terrorist cell named John Brown’s Army. What makes this different from the previous three is that (at least to begin with) it’s a little more forgiving and you have a little more choice in what you do. You have two factions to keep happy; the NSA and the Terrorists. Do too much to annoy one of them and you lose their trust, identifiable by a bar, which then has to be earned back by being a good little agent/terrorist.
Aside from the narrative it’s still Splinter Cell. The watchword is still sneaking through fairly linear environments and utilising nifty gadgets. You earn more items by fulfilling criteria in each level. It would be possible to blunder through this game, but as always, constant reloading in the pursuit of perfection is ultimately more fulfilling and rewarding. You need patience and self-control and an eye for what to do in each situation.I have enjoyed the precision with which Sam acts and the ease of which a little practice yields killing guards. Honestly, compared with the Bourne game and pretty much every Bond since GoldenEye (including Quantum of Solace) this game nails the feeling of being a spy. You feel genuinely unnerved around the terrorists you’re trying so hard to convince and when you inevitably have to make life or death decisions about other characters, often ones with branching storylines depending on your decision, it really puts you on the spot.
This came out in 2006 in two forms. The one I played on 360 is identical on PS3 and PC utilizes a whole new engine based on Unreal and the other version for Xbox, PS2, GameCube and Wii uses the same guts as the first three SC games. As a result, the two kinds of game differ, but the plot remains much the same. It still looks pretty by today’s standards. Think the early 360 games designed with multiple consoles in mind; Tomb Raider: Legend and Just Cause. However, the good news is that like all Splinter Cell games, this proved itself to be not a keeper and the second-hand market is flooded with them. I bought mine for £5 ($8), which for a full-priced game of this quality is phenomenal. Graphics and sound are meaty and resonant, making use of the enclosed spaces to provide detail in both. Flaws include the repetition of movements with spamming of the reload function, occasionally you’ll want to react quickly but just plain forget what button calls which gadget and just default to brute force. This could all just be my lack of familiarity with the series, but the voice acting is good, especially Michael Ironside. I now care about what happens to Sam Fisher, which I didn’t before E3 09.
The wait for Splinter-Cell: Conviction has just received a Time-Extend so in the meantime, if you have never really delved into the series before, or if (like me) you have done in the past but it proved annoying, pedantic, humorless and very tricky, you may like to give this a go. Stick it on easy, swallow your pride and enjoy the ride. It gets harder later on, so you’ll still get the challenge, but you won’t feel so much like you’re being forced through stealth by attrition. It’s an underrated game that may yet get some credit as folks return to the series with the promise of new adventures.