PS3 Review – Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HD

Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell franchise was one of the first games to break new ground on the forefront of stealth gameplay. Never before had we felt the awesomeness of sneaking in the shadow like a ninja – well, a ninja equipped with the best tech on the face of the planet. Almost ten years have passed since Sam Fisher donned the green tri-focal headgear, and we remember how our hero saved the world time and time again as his age progressed, but never holding him back from snapping necks while hanging from the rafters. Ubisoft has finally pulled out Fisher’s original trilogy from the memorabilia closet and blown the dust off to let Sam relive the glory years in HD. His black and toned body garment still fits, but a few steps out on assignment shows that “age” may have finally caught up to him after all.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HD bundles the original three games that carved this series as a classic: Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow, and Chaos Theory. With each of them rich in its own story, you fill the role of Sam Fisher, a modern day lone wolf employed by the National Security Administration (NSA), who is tasked with uncovering the conspiracies that are tucked away in the higher echelons of world leaders. But with the latest tech at Fisher’s disposal, his sole presence should be enough to turn the tides of evil.

In this HD upgrade, the three games haven’t lost their charm and still deliver a strong narrative and gameplay, just like the day our hero first deployed. As Sam Fisher, you’ll be dropped in locations around the world to slink around in the shadows as a covert spy to gather intel and even put any threats to rest (either permanently or temporarily). Just remember that your allies are shadows, silence, and submission. Once the missions start, it’s best to stick to the walls and any dark crevice that will keep you hidden. The speed of your movements will also affect the enemy’s ability to detect you. A light and sound sensor are tucked into the lower corner of the screen to let you know if you’ve over-stepped your bounds. If you do forget to check your meters, don’t worry – the other guy with the gun will happily let you know that you’ve been detected.

Thankfully, the NSA has kept you well equipped to help evade and avoid capture. Your specific load outs will vary based on the game you choose to play and depending on the objective of the mission. Throughout your play through, you’ll be geared up with silenced weapons, both pistol and rifle, along with enough high-tech spy equipment to make a certain Bruce Wayne jealous. You can deploy spy cams, smoke canisters, and even incapacitate overly curious enemies with shock rounds. Your multifunctional tri-focal lense will also save you from stumbling in the dark as you switch between its three modes: night vision, thermal vision, and electricity detection.

As you make your way through the linear levels to your objective, keeping things quiet will always make the task much simpler, provided that you enjoy the virtue of patience. In some situations, you’ll be able to take out light fixtures to keep it cozy and dark. If you find an enemy in your way who loves to hug that one doorway, you can sneak up and subdue him in a rear choke hold, then begin to interrogate him if the option presents itself. Or if you’re not the conversationalist, simply draw the gun on him and put him down. But just like your mother taught you, always be sure to clean up your mess and hide any limp (or dead) bodies in whatever closet or bush you can find. Leaving your handy work lying in the open will only attract unwanted attention and raise the alarm to your presence.

Anyone who has taken a swing at the PS2’s line up of Splinter Cell is probably wondering if this package is worth a return down memory lane. After spending some time in the worn boots of Fisher, I’m beginning to wonder if Ubisoft did enough work to make this a true HD remake, or if they pumped out a a quick rehash under the guise of the popular name brand to cash in on the nostalgic factor. At this moment, all signs seem to point to the later.

The “HD” remake of the Splinter Cell Trilogy came off somewhat of a mixed bag. Granted, the graphics were indeed redone with a higher resolution, but the overall look still carries a dated feel.  Within the first two titles, the frame rate would sometimes take a dip, which is startling considering that the game engine shouldn’t be stumbling on code made for technology created over five years ago. The pre-rendered cinematics are even worse, convincing me that nothing was done to give it an HD coat of paint. In fact, the in-game rendering was miles above the quality of the blurry cinematics. However, this is not the case with Chaos Theory, as the graphics are much more polished and look to be on par with other titles in this generation. Aside from the polygon nit-picking, the animations in all three titles still retain its life-like fluidity while in action. With that said, spending a few minutes in the chaotic and engaging world of Sam Fisher will help you forgive and maybe even forget the graphical short-comings of the first two titles.

One feature that is strangely missing from Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory is the multiplayer. So what you’re really getting is the core single-player experience. That’s not exactly a bad thing either, as the gameplay mechanics and story are what made the originals a classic in gaming. It just seems that the experience could have been so much more if network play or even split-screen co-op had been included to maintain this idea of a true remake from the original source.

There is also another option that is missing – and this one will completely break the game for some of you. There is no option to invert the camera controls! What seems almost completely standard for any game nowadays, Ubisoft failed (or forgot) to include the little “inverted” ticker option to help those who can’t as easily flip that switch in their minds to turn off their built-in inverted feature. Yes, I am one of “those” who sees things differently, so the lack of this option is almost criminal to me. In moments where reflex is required to survive, I found myself staring intensely at the pavement while someone from above filled me with bitter lead. You inverted guys have been warned. Sadly, I must recommend staying away from this remake until Ubisoft releases a patch to fix this glaring omission.

With a package like this presenting itself as an HD remake, there is definitely a concern if the whole line up is a true Hi-Def upgrade. Sure, the graphics are sharper and some textures look crisp, but it definitely feels like more could have been done to give this classic the full treatment that it should deserve. Thankfully, the Splinter Cell Trilogy didn’t rely on graphics to bring it appeal. Rather, its concept, gameplay and story were so well executed in the past, and those key elements were successfully carried over for its modern remake.

In the end, I’m left with mixed emotions on this package due to some of the graphic hitches and a lack of some key features. If you’ve traveled this path before, the only new things that are really offered are trophies and the option to enable 3D if you’ve got the hardware. However, if you haven’t had the chance to experience the lore of Sam Fisher (and you’re not an inverted player), the Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HD has the potential to offer you a unique and memorable journey. And after you’ve saved the world three times over, you’ll understand why we consider the originals as unforgettable classics. It’s a shame that its HD return didn’t deliver on some of our expectations, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying one of the most amazing experiences that these three have to offer.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Splinter Cell’s memorable gameplay and story

– Lacks features included in original titles

– HD makeover could have had better implementation

7 out of 10