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Release Date: 11/28/06
Fans of the Splinter Cell series, or anyone who owns a 360 is in for a very pleasant surprise this year. Hugues Martel, creative director of some of the sequences in the game, showed me what the game had to offer fans of the series, and what they were able to do with the 360’s technology.
The immediate impression I got from the game was how ‘gritty’ the feel to it was. This is something I’ve seen a few times with newer games, Condemned having a similar feel as well. As Martel told me, the newer technology allowed him to do plenty of things he’d done with movies with games, such as utilizing grain filters to give things a rougher, realer look. “We’re trying to give the player the feel of being there, and being the agent.”
We started out with a scene where Fisher, having infiltrated a terrorist unit, is forced to make a choice: shoot the captured stranger in front of him and prove his loyalty to the cell, or lean on the side of morality and spare him. After a sequence where the beaten man writhes in front of you in a bloody, desperate fashion, in some of the best character animation I’ve yet seen, the game takes you immediately to a first person mode, Sam’s gun extended toward the mess of a man sitting against the wall in front of him.
“Should I shoot him?” His question put me right in the conscious of Fisher and, being the good citizen I am, I asked that he be spared. He obliged, but Fisher’s partner in infiltration eliminated the target for him when things got tense. At first, the whole event seemed inconsequential, but he cleared it up for me “That will make things harder in the future, for dealing with the terrorists.” Not all moral decisions are awarded or punished consistently. Sometimes, taking the low road helps you out more, but sticking to the high ground can give you positive results as well. It seems the double agent angle is being taken to a very deep level.
Five minutes in, and I already felt like a double agent. But what came next had me stunned: a mission where Fisher must skydive down into an arctic area and board a giant ocean vessel. Fisher jumped, and the game flung us straight into the perception one has while skydiving. The camera whipped and shook, along with the audio all around us. Fisher’s suit whipped in the wind, an as he pulled his chute, it got suddenly tangled. As we careened towards the ground, altitude radically decreasing, a minigame to find the emergency chute was engaged similar to that of the lockpick game. The joystick had to be moved around until it vibrated, and then the strap was pulled. My nervous reaction to the events was immediate and natural, simply because the whole scene was so utterly convincing.
Before long, the chute was pulled and he landed on the ground. A very striking arctic scene greeted us, and before long Sam had dove under water for cover. Light shone through the thick ice and beamed down into the dark depths in a manner so impressive, it could have been a picture. Martel guided Fisher up under the ice, and through its soft, diffusing light filter I could barely make out the surface. He had Sam knock on the underside of the ice a few times, until a shadow of a soldier proceeded directly over the ice. At this point, he was able to break through the ice, grab the soldier and flip him into the water, where he shot him through the stomach, all in one smooth, awesome looking animation.
The Splinter Cell look has gone from a simpler dark and high tech look to a level of complex rough, grittiness that could only be done on a system as powerful as the 360. Immersion is critical in stealth games, where a player is only as good as his perception of the area surrounding him. Anyone with a 360 should keep both eyes on this promising title.