October 30, 2006

Splintered Cell

by psu

No more Ubisoft games.

Earlier this year, I was treated to the tedious train wreck that was GRAW. Now we have the new Splinter Cell on the 360. The game does have the signature Splinter Cell stealth mechanics. Sneak sneak, grab, kill. Unfortunately, this core engine is wrapped up in shell made of crap.

For me, Pandora Tomorrow was the quintessentially perfect third person sneak game. The camera was right, the missions and levels were well laid out. You didn't spend a lot of time lost. The only problem with that game was the moronic checkpoint system.

Chaos Theory fixed the savepoint problem, but tweaked the game engine in a couple of ways that were annoying. The camera was pushed in closer to Sam, and when you tried to push it out of the way, it would bounce back to where you didn't want it. This was moderately annoying.

What was really annoying was how Ubisoft tried to open up the maps to give you multiple paths from point A to point B. This made the maps difficult to navigate. The "3-d map" interface was supposed to make this easier. Unfortunately, the 3-d map was utterly useless for, ya know, actually navigating. The result was that Chaos Theory played out as 15 minutes of tight sneaking followed by 45 minutes of running Sam around the map trying to find one of the magic corridors that get you to the next section of the map. It was like a stealth game combined with having lost your parents at the mall.

The latest game, Double Agent takes these two problems and amplifies them enough to make the rest of the game not worth playing. The useless 3-d map is back. The camera is even tighter and bouncier. And, they have replaced the 2 or 3 hidden paths from area to area with a single invisible door, making it even easier to lose your parents.

I've played through three of the missions. In the first one, I lost my parents in a prison, and could not figure out which floor to take the elevator to to escape. Once on the roof, I had to search for 10 minutes to find a single steel beam to get over to that other part of the map where the exit is.

I didn't get lost in the second one, although I had to run through the same room over and over again. I also had to play a target practice "mini-game" for "training". The only good target practice mini-game is one that is optional.

In the third mission, it took me 30 minutes to find my parents on a supertanker, when it turned out that they had gone down a 2ft by 2ft manhole. It was tricky to find this manhole on a tanker whose deck is about two square miles in area, especially since the level takes place in a blinding snowstorm.

After finding the the hidden hole, I had to spend another half an hour in the engine room finding the single door that lead me to where I was supposed to go.

As I ran around the deck and the engine room, the camera trailed behind me, hiding my feet from view. The result of this is that the world's greatest underground superspy can't go up a flight of stairs without missing once or twice and needing to backtrack. Every time I spun back around to get back on the stairs, the camera would spin and bounce and make me more and more motion sick. Finally, down one hallway that the 3-d map didn't show me, I found the door over to the final area. Then I got to trial and error the end of the level six times to figure out how to shoot the final boss without him seeing me. Then I had to get out of the ship, but I had completely forgotten my path down, since I had mostly been running in ever sickening circles to arrive where I was.

So I turned off the Xbox and watched the ninth inning of the series. The Cardinals win! Back to baseball for me.

No more Ubisoft games.


I have now come to find out via various sources that the version of this game for the decrepit "last gen" original Xbox has 12 co-op missions in it. That was by far the coolest thing about Chaos Theory and yet it's not in the 360 game. The best thing about next gen is how the gameplay has so far outstripped what is available on the previous machines, except that, ya know, that's completely not true.

Posted by psu at October 30, 2006 08:02 AM | Bookmark This

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