Splinter Cell (Sniper)
Genre: Stealth/Action
Developer: Ubi Soft
Publisher: Ubi Soft

Splinter Cell takes gaming to new graphical heights in two areas: lighting and animation. The former is accomplished by using high res, alpha-mapped surfaces, shining a light through them, and having the resulting shadows cast, real-time, across the stage and any actors. The second is accomplished by using the best motion-capturing I've ever seen. If only the game had better level textures, it'd be in contention for the title of "best graphics ever."

Sam Fisher, your main character, has one of the coolest voices of any video game protagonist. Actually, the voice acting in general is very good. The sound effects likewise lend a quality feel to the game. The music, ambient and mood setting, dynamically changes to let you know that guards have been alerted somehow, or are about ready to shoot you in the head. I can't imagine what more the could have been done in the sound department- it's a thorough job well done.

I would imagine that Sam Fisher has enough moves and gadgets to impress even the most gifted real-life government spy. I won't go into listing them here, but the ways in which you must use these tools is innovative to say the least, which leads me to the phenomenal level and baddie design. The stages and their design employ just the right balance of story, action, stealth, and quality right until the end. If there is a flaw to be had, I can't find it.

Titles like Splinter Cell, with realistic stories you could envision in an action movie, typically hold little interest to me. But playing through Splinter Cell is like being taught, first-hand, how to collect all of the elements of great game design and consolidate them all into one, beautiful package of pure fun. Every last detail, no matter how minor, is executed wonderfully, with one exception: there's only one play mode, which is the sole fact holding this game back from a 9.75 rating.

Sniper's verdict: