Splinter Cell: Essentials

By on October 14, 2006

What’s Sam Fisher upto now?


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First Impressions
My reaction is

With so much success the Splinter Cell franchise has had, it was inevitable that we would see one on the PSP as well. Good news for Splinter Cell lovers. Bad news for everyone else.

The stealth action genre itself is one which some argue is not suitable for handheld gaming,

since portable gaming is enjoyed best in short bursts. The first time you start the game this problem becomes very apparent. The game loads, to load another screen to load the menu. Then starting the Single player loads a screen to load the loading screen which then starts the game. These in-game loads take normally 40 -45 seconds. To play Splinter Cell: Essentials from start-up will take roughly 2minutes. And to continue from the last checkpoint takes a further 25 seconds. All told to resume your game will take you about 2.5 minutes! That’s a lot of waiting time for portable gaming. A lot.

Going past this we have yet another problem. The control mechanism is horrible, with no customised settings rendering an extremely frustrating camera control. Therefore you either control the camera, or do whatever you were trying to do, can’t do both at the same time. For a game like Splinter Cell you would forgive the developers for such a horrendous control scheme since the PSP has only one analog stick. Wrong. Syphon Filter nailed the control scheme and camera for a third person perspective.  Still the core gameplay is still there. Sam will perform all his cool moves with all the kick ass gadgets we have come to expect from the console versions. Too bad it doesn’t work out how it was supposed to be. 

And then we have the game itself. To really enjoy Splinter Cell you need a dark room with total silence. However going past these nit pickings, to truly play Splinter Cell you have to plan ahead. To watch the guards, learn their patrolling patterns. Hide in the shadows, do your job silently without anyone knowing. This all takes time, a lot of planning and concentration, a difficult combination to pull whilst playing portable games.

Even purists will find a hard time enjoying this game. Most of the levels are just a rehash from

previous games. True there are some new levels but poor gameplay more than makes up for it! The AI is appalling, where enemy soldiers won’t even notice if you rush past them provided its dark. Heck they don’t even notice their dead comrade’s lying right next to them sometimes! Of course all of this doesn’t matter because most of the time things are so black you can’t see what’s in front of you. Night Vision I hear you say? That’s only for a few select missions. 

Moving onto multiplayer, don’t even think about it. Going past the load times you can always share the frustration with you friends. Continuous frame rate drops combined with complete freezing provides for an unprecedented level of irritating multiplayer experience.

In the end you realise that this could have been a great game, sadly it isn’t. The game feels rushed, the PSP hardware isn’t even close to being pushed to its limits, the controls suck, multiplayer really sucks, and last but not least we have the load times. I would strongly suggest anyone who is a fan of stealth action shooters to either pick up Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror or wait for Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops to be released later this year.

The Scorecard
Clunky controls and bad camera angles make it frustrating to play.
The game would have looked good had it not been so dark.
The only thing that seems right in the game, by a small margin.
There’s very little to keep you coming back, multiplayer is as good as non- existent.
A stain on the name of the Splinter Cell franchise


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