Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 3D (3DS) Review
One of my most anticipated launch titles for the Nintendo 3DS was the enhanced port of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory from Ubisoft. Why? Because I absolutely enjoyed the original console-based sequel and thought that updating it with a few elements from Conviction as well as adding the 3D effect would definitely give me some good reason to replay one of my favourite stealth games of all time. It almost seems like an idea that could never fail, but unfortunately, with Splinter Cell 3D, almost all of my excitement has been unfortunately severely let down. Splinter Cell 3D also confirms one of my biggest fears with the Nintendo 3DS, but we’ll talk about that later.
Splinter Cell 3D is a port of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and sees Sam Fisher put up against The People’s Voice, a Peruvian separatist group who have captured a computer programmer who was deciphering weaponised algorithms that have been designed to cause great damage to the government, with many critics and experts damning the algorithms as being new superweapons of the 21[sup]st[/sup] century. Naturally, Third Echelon send Sam Fisher after Hugo Lacerda, the man who has kidnapped the programmer, Bruce Morgenholt, in order to ensure that the algorithms do not fall into the wrong hands and start a new era of terrorism.
Despite its pedigree, Splinter Cell 3D does not look particularly impressive, especially when we take into consideration the console’s power. Environments are particularly dull; character models are somewhat decent but at the same time the texture work is incredibly dumbed down. There were many times when I would grab a guard and notice how low resolution they look in comparison to Sam Fisher himself, which is just distracting and I kind of assume that these shortcuts were taken due to the low lighting in many levels. Lighting is utilised well, although most of the game is in the dark so you’ll be hard-pressed to play this game at anywhere bright without some problems. In particular, the frame rate is also quite slow and this gives the game an overall unfinished and sluggish appearance. The whole game just feels so, well, depressing.
The 3D effect is actually utilised quite well, although there’s nothing that we haven’t seen in previous launch titles thus far. Thankfully, the performance of the game and the already low frame rate are not affected by the use of the 3D effect. The biggest and most obvious use of the 3D is the floating objectives that appear throughout the screen. These are really prominent and are a good albeit gimmicky use of the 3D effect. Finally, the 3D actually shines most when looking at the wire-frame maps that players can access, although the maps are often too convoluted to properly interpret.
As previously eluded to, Splinter Cell 3D confirms one of my worst fears with the Nintendo 3DS, and that is just how bad the lack of a second analog stick can be if a single one is not properly utilised by the developer. Controlling Sam with the Circle Pad works perfectly, but the camera and the aiming system are all controlled using the face buttons on the right hand side of the console. This brings up many issues that a second analog stick not existing can bring, specifically in that it’s near impossible to get an accurate shot or precise control of the camera using this method. The touchscreen interface is pretty good, however, and allows players to switch between weapons, gadgets and other context-sensitive actions on the fly. Overall, though, Splinter Cell 3D is an overly convoluted-feeling experience that really makes players feel like they have heaps to learn before they can properly play. The control scheme utilises every single input scheme of the 3DS and feels incredibly complex.
The game itself plays okay, although it’s really hard to get into due to the complex control scheme. Various meters on screen show how visible the player is, as well as how much noise he’s making. A nice touch is that ambient noise is shown on the noise meter, and if the player stays below that bar within the meter, then they “should” remain undetected. The biggest problem with Splinter Cell 3D, however, is just how schizophrenic the AI is for the guards at times. Sometimes they’ll magically detect the player, while others they will seemingly walk numbly towards Sam, waiting to be killed or knocked out. There’s just hardly any challenge involved outside of fighting with the control scheme when you accidentally do the wrong thing and set off the alarms.
There are times when you’ll feel just like Sam Fisher, moving around slowly without being detected. But during some more intense parts of the game where I had to make many faster decisions, the cumbersome camera controls really damaged the experience as it became extremely hard to control both speedily and accurately. These really do detriment the gameplay, especially since the game throws a few moments at the player where they must make a split-second decision. The use of the gyroscopic sensor to control one of the game’s gadgets feels shoe-horned in and incredibly gimmicky.
In terms of value, the overall package feels rather bare-bones and to be perfectly honest, quite rushed. Not only are the multiplayer modes absent (even though they were present in the original DS version), there is no proper utilisation of the extra features of the Nintendo 3DS, either. The campaign itself is rather lengthy, however, and will have players busy for at least six hours. There are secondary objectives that players may want to come back to, should they miss them, but there’s a serious lack of unlockables in the package.
The soundtrack is actually pretty decent, with many tracks revving up as the player approaches more pertinent objective sites. As the players are visiting many different locales, most of the music is diverse and suits the locations perfectly. There are times where there is no music at all, and I assume these segments are meant to increase immersion but unfortunately they don’t really do any such thing. Voice work is pretty much all over the place – Michael Ironside gives a great performance as Sam Fisher as usual, but the obviously fake accents (in particular some of the Japanese ones) are just downright woeful. It’s nice to see so much voice work packed into the game though; there’s hardly anything you’ll have to read.
Overall, Splinter Cell 3D is a strange piece of software that’s really all over the place. On one hand, it’s got a lot of complexity to it that no other launch title has, but on the other it’s a bit of an unpolished and rushed mess that isn’t going to appeal to many people who’ve played a game on a console before. Splinter Cell 3D is probably the most proof we’ll ever have that porting a game down from a console to a handheld is almost always never going to be a good idea without some proper optimisation, and it’s a real shame too.
Despite its decent original iteration, and having a great soundtrack, Splinter Cell 3D manages to disappoint in almost every other way possible. Its a shame too, since this couldve really been something great.
Splinter Cell 3D features nice variety in environments, but a lack of decent resolution texturing really brings the immersion down.
The gameplay is complex and offers a lot of options for players, but the control scheme leaves a lot to be desired, particularly with camera control issues.
A very nice and varied soundtrack that is extremely well put together.
While theres quite a lengthy campaign on offer, theres naught in terms of unlockables and multiplayer options, which is disappointing considering previous versions of the same game featured so much more.
Despite its major issues, I still enjoyed Splinter Cell 3D quite a bit, but I am not going to deny that its incredibly disappointing as a whole. I personally feel this one couldve used a bit more time and not been rushed out for launch; it couldve been much better.