Game Review

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 3D Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Tripping over in the dark

Splinter Cell 3D is one of quite a few 3DS launch titles from Ubisoft, a publisher that is showing plenty of enthusiasm for Nintendo’s little device of tricks. The number of gizmos and clever features in the console make it seem like the perfect home for deadly agent Sam Fisher. The question is whether this title is able to stand up to interrogation, or does it panic under pressure?

The first thing to establish is that Splinter Cell 3D is a direct port of the highly regarded series entry Chaos Theory. Ubisoft seem to like porting this title to Nintendo handhelds with the same game, admittedly with tweaked levels, appearing on the DS in 2005. Still, not everyone has played one of the original versions, so Splinter Cell 3D brings its third-person stealth game into the third dimension. Considering the critical acclaim that greeted the original home console and PC versions of the title, it is an experience approached with optimism.

The storyline of Splinter Cell 3D is classic espionage, save-the-world fare. In the early part of the game there are two parallel storylines: intelligence and military tensions in Asia, with China, North Korea and Japan in the frame; and your early missions revolving around a seemingly unrelated chase to prevent sensitive weaponised algorithms from falling into the wrong hands. The storyline is fleshed out mostly in pre-mission cut scenes, some of which have nice production values. The story will also have the occasional twist or progression mid-level, and on the whole it is a decent yarn.

Walking through the game modes on the title screen is easy: there is a single player campaign mode. That’s it. Veterans with fond memories of the originals will need to live without the co-operative missions and the competitive multiplayer, popular modes that new players won't get a chance to experience. Considering the online functionality and capabilities of the 3DS — something Nintendo clearly put plenty of effort into — it is a major disappointment and oversight that none of these modes are included.

The campaign itself is a fairly meaty affair. Each mission will take around an hour to play through for skilled players, and those new to the series may take longer. The levels offer plenty of variety both in terms of locations and objectives. Sam Fisher’s missions send him all over the world, to places such as New York penthouses, freight ships at sea, the streets of Seoul and a Japanese bath house. Stealth is the priority in this game, so each location offers its own challenges as you try to avoid detection.

Staying in the shadows is important to your survival — Sam Fisher doesn’t have an invisible bullet proof vest in the manner of James Bond. If you get into a fire-fight you will either win or lose very quickly. This sense of spy realism is a major part of the Chaos Theory era of Splinter Cell, and it is recreated well. Enemy AI is sharp, and if you clumsily stumble into their viewpoint or make yourself known they will quickly set off alarms or try to gun you down. You do have a number of gadgets and weapons at your disposal to assist your efforts: you can disrupt computers and lights electronically, peek through doors with optic cables, or use non-lethal bullets to knock out enemies. There are a lot of items at your disposal as you progress and utilising each one can be fun.

Unfortunately, all of this "cool as ice" stealth gameplay is significantly undermined by the controls, with the most significant problem being camera control. Due to the lack of a second analogue stick, you move the camera with the A, B, X and Y buttons. Moving Sam with the Circle Pad works fine, but adjusting the camera with these buttons is awkward. You also aim your gun with the camera controls, which is horrendous. Actions such as jumping, ducking and reloading are set to directions on the D-Pad, while the shoulder buttons are used for firing weapons or close proximity take-downs. Arming weapons, alternative visors and context sensitive actions — such as opening doors — are all assigned to the touchscreen. As you may have gathered, this game utilises every control output on the device, in some cases for multiple uses, which makes the controls difficult to master.

The range of controls, and the camera issues at the heart of them, are damaging to the enjoyment of the game. When sneaking around at a slow pace we were just about able to hold everything together. However, when you get spotted by the enemy and quick, decisive action is needed, it is very difficult to react. Frustrating deaths become the norm as a result, breaking up the flow of the experience. On top of this, the controls often make it impossible to avoid some alarms: in one area we had to jump over a number of laser detectors, but trying to move forward with the Circle Pad while jumping with the D-Pad led to a predictable wailing of alarms. Regardless of the difficulty setting you will have problems, and it might just be easier to dress up as Sam and infiltrate an enemy location in real life.

Visually, the developers have done an adequate job. It’s early days for the 3DS in terms of understanding it’s graphical power, but aside from some blurry environment textures this game looks reasonable. The 3D effect does add to the immersion, with a decent sense of depth that is pleasing on the eye. One point to bear in mind is that this game is dark, which makes sense, but you’ll have difficulty seeing what you’re doing if playing in a bright area. We thought it would have been humorous to see Sam trip over occasionally as he stalks around in the dark, but sadly it never happened. Sam does have "Fusion Vision" goggles for seeing in dimly lit areas, with outlines of enemies and items in white. You’ll need these goggles a lot.

The soundtrack is a high point, with good quality arrangements. You’ll know when an objective is around the corner as the music will start to pound in anticipation. The title goes the other way as well, where the only sound at some points is the quiet clicking of your footsteps. If you're playing in a dimly lit room with headphones plugged in and the 3D slider cranked up, you may occasionally be sucked into an immersive experience.

Conclusion

Splinter Cell 3D's main problem is that it feels like a missed opportunity. There are moments when you get a grip of the controls, shoot out a light and creep up on an enemy, all viewed in a nice 3D effect. These moments are few and far between, as the annoyingly difficult and complex controls often mean that you fail to execute the missions as planned. Add the complete lack of additional modes and content from the original title and this screams of a rushed port. More thought was required to bring the Splinter Cell experience successfully to the 3DS, and the square pegs and round holes development approach has undermined the overall experience. There is some enjoyment to be had for series veterans, but most gamers would be well advised to play the original instead.

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User Comments (49)

Retro_on_theGo

#3

Retro_on_theGo said:

Whoa a 4? That's not surprising, i guess. Well, I'll just wait till MGS 3 is released to get a stealth game.

Kid_A

#4

Kid_A said:

Dang. After dashing through the Metal Gear Solid series last month I'd really be up for another quality stealth game.

Let's hope MGS3D gets it right.

Yosher

#6

Yosher said:

Ubisoft lost my respect long ago. They're just not as good as they used to be.

lex0plex

#7

lex0plex said:

@ballkirby1
My thoughts exactly... what happened to making sure a game was amazing before releasing it? Nintendo official seal of quality means absolutely nothing these days...

EDIT:
I mean third party games of course. Most Nintendo games are quality titles

GammaGames

#11

GammaGames said:

DAMN i have this for xbox original, one of my favorites! too bad for the shat controls D: i really want shadow wars and pilotwings resort though... first, drivers licence. second, get a job. third, spend all my money. :D anyone got a get rich quick scheme that works in a week?

Supremeist

#12

Supremeist said:

Thats too bad. I thought this one would be a huge impact. Guess who was wrong? I hope Shadow Wars is better.

Wesker

#18

Wesker said:

Is this the kind of stuff Nintendo really had in mind when they said they wanted to share the 3DS limelight with third party devs!?

Ubisoft is making a joke of itself on the 3DS. Maybe they'll turn things around later this week with 'Combat of Giants Dinosaurs 3D' and 'Rabbids 3D'... Doubt it.

Ravage

#19

Ravage said:

I still don't understand why they didn't include a second circle pad or similar...

Knux

#22

Knux said:

It seems pretty obvious that Rayman 3D is a much better port than this one.

Aviator

#23

Aviator said:

One thing I do love about this game, is how the integrated the mission objectives into the environment.

jerryo

#24

jerryo said:

ah crap! why did they have to do that UBIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII shame on you. Chaos Theory is the best Splinter Cell game. They could actually have ported the PC game instead with same graphics and features. It seems they ported the gameloft game with new assets. that is how they had the same crappy camera and controls i guess :) I had bought this for DS. It was a port of the mobile game from gameloft. They repeated the same mistake twice! (at least)

KrazyKain

#26

KrazyKain said:

I love chaos theory, if the only real problem is the controls, then, well I can get the hang of them.. might get this anyway

ThomasBW84Admin

#27

ThomasBW84 said:

The decision to award a 4 was to reflect the scoring policy of this site, in that 4 is 'below par'; despite some redeeming features we urge caution. The biggest problem is the controls, and despite sinking a fair bit of time into the game I still struggled to use the controls quickly and efficiently. In a stealth game that aims for immersion, struggling with a myriad of buttons and touch screen icons breaks up the flow and really damages the enjoyment factor.

The issue with the lack of other modes is a disappointment, as even a DS version of the game had these features. But as I said in the conclusion, anyone who is a big fan of the original may still get some fun out of this.

To those wondering whether Shadow Wars is better: not only is it a completely different kind of game, but so far impressions are very positive. I'll be writing the review in the next day or so, but I'd urge anyone to read Corbie's Rayman review, and Shadow Wars when it's ready, so that we don't tar all Ubisoft games with the same brush.

MegaAdam

#29

MegaAdam said:

I fear the decision not to include a second circle pad/analog control will be a problem for the 3DS. It will limit and hamper the attempts of 3rd parties to bring over franchises that utilize dual analog controls.

Hopefully the myriad other input mechanisms can appropriately compensate.

TheGreenSpiny

#30

TheGreenSpiny said:

People need to stop whinning about the lack of second circle pad and start doing thier homework. The DS proved that shooters can have great controls and with some of 3DS's new conrtrol inputs they should again improve apon this.

Really, Splinter Cell controlled rather poorly on the home consoles which is why I never really got into the series in the first place.

daznsaz

#31

daznsaz said:

yea moving your gun sight with buttons is dodgy they should of mapped it to touch screen but still having fun playing wouldnt play any games if i couldnt hack difficult bits lol

MadScientistMan

#32

MadScientistMan said:

UbIsoft, have you ever heard of the touch screen?

You know it can be used to aim very well

EDIT: I just realised the comment above says literally the same thing

nazzyboy22

#34

nazzyboy22 said:

What game would anyone recommend me getting i have:
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition
Nintendogs + Cats Golden Retriever
Pilotwings Resort
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D
So any game apart from these.
Please comment.

Paul4679

#35

Paul4679 said:

Why oh why isn't the jump control mapped to a shoulder button, with a context sensitive fire? Maybe a south paw setting or two, like Goldeneye N64? Could've been better. Shame.

Kyloctopus

#36

Kyloctopus said:

The controls would have been much easier if there wasn't a touch screen there
Sometimes I hate the touch screen

vampyren

#37

vampyren said:

I just finished this game myself and been readying many reviews and i dont think the reviews do this game justice to be honest.
could this game be better? sure, same as most games but seriously only with 1 analog stick its pretty hard to ask for some things like the camera.
Only problem i had sometimes was Sam's size which take over most of screen in some angels and one corridor where he is suppose to jump while running (i think) which was sort of impossible but beh who cares i trigger 1 alarm. Other then that i think the game look really nice and i had lots of fun. So if you like sneaking game this is pretty good.
oh ye the game is dark but i guess its hard to make it in another way considering the sneaking part. This was mostly not a problem for me though.

Gressil

#38

Gressil said:

I agree with vampyren, I have this game and is more fun for me than Street Fighter and Asphalt. I even loved the DS Chaos Theory, beat it like 10 times. If you are a major nintendo and splinter cell fan, snag this. I also have zero trouble with the controls or camera, the only thing you can't do without some fancy thumbwork in the game is run and jump, but this isn't Conviction, it's Chaos Theory. Still the old school SC for the most part. It has the same feel as the console games and can definitely offer an opportunity worthwhile.

Chris720

#40

Chris720 said:

@40 It's absolute crap. :) Played it before and it's really not worth it at all.

Phle

#41

Phle said:

I think this game was great. I had never played Splinter Cell before, and I picked up this game because I wanted to try something different than what I usually play. I was surprised though, I didn't know I would like it as much as I did. I like the way you have to hide in the dark, you really get the feeling of actually being Sam, who's a very likable character. When people say this game is too dark, they have forgotten to turn their lights off. It's definitely one of the 3DS games that I've had most fun playing. I recommend playing this in the dark, in bed or a comfy chair with earphones and something tasty to munch on.

Giygas_95

#43

Giygas_95 said:

It deserves an 8 in my opinion. Graphics are plenty good (3D isn't very deep though), sound is just like it was in the console version, good voice acting, you get all of Sam's gear which you can unlock and use even in earlier missions. From what I can tell, it's a rendition of the Gamecube version which was a good one. The controls are by no means horrendous. Using both thumbs to switch gear worked fine for me (the game even tells you to as one of the hints on loading screens). Also, if aiming with the A, B, X, and Y buttons is hard...well it's all about stealth so you're kind of supposed to not use your gun!

GuyMan

#44

GuyMan said:

Why is the 3DS port rated T for "Drug Reference, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence" while the GameCube version is rated M for "Blood, Strong Language, Violence"?

Giygas_95

#45

Giygas_95 said:

@GuyMan Ubisoft actually removed some words like GD replacing it with just D, and I think they removed the A word that guards sometimes say when firing at you. I don't know about the drug reference, but the suggestive themes part is some line of dialogue in the bank mission that they apparently didn't think was bad back when they reviewed the original.

Bass_X0

#46

Bass_X0 said:

Nintendo official seal of quality means absolutely nothing these days...

Sure it does. It only refers to the physical production of the game meeting Nintendo's standards. It has nothing to do with the actual game content.

WinterWarm

#47

WinterWarm said:

I'ma tell it like it is, y'all. ;)

Splinter Cell 3D is one of my absolute favorite video games, beating FE:A off of my favorite 3DS title stand.

In regard to what is, in my opinion, the totally ludicrous accusation of controls: You sort of forgot to mention the different aiming speeds in Options. Also, the the face buttons are totally responsive for me, maybe that's because my are a bit worn down and not a sticky as they originally were.

And the graphics? Great. Only complaint is when you aim a weapon, Sam's head seems slightly blurry.

I agree, Sam Fisher is instantly likeable.

Sam: "You're not setting me up on another blind date are you?"

Grim: "The Maria Narcissa is a boat."

Sam: "So was the last girl you set me up with."

I laughed so hard I think the in-game AI heard. :D

Also, this is rated T For Teen, making it the ideal choice for younger stealth players( such as myself), since MGS:SE3D is rated M For Mature.

All in all:

9/10.

Giygas_95

#48

Giygas_95 said:

"However, when you get spotted by the enemy and quick, decisive action is needed, it is very difficult to react. Frustrating deaths become the norm as a result, breaking up the flow of the experience. On top of this, the controls often make it impossible to avoid some alarms: in one area we had to jump over a number of laser detectors, but trying to move forward with the Circle Pad while jumping with the D-Pad led to a predictable wailing of alarms."

Even when I got spotted, I found it easy to yank out a weapon and blast my attacker quickly. The controls are not nearly as bad as the review states, and frankly they're easier than the console version for me at least. The touch screen made everything so much more easily accessible than having to remember which button does what. Also, about the lasers, you're not supposed to jump over them. You either follow a guard through them (or carry the guard's body) or you use the OCP mounted on Sam's pistol to temporarily disable them. You should NEVER try to jump over lasers, it will almost never work.

@DeathlyDarkness I agree, this review is way off...

gamebox2d

#49

gamebox2d said:

I found this for £7 brand new and sealed. As a budget buy I quite enjoyed it.

Makes a change from all the kids stuff on 3DS.

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