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SummarySplinter Cell: Alienation (*Single player campaign review*)
The GoodHaving played all the other major Splinter Cell games I eagerly waited to play this title. Now when I finally took my time, installed it (thanks backlog!), breezed though the story campaign and tried out the Deniable Ops mode, I'd like to share a bit of my impressions from playing this.
First things first, the game looks quite good. Graphics are generally OK, nothing particularly special, but they are crisp clear (at least in PC version), with many little details and nice touches. And that little trick with projecting your current task on any surface was really, really astonishing.
Sound design is quite good, I especially enjoyed menu sounds and several music tracks played during dramatic moments. Voice acting is good as usual, but I found Sam sound a bit off, as if he were older and more tired of it all than he actually appears in the game.
And while we're still on the bright side of this little review, I have to admit that optional Deniable Ops Mode is really awesome and it plays just like a Splinter Cell game should. But more on that in the end of the review.
The BadThe worst thing a stealth game can do is throwing tons of enemies at you with a very little or no alternative to a direct confrontation. And SC:C does that all the time: every five minutes, especially in later levels you will find yourself surrounded by armed foes, in a brightly lit room, and - the worst - with indestructible light sources. Say goodbye to stealth!
The moral dilemma of previous games - whether to kill a guy or simply knock him off is gone - Sam is now on a killing spree murdering hundreds of people. I wouldn't act like that in a regular Splinter Cell game! While killing some officers and higher-ups is justified by the story and I'm OK with that, I just don't understand why I should kill all those security guards and soldiers. I was a stealth machine in all previous SC games, I enjoyed stealth, often with not a single shot fired in levels (excluding maybe the previous title, where it was also nearly impossible in some levels). Here, it's so damn exaggerated, all you do is kill, kill, kill.
You can kill in stealth, sure, but weapons are very inaccurate, and what you meant to be a headshot will miss, alarming all enemies of your presence (even with a silenced gun). Sneaking on enemies and killing them silently is good, but you can't carry the bodies! That's it, a dedicated stealth game, and you can't hide the bodies. It's a total, inexcusable failure at stealth design. It's like Metro 2033, where the designers wanted you to play stealthily, but made it almost impossible to do so due to faulty enemy algorithms, so majority of the players just had to rush through the levels killing everyone in sight (or reload-reload-reload!)
Enemy placement is so compact, that it gets infuriatingly hard to sneak on people in later levels. You ultimately will have to resort to Hitman-like "accidents" (dropping some equipment on poor guys' heads) and thus attracting attention (so, end of stealth), or trying to headshoot everybody (and, usually, fail). You can, however, hide after you've been spotted and it's advisable to do so, since Sam can withstand just a few hits, but usually you realize that it's quicker and easier to just shoot everybody Rambo-style.
And that, the idea that you'd rather just shoot everybody than search for perhaps non-existent algorithm of stealth approach, is an extremely sad idea for a stealth video game.
It is also worth mentioning that the game lacks any map, so planning is non-existent. All you do here is adapt to the situation instantly, without any preparation, otherwise you're spotted and shot at. The map probably didn't make it into the final game due to the overall change of pacing; the designers probably felt that this Splinter Cell was a faster and more action-packed game, so the map is probably not needed. Wrong. And lazy.
Oh, and the person who decided that cutscenes should be pre-renders of awfully low resolution, looking far worse than the actual gameplay, should best quit the industry and find a real job.
And I didn't even talk about the story, although it's a *Single player campaign review*. Well, the story is shite, it as usual involves an evil dude who wants to control the world or something like that, and his methods are hilariously stupid, so that's all I can say about it. Character development maybe? Yeah, there is some, but not enough.
The Bottom LineUltimately, it's a different experience than what everybody (including me) expected from a SC game. The game that alienated the dedicated Splinter Cell fan base, while failing to attract new players. If I want Cawadoody, I can go play my Cawadoody and have better time at doing that. The pacing is changed drastically. Now it's all about fast actions, split-second decisions and such. While it's not a bad thing, it just feels out of place (at least in story mode). The game is not bad by any standards, it just encourages a different style of gameplay.
As usual there's also an additional mode called Deniable Ops. And that is one really awesome mode (Hunter) which plays just like SC should. You are thrown into a location with a goal to kill a number of people, but if they spot you they call backup and then hell breaks loose. So you need to apply strategy, carefully plan everything or rely on your spy's reflexes. Enemies may change their location and patrol routes, making this mode a very worthwhile experience. Awesome mode which really redeemed the aftertaste of the forgettable story campaign.