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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Essentials PSP

Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Essentials, an introduction.

If you don't count Metal Gear Acid as a stealth game (because it is in actual fact a turn-based card game with 3D graphics) the PSP hasn't had a stealth game to call its own, until now. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Essentials sees Sam Fisher in action for the first time on the PSP. The game may be new but if you've played all of the Splinter Cell games to date there's a fair chance you'll have encountered a lot of what Splinter Cell: Essentials has to offer.

What's the game about?

Splinter Cell: Essentials is essentially a loosely strung together collection of select missions from all of the Splinter Cell games and new missions. In fact the rather thin storyline begins from the end of the story in Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Sam is arrested whilst visiting his daughter's grave and the missions in the game play out as a series of flashbacks. In addition to the single-player missions, there's also a very basic ad hoc multiplayer Deathmatch style mode for two players.

What's good about the game?

Whilst the game is far from perfect it's great that the game manages to capture the flavour of previous Splinter Cell games. Naturally part of this is probably down to the fact that quite a few missions have been drawn from previous games and you'll find all of the gadgets and special moves in the game that were in previous Splinter Cell titles. The night vision that turns everything a shade of green returns too, which is good because you're going to be using it for most of the game. The game is also surprisingly generous in its provision for deaf gamers, which we'll come to in a moment.  

What's not so good about the game?

The biggest complaints I have with Splinter Cell: Essentials are the loading times and the rather poor camera control. Loading times are excessive and become particularly frustrating when you have to reload due to failing a mission. Because the PSP only has one analogue stick, the camera control isn't the same as it was on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of Splinter Cell. Basically you have to hold down the circle button and move the analogue stick in order to move the camera. In all honesty this feels very awkward and is one of the major drawbacks with the game, as you can't move Sam and the camera at the same time. The enemy AI seems like it has been toned down quite a lot, which make the game feels easier than it should. Of course let's not forget that if you have played all of the previous Splinter Cell games, it's a fair bet you'll be disappointed at revisiting missions you've already completed.

How does it look?

Graphically the game looks fine and it's amazing to think we now have handheld games that are graphically on a par with the PlayStation 2 versions of Splinter Cell. The numerous graphical glitches in the game definitely take the shine off things though. My main irritation is not the fault of the game itself but rather the fault of the poor PSP screen. Yes the PSP screen is rather large and very nice looking but its pixel response times leave a lot to be desired and quite a few games suffer from the ghosting effect. Splinter Cell Essentials is unfortunately one of those games that suffer from ghosting and it can be enough to make you feel queasy at times. As I've already said, it's not really a fault of the game but it's worth bearing in mind if you are put-off by the ghosting effect.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

I have to admit I am impressed with the consideration that has been given to deaf gamers. Loading screens provide you with a text introduction to a mission. The game is subtitled and you'll find the cutscenes and communications dialogues all subtitled. Conversations between Sam and other characters are subtitled too. As well as having the gauge that shows you if Sam can be seen or not, there are also three gauges that indicate sound and an indicator to show you if an alarm is ringing. There is a primary sound gauge that shows you how much noise Sam is making. There are also two sound gauges that show you how much environmental noise is occurring around Sam and this is wonderful to see. Of course it's not perfect. For instance if the gauge on the right begins to fill because of a church bell ringing to Sam's right, there's no way a deaf gamer would now it was a bell or indeed if it was something else but nevertheless it's a very useful inclusion that deaf gamers will be thankful for. My only other complaint is that the text that appears on the top left of the screen can disappear too quickly if more than one person is talking to Sam. Usually there's not much text displayed at one time so it's not too much of a problem.

Final thoughts.

Whilst it's great to see a Splinter Cell game on the PSP, it's a shame that it wasn't an entirely new product. As we've already mentioned, if you've played the previous Splinter Cell games much of what's here will feel recycled and takes a lot away from the product. If you haven't played a Splinter Cell game before then this probably isn't the game you should begin with as it's by far the poorest Splinter Cell title to date (and let's face it the series has been excellent until now). The game's not a disaster by any means and it's great to see all of Sam's moves and gadgets have made it into this game. The provision for deaf gamers is also worthy of praise and I hope the same kind of provision makes its way into further Splinter Cell titles. However, even the most loyal fan of the series is going to be disappointed with how Splinter Cell: Essentials has turned out.

Overall Game Rating: 5.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Poor AI, awkward camera control and a lot of recycled content mean that Splinter Cell: Essentials is a long way from living up to the standard of previous titles in the series. The support for deaf gamers is quite impressive though.