2 January 2010 | TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews
What side are you fighting for?
This review is for the version released for the Wii. After the meaningless death of his daughter, Sam feels that he has nothing left to lose. Thus, he is sent on an insanely dangerous assignment that he would not have agreed to before: Undercover in a terrorist group. You now get objectives(some of them timed) from both them and the NSA, and you can't afford to lose the faith of either(and it will directly affect, for example, the equipment that you get; and in case you're wondering why you get to use the spy stuff, yes, it is explained... sorta). It can be debated if they went far enough with that(because if it does happen, you get a chance to fix it, though you have to be fast), but in Ubisoft's defense, gamers today won't put up with having to start all over(not saying that's bad, only that we are demanding in different ways, today). You get a Trust Meter that will tell you how much confidence they have in you, and you increase the amount(at the expense of how much the other organization believe in you; admittedly, it doesn't seem like they should notice or care, for a couple of them) by solving things for them. There are also several specific, vital decisions that you have to make. For example on a cruise ship, where you prevent 2000 deaths... or ensure them. Do you trade thousands of lives to potentially save millions? The story-telling in-between missions consists of full CGI cinematics that are immensely effective, very engaging and with excellent cinematography and editing, as well as an on-going phone call between the assistant director and Fisher, carried mainly by their voices, supplemented by a documentary-like mix of stills and moving footage. These two can vary based upon what choices you make. The remaining cut-scenes are in-engine. This has a genuinely compelling and interesting plot, with a marvelous ending. The characters are impeccably well-written(and the banter is hilarious; dialog is clever, in general), credible and well-developed. There is magnificent drama in this. This does Tom Clancy proud. The audio is spot-on. Nearly every acting performance is flawless. Sound is crisp. The score now has a gritty, "dirty" tone to it, and it fits beautifully. AI is well-done with few exceptions. The Wii-Mote is not a half bad substitute for a mouse, and prior to me trying this, you could not have convinced me that a 360 degree camera could *ever* work on a console. Controls are intuitive, easy to use, smooth and not overly sensitive. The jump is a tad awkward, since you have to shake the Nun-chuk, and it's the only one where you make that strong a movement. It took getting used to for me to be able sneak without only tapping the stick, then again, this is the first I'm playing on the thing that is this complex. The lock-picking will cause frustration, since you have to figure out exactly what specific positions that you have to hold the 'Mote in. It takes practice(not to mention patience). Hacking in this is *fun!* The game-play is not cannibalized for the port(I have read that it is the same as the one for the PS2; I cannot confirm or deny that). Graphics are probably the greatest loss, revealed particularly by the difference between light and darkness not being as visually obvious(with that said, you can tell with no problems; the indicator in the HUD works perfectly) as on the other platforms. Animation suffers slightly, as does FX. Fire and water look OK. Throwing bottles, etc., to distract is useless(however, the whistling works nicely), and I maintain that one of the regular knocking out moves looks like how a five-year-old would push off someone mean; then again I'm not on any special forces team. The occasional ally feature is a nifty addition, with you and them helping each other past obstacles. This comes with split-screen Co-Op multi-player, that I have yet to try. You can save at any time in this, if there is only one file(thankfully, you can restart from checkpoint too). The levels are well-designed(and you can go back to the beginning of them at any time, and replay any that you have completed); the initial one will introduce you to what you can do in the game(and early on, you get the option of watching training videos, which are short, sweet and to the point), the environments are well-done, the finale is awesome, and there are memorable ones, including one taking place *on top of a subway train*, where you(automatically) duck to avoid getting crushed against the lower parts of the ceiling("I'm taller than you"), and one where you defuse bombs, and it is the most entertaining and tense time I've had playing a Splinter Cell game(meaning, of these four). Meanwhile... they continue to be just about entirely linear. Apart from the consequences that shape the branching story-line, the player has relatively little freedom in this. Does it bother no one else? I am comparing it to the Hit-man and Commandos franchises, and before you say that this is plot-driven, yes, so are they, if the former more than the latter. This is my biggest problem with this series. You don't go in with a detailed plan, so it comes off as if you simply succeed as a result of a bunch of lucky coincidences(as opposed to brilliantly exploiting tiny holes in the security setup). The map could be better, it can confuse you, and you may get lost(possibly with valuable seconds ticking away), and I'm sorry, in my book, that is not where the challenge in a stealth title should come from. That is really all that you can complain of. This has a fantastic interface, it doesn't get repetitive, it's addictive and it, like the three that precede it, brings something new to SC. There is moderate to strong language in this, as well as violence and disturbing content. I recommend this to all fans. 9/10