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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G4 @ 867 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1700 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
October 13, 2004 | Dustin Smith

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It’s been a while since Mac users have had a really well done third person adventure title. A game where you don’t have to worry about a “point” system to buy skills, or “experience points” so your character can level up to become more powerful. A game where gamers get to see the entire character and all of the gorgeous movements, and not just a gun swaying to-and-fro at the bottom of their screen. A game that feels as if it is almost too close to home with a story-line basically ripped from the headlines. An intelligent game that will test your patience as you wait, hidden in the shadows for the guards to pass by, while you have an unconscious one at your feet. Yes, the time has come for this game to finally emerge from the inky blackness of development and revel in the glorious light of appraisal from Mac gamers all around (well, fine. Not ALL around. But around…you know).

Thanks to Aspyr Media we finally have Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell on our wonderful platform. Yes, it has been a couple years since UbiSoft launched it for the Xbox console system. Do not worry though, the years have been kind to Sam Fisher and the Third Echelon because even playing the Xbox version cannot compare to the level of detail that you will get owning the Mac version. Just how great is this game you ask? Well, not better than sliced bread, if that’s what you are looking for. But for you carb friendly readers out there that don’t eat the bread it’s pretty damn good.

Seeing in the Dark
When Splinter Cell arrived on the Xbox platform it was touted as one of the best looking games around…now I know why. The graphics in this game are almost awe-inspiring. From the main character of Sam Fisher, to the backgrounds, to the trash strewn about the streets, everything has a depth of detail that immediately tells you that a lot of work was put to good use on creating a game that strived for realism. Let’s start with our buddy Sam.

Sam Fisher, being a splinter cell, must always rely on invisibility. Therefore, breaking some sort of fashion barrier, he must always wear black. But even in black, just rolling the camera around him a few times to capture all of the magnificent features of the character model is a treat. In doing so you get to view almost all of the various nuances about his physical persona, such as seeing clearly the definition in his muscles, the graying hair about the temples giving him an heir of a distinguished assassin, the weathered face of someone who must carry out a duty, not just for himself, but for the safety of the country, as well as the way he flips his night-vision goggles with a jerk of his head if his hands are busy. UbiSoft thought of almost everything physically that he would be able to actually do.

But he couldn’t do anything if he wasn’t required to be anywhere. Anyway, the locales in the game are gorgeous. You travel through three countries including Myanmar, the Republic of Georgia, and the U.S.A. When you get a chance to be outside, which occasionally happens, though most of your time is spent in buildings, just look around. Most of the time backgrounds end up being flat, boring, almost cardboard cutouts of a city or a landscape. Not so in Splinter Cell. Especially in the last level when you start outdoors just take some time to look at the background. You see the depth of the buildings and the lights twinkling away in the night. A beautiful touch; I just wanted to push some of those other flat backdrops down because of the way it detracted from the whole experience of making it real.

A nice graphical touch that worked real well in setting a realistic dynamic was the thermal goggles. Although in the highest resolution and very high detail the thermal goggles slowed down the game considerably. Still, it was still really amazing to watch, as you ended an enemy’s life, his heat actually leaving his body, changing colors from a sharp red to a dull green.

Although, what it all boils down to is the lighting. You wouldn’t be able to take in all of its splendor if it wasn’t for the incredibly dynamic lighting effects right? Well, if you wanted to play through the game using just the night vision goggles, I guess you could. But then you wouldn’t see it in glorious color and trust me, it makes a huge difference. The lighting, like I tried to mention before is incredibly impressive. What can I say about the lighting that hasn’t already been said? Nothing really, it would just be a rehash of everyone else’s reviews. So, on with the hashing! The part that still amazes me is how accurately UbiSoft was able to achieve such dynamic lighting with virtually no slowdown in the gameplay. Make Sam walk under a light and the shadow travels realistically along its path as if you walked under that same light. Put Sam right on the light’s edge, facing the light, and Sam’s front will be accurately illuminated to reveal all that’s hit by the light.

I could rave all day about the lighting and graphics, but the truth is from light there is shadow, and there are some flaws in the graphics. For instance, let’s take the lighting once more. Like I said the light will accurately illuminate Sam just as if you were standing there, and a shadow will be cast. Here is the flaw. The shadow’s edges aren’t that good. I know that the farther away you are from the object on which the shadow is cast the fuzzier it was get, but isn’t the reverse supposed to happen as well? Not in this game. The closer you are to the object on which the shadow is cast it still has a fuzzy outline. And sometimes when you are against a light coming through blinds or slats in wood, the horizontal lights suffer greatly from jagged edges. I did have the graphics on the highest detail and resolution so that’s not the problem. Speaking of resolution, the cinematics before each level could’ve used a resolution boost as well. The pre-level cinematics look as if they are set on 800 x 600. A real downer in my book.


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