Friday, July 15, 2011

THEPLAYGAMER3: Tom Clancy's SPLINTER CELL








Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is a 3D action-adventure stealth video game of 2002, developed by Ubisoft Montreal and built on the Unreal Engine 2. It is the first Splinter Cell game in the series endorsed (but not created) by author Tom Clancy, and follows the activities of American NSA Black Operation, "Black Ops", agent Sam Fisher. The character of Sam Fisher is voiced by actor Michael Ironside. His boss, Irving Lambert, is voiced by actor Don Jordan.

The game is available for Xbox, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Windows, and Mac OS X. 2D versions of the game were released for the N-Gage and Game Boy Advance, as well as the mobile phones version developed by Gameloft. A remastered, High-Definition, version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell was announced for the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 on December 20, 2010. The success of the game series spawned a series of novels written under the pseudonym David Michaels.

Gameplay

The primary focus of the gameplay is stealth, with heavy focus on light and darkness. The player is encouraged to move through the shadows for concealment whenever possible. The game displays a "light meter" that reflects how visible the player character is to enemies, and night vision and thermal vision goggles to help the player navigate in darkness. The game also displays a E.M display to highlight sources of electricity.

The game heavily encourages the use of stealth over brute force. Although Fisher is usually equipped with firearms, he carries limited ammunition and is not frequently provided with access to additional ammo. The player begins most missions with a limited supply of nonlethal weapons in addition to Fisher's firearms, a suppressed FN Five-Seven pistol as well as a suppressed FN F2000 assault rifle, which includes a scope and a launcher for some of the less-lethal devices such as ring airfoil projectiles, "sticky shockers" and CS gas grenades.

Flexibility of movement is a focuspoint of the game. Fisher can sneak up on enemies from behind to grab them; allowing interrogation, quiet incapacitation, or even use as a human shield. Fisher is acrobatic and physically adept, and has a variety of maneuvers including the ability to mantle onto and climb along ledges, hang from pipes, and perform a "split jump" in narrow spaces to mantle up a steep wall.

Characters

Sam Fisher - The game's protagonist. He is a seasoned veteran of Covert Ops and Black Ops who is the first person recruited as a secret field operative known as a "Splinter Cell" for the NSA's super-secret sub-agency, Third Echelon.

Irving Lambert - The operations coordinator at Third Echelon, he is the link between agents, like Fisher, and a remote team of specialists monitoring them. He contacts the player with new information, objectives, and instructions periodically throughout a mission.

Vernon Wilkes, Jr. - Coordinates the transportation and equipment for field agents. He drops the player off at the start of a mission and picks him up at the end. He is killed by a Russian mercenary in the "Kalinatek" level. In the PS2 version, he dies in the Nuclear Power Plant level.

Anna Grimsdóttir - The computer and security expert at Third Echelon. She, like Lambert, will contact the player throughout a mission - usually in accordance with Lambert.

Kombayn Nikoladze - The main antagonist of the story. He is the President of Georgia who wants to bring down America with his power and resources. He launches a technological war on the U.S. before going underground for fear of capture. A terrorist leader. He is killed by Fisher in the "Presidential Palace" level.

Vyacheslav Grinko - A former Soviet Spetsnaz operator, he is Nikoladze's terrorist military commander - usually working with mercenaries. He is killed by Fisher in the "Abattoir" level.

Phillip Masse - A Canadian hacker, he is the technology behind Nikoladze's terrorism. He is killed by Fisher in the "Kola Peninsula" level.

Kong Feirong - A rogue Chinese general, Feirong is an ambitious Chinese officer whose alliance with Nikoladze nearly ignites World War III. He commits suicide in the second "Chinese Embassy" level after Nikoladze deserts him.

Plot

The game is set in the fall of 2004, as the player takes on the role of Sam Fisher, a long-dormant secret agent called back to duty by the American National Security Agency, or the NSA, to work with a secret division dubbed "Third Echelon", a top-secret sub-branch within the various intelligence branches of the National Security Agency. At this point, Fisher hasn't "been in the field in years." In 2004, the unnamed president of Georgia is assassinated during a suicide bomb attack in Tbilisi, allowing Georgian multi-billionaire Kombayn Nikoladze to seize power in the country in a bloodless coup d’√©tat. While in power, Nikoladze promotes technological advances in information industries with the support of the some countries in Europe as well the United States.

Meanwhile, Sam Fisher is dispatched to Tbilisi in Georgia for his first assignment as a Splinter Cell. His mission is to investigate the mysterious disappearance of two CIA agents: Alice Madison, who secured a role in Nikoladze's political cabinet, and Robert Blaustein, who went to find Madison when she went missing but ended up disappearing as well. Fisher meets with NSA informant Thomas Gurgenidze, who he finds in a warehouse engulfed in flames. Before dying, Gurgenidze states that according to Madison's last transmission, the duo had discovered "something big," and she had said that gaining proof could lead to war. Finding the bodies of Madison and Blaustein in the local morgue, Fisher then learns that both agents have been dead for more than a day and that Vyacheslav Grinko - a Russian mercenary, formerly a member of Spetznaz - removed their subdermal tracking implants and departed in his car. Using his license plate number, Third Echelon tracks him to the Georgian Ministry of Defense.

Fisher arrives at the Ministry to find that Grinko is here to meet a computer genius named Phillip Masse. Listening in with a laser mic, Fisher learns that Nikoladze is conducting some kind of top-secret operation in Azerbaijan. For more information, Fisher infiltrates Nikoladze's personal office and has Anna Grimsdottir, Third Echelon's technical expert, hack into the computer via satellite, only to have the Ministry's security detect the hack and cut Grimsdottir’s access, sending the building into alert. She manages, however, to retrieve the rest of the data, revealing to the NSA that Nikoladze has secretly been waging an on-going ethnic-cleansing campaign in Azerbaijan. Fisher then escapes via helicopter, piloted by Third Echelon field runner Vernon Wilkes.

With the detected intrusion at the Ministry, Nikoladze goes underground. He then kick-starts his campaign into full action: the Georgian military cells now start terrorist rampages throughout Azerbaijan. The President of the United States, David Bowers, then orders NATO to send troops into the affected areas to stop the attempted genocide, and to locate Nikoladze. As the war begins, the NSA notice, in the data retrieved from the Ministry, that a Georgian military cell is stationed on an oil rig on the Caspian Sea has been exchanging data with the Georgian Presidential Palace, suggesting it to be of some importance; and thus Fisher is sent to retrieve the data.

Fisher infiltrates the oil rig, only to find that NATO is sending in planes to bomb the facility, thinking it to be the location of Nikoladze, which sends the entire oil rig into panic. The team then learns that a computer technician, Piotr Lejava, is trying to prevent data in the rig's computers from falling into NATO hands, which can only be accessed via the technician's encryption key, and so Fisher trails Lejava around the oil rig until he finally catches him and obtains his laptop along with his encryption key. A brief interrogation of Lejava reveals that the data concerns something called 'The Ark', but he doesn’t know what it is.

Once extracted by boat, Grimsdottir examines Lejava's laptop. She's shocked to discover that the level of information stored on the laptop could have only been gained by a mole in the CIA. At that moment, the transport plane they're in suddenly malfunctions. The pilots manage to regain control before it hits the water, but an incoming call from Third Echelon commanding officer, Irving Lambert, reveals that North America has just been hit by a cyber warfare attack, targeting mostly military targets. In a broadcast, Nikoladze claims responsibility for the attack and officially declares war on the United States.

As America struggles to cope with the aftermath of the attack dubbed as the "Information Crisis" by the media, Fisher infiltrates the CIA headquarters and accesses the CIA computer mainframe, allowing Grimsdottir to trace the location of the data leak to the personal computer of Mitchell Dougherty, and Fisher is ordered to bring him in for interrogation. Dougherty claims to have no knowledge of a data leak but the NSA learns that his obsessive-compulsive tendencies caused him to haul all his data onto an insecure laptop, which was taken advantage of by the nearby network housed in the corporate building of Kalinatek Inc.

Knowing that their operation has been compromised by Grimsdottir's trace, the troops inside Kalinatek attempt to destroy any evidence that could lead to Nikoladze, including their computer technicians. The NSA intercepts a 911 call made from a technician named Ivan who states that his life is in danger, and he will help the American government in exchange for rescue. Lambert then tells Fisher that the FBI will collect Ivan and all he needs is Ivan's encryption key. Fisher locates Ivan and he hands over his encryption key. Fisher leaves the Kalinatek building as FBI agents come to take over the scene and rescue Ivan. Using the encryption key, the NSA discovers that Nikoladze has been using a network of unconventional relays to communicate with the Georgian military cells. Grimsdottir manages to trace one of these data streams back to the Nadezhda Nuclear Power Plant in northern Russia, and Fisher goes in to shut the power plant down so that the relay system can be traced further.

Fisher infiltrates the Russian power plant, only to find it under the control of Grinko's mercenaries, here to protect the microwave relay. Despite this, Fisher initiates a false meltdown alarm, forcing everyone in the building to evacuate, allowing Fisher to move around easier. Fisher then gains control of the microwave relay, allowing the NSA to finally locate Nikoladze. Fisher leaves the building via the plant's private train - but to their surprise, the mercenaries are also using the train to transport nuclear material, possibly to create nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the NSA traces the full relay network to the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, raising questions of Chinese support for the Georgians, which could potentially lead to a war with China. Fisher is sent to sneak into the embassy in order to investigate if the Chinese are really assisting Nikoladze. Fisher sneaks onto the embassy grounds, and is able to eavesdrop on a conversation between Nikoladze and General Kong Feirong, a prominent member of the People's Liberation Army of China. The conversation reveals that the two are working together.

The NSA learns that the two have brought US Military hostages as well as PLA Administrators to a local slaughterhouse for execution and plans to broadcast the execution to America via webcast - Fisher delays his objective of interrogating Feirong so that he can save the hostages, which he successfully accomplishes. Fisher then meets with a Chinese informant and learns that Feirong is in command of a renegade faction of the Chinese military and does not represent China in his actions, stabilizing American and Chinese relations and avoiding war for the time being. However, Feirong and Nikoladze must be eliminated to avoid potential war and Fisher is ordered back to the embassy to kill Feirong. Fisher manages to grab Feirong before he can commit suicide, and forces him to share the information on his computer, which reveals that Nikoladze has retreated back to Georgia, where he is trying to activate a WMD called "The Ark", something that he is willing to die for.

Fisher then rushes to the Georgian Presidential Palace, to prevent Nikoladze and the new temporary defacto president, Cristavi, from accessing the key to the Ark which is revealed to a nuclear bomb hidden somewhere in America. However, Cristavi's men arrive and hold both Nikoladze and Fisher at gunpoint. Nikoladze reveals that the Ark is already armed and located at the intended target. He bargains to give the Ark key to Cristavi in exchange for safe passage out of Georgia. They take Nikoladze and the Ark key elsewhere, and Fisher is left to be executed - luckily, Lambert organizes for a five-seconds long blackout, allowing Fisher to escape and locate Nikoladze, who is still trying to negotiate the Ark for his freedom: in order to prevent this from happening, Fisher assassinates Nikoladze, the only person capable of activating the Ark, thus preventing the Information Crisis from escalating.

With the threat of a major war averted, the United States begins to recover from the crisis, with the President declaring that a new era of peace has emerged. The corpse of Nikoladze is recovered and sparks international backlash for the assassination, however, not known to the public is how it happened; but nonetheless, the President thanks everyone who did their part in ending the crisis and that America “will not forget their resolve”. Fisher laughs at the thanks, watching it at home with his daughter Sarah, who doesn’t know why he’s laughing. Fisher then receives a secure phone call from Lambert about another assignment, obviously disappointing Sarah.

Development

Because the development team was aiming for a Teen ESRB rating, the team tried to minimize the level of violence.

Version Differences

The PC version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is fairly closely based on the original Xbox version. Both were made by Ubisoft Montreal. The GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions, which were developed by Ubisoft Shanghai, are similar to each other, but have many small changes over the originals with the result that they are generally easier. Some doors are moved around, guards are less likely to notice gunshots, etc.

Each version of the game has some exclusive features. The Xbox and Windows versions have three new downloadable missions which involve a Russian nuclear sub. The PlayStation 2 version includes an exclusive level which takes place in a nuclear power plant, new cinematics, a new intro cinematic with original music by the Prague Orchestra, and many behind-the-scenes interviews and documentaries both about the new intro and the game itself. GameCube uses the Game Boy Advance link cable to give you a real-time overhead map and a new sticky-bomb weapon. Additionally, both GameCube and PlayStation 2 include new binoculars items.

Sales

The game has sold over 3 million copies: 2.4 million in US, 600,000 in Europe, 5,449 in Japan, making it one of the top best selling video games for the Xbox.

Awards

E3 2002 Game Critics Awards: Best Action/Adventure Game
3rd Annual Game Developers Choice Awards: Excellence in Writing
6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards: Console Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering
IGN Best of 2002: Xbox Game of the Year, Xbox Best Graphics

Nominations

3rd Annual Game Developers Choice Awards: Game of the Year, Original Game Character of the Year, Excellence in Game Design, Excellence in Level Design, and Excellence in Programming
6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards: Innovation in Console Gaming, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design, Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering, and Console Action/Adventure Game of the Year
IGN Best of 2002: Overall Game of the Year

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