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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy
Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Stealth/ Action

Graphics & Sound:
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy is bringing back games that were originally released on the earlier generation of consoles including Playstation 2 and the Xbox. They always were good looking games, and they actually have stood the test of time pretty well. These games don't look particularly well polished or updated in terms of looks, but they do look good in a widescreen HD format. So they look pretty faithful, without looking jagged and distorted, which is pretty much what you're asking for in one of these collections.

The sound is pretty much faithful as well, from what I remember anyway. Chaos Theory had some of the best music in the series, in my humble opinion, and it still sounds good. This being a stealth series, you need sound to be precise and realistic, and that's what you get here.

This game has also been enhanced to work on 3D TVs. I wish I could test this for you, but alas, that's going to be a few holidays away for me. Either way, the prospect of replaying this series with some form of 3D is exciting.


Gameplay:
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy is a stealth series, and as such, it emphasizes getting through levels without starting firefights, or by creating distractions, or by silently dispatching all your foes without them noticing you're gone. The plots were always super secret spy stuff with a big feel of realism. They were the kind of stories that made you think there might actually be someone out there slipping through the shadows, shaping the balance of world power.

This collection includes the first 3 games in the Splinter Cell series including Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow, and Chaos Theory. The weapons remained relatively consistent, but there were little tweaks to the gameplay over the years. In Chaos Theory, you end up with a meter that not only measures Sam's sound levels, but it compares it to the ambient sound around him as well. This means you can use sound as cover, just as you normally use the darkness to hide. This is a really cool gameplay element that was sadly forgotten in the later games in the series.

Another thing that seemed to be dumped over the years was the humor in these games. Replaying these games just reminds you how hard it tried to make gameplay rewarding. For example, you could run and gun your way through as many areas as you can manage, but it's better to sneak by or to grab people and hold them for interrogation. But some of the reward is more than just getting the next door code from a guard. For example, you can listen to one bad guy talk to his buddy about ninjas, and how he was sure they existed. If you grab this guy for interrogation, instead of being surprised and fearing for his life as other bad guys normally do, he gushes about how awesome it is that you're a real life ninja. Sam's reactions are equally priceless as well. Alas, it's humor like this that was just abandoned in later games for guards that just crudely yell insults at you, and don't seem to want to talk about anything but business (sigh).


Difficulty:
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy isn't an easy set of games, but it does get easier with practice. There's a pretty big array of weapons and gadgets to choose from, and although you're not required to use any of them in particular, things can get difficult if you don't learn to use them effectively. Still, some gadgets seem a bit like "cheating," like the airfoil rounds for example. So when you ratchet up the difficulty, you guessed it, you get fewer of these gadgets, and less ammo.

Even on the easiest difficulty, it's pretty easy to die if you're trying to play the game too aggressively, or like a regular shooter. Sam's health seems to drop like a rock when he's hit. This is more realistic than most games, of course. Again, the game encourages stealth, and resolving things silently. It can be difficult, however, to tell where you can go and when it's safe to move, since the shadows are not always distinct, and you can't always predict where the guards will be. If you take things at steady pace and try not to rush things, you can usually get through an area without having to replay it.


Game Mechanics:
For those used to the newer games in the Splinter Cell Series, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy may seem slightly clunky in its controls. It's definitely not a set of games meant to be played at such a fast pace as Splinter Cell: Conviction, but then that game is such a different beast altogether that it doesn't really matter. But in the end, the controls do work, just as they always have. It's just a matter of getting used to where everything is, and getting used to the fact that you can't auto-select every little weapon on the fly.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy is not a 100% faithful port of the originals, however. One thing that is sorely missing is the co-op from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. In the original, there was an optional split-screen co-op mission where you'd play two other Third Echelon agents on a mission that often overlapped Sam's story. It was interesting because the two agents were kept oblivious to Sam's mission, in a very need-to-know basis. And it was also some great co-op fun. Alas, even though it was an offline mission, it's missing from this set of remakes for some reason. In fact, the multiplayer components of Pandora Tomorrow are also missing. I can understand the old online components not being included, but it's a real shame that offline co-op was also scrapped.

In the end, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Trilogy serves that function of bringing back to life games that were otherwise sitting on systems gathering dust in the closet. The graphics are clean, and you've got the possibility of using it on your fancy new 3D TV. If that's enough for you, and you're a fan of the originals, then you've got your decision made for you. However, if losing the multiplayer aspects of the game are a dealbreaker, then you'll have to pass this one up and look for another way to play the originals.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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