After a long delay and a complete overhaul, Sam Fisher is back, and he's mad. But is his newest adventure worth your time? Read on and decide for yourself.
If you didn't play Double Agent, the previous game in the series, don't worry, because this game gets you caught up the moment you start. Sara Fisher, Sam's only living family and sole anchor to humanity, was killed by a drunk driver. When Sam discovers this may not have been an accident he goes looking for answers.
And so what begins as a quest for answers and vengeance evolves into a war against Third Echelon, our fated protaginists' former employer, whose new director, Thomas Reed, has plans for the United States that do not involve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the only man standing in their way is Jack Bauer....I mean Sam Fisher.
Let me start off by saying that many of the hallmarks of the series have been removed. There is no more interrogating any guard you can get your hands on. Instead, the game will tell you when you need to interrogate someone, and when you get to these unfortunate individuals, you can pilot them around a designated area and press B to test what painful effects the enviornmental objects (a mirror, a door, a tree stump, etc.) will have on the subjects.
I found this to be fun, but it could've been a lot more. If you choose to just press B without being near any environmental factors, Sam delivers a two or three hit combo. This has the same effect of advancing the interrogation as environmental factors do. You could stand there pressing B and get through the whole thing. If there was a factor where say, more painful techniques yielded results, while simple things such as punches caused the subject to resist the interrogation. But still, I enjoyed it as it was.
Killing enemies is now highly encouraged. This goes well with Sam's attitude in this game, I think. He's not sneaking through bases and avoiding people anymore as much as he is stalking them and looking to eliminate them. Doing a melee kill on an enemy gives you the ability to, "Mark and Execute" your enemies. As you upgrade your weapons you will gain the oppurtunity to mark up to four enemies. Provided they are in the same general area, a quick press of Y causes Sam to execute 4 insta-kill shots to the enemies heads, killing them all very stylishly.
Once you use this technique, another hand-to-hand kill gives you the ability to use mark and execute again, and so on. All in all, the gameplay is still very solid, and the elements you love are still there; being smart, being stealthy, and using gadgets. Portable EMP's, flashbangs, and Sam's goggles are all at you're disposal.
As good as the gameplay is, I couldn't shake the feeling that the series is treading dangerous ground of becoming just another third person shooter. Techincally, you COULD play the entire game as one, but playing it ninja style is a helluva lot more fun and thrilling. (The fact that it's really easy to die if you get cornered encourages stealth too. Duh.) There is one flashback mission in Iraq that is basically a shooting gallery. Sure it works, but i've seen it before. However, the fact that this misson was a shoot em' up went well with its context, so its excusable, I think.
The single player campaign is criminally short (I beat it the day I got it) but the extra modes such as hunter (kill all enemies) face off (Spy Vs. Spy with bot controlled enemies. Get points for killing bots, big points for killing other players) and last stand (defend against waves of enemies. You know how ever since Gears of War 2 all games with guns are required to have this mode by law.) will keep you going, and the replay value is fairly high, I think.
Lastly, as usual, fucking up, getting cornered and shot up is a million times more fun when you do it with a friend. Yes, co-op mode is back, and it's a blast. The only way I can really describe it is single player with your buddy. Marking and executing the dudes behind your bro while he does the same for you is a good way to get a fist bump goin'. Oh, yeah, and you can take turns torturing people. A great way to expand the foundations of your bro hood is causing agony to others. I'm glad we're all in agreement on that.
All in all, if you're a die-hard fan of Splinter Cell, this is definetley worth a buy. If you're not, but you can dig the great multiplayer and potential for fun with friends, it probably still is. If you're just in it for a fun evening, whether with a friend or on single player, it's a good choice for a rent. Splinter Cell is still strong, but it needs to be careful with where it's gameplay goes from here.
P.S. If anyone thinks the series can go on if Michael Ironside stops voicing Fisher, do yourself a favor and die.