Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Essentials Reader Review
The Playstation Portable in its short lifespan has been criticised for bringing games to the system that are no more than direct ports of their PS2 counterparts rather than original content for the system. So when Splinter Cell Essentails arrived earlier this month you may have thought you were in for more of the same but to Ubisoft's credit this is not the case.
Splinter Cell Essentials starts off with you Sam Fisher in the middle of a conspiracy and trying to clear your name. The game goes back to Sam's early days up to Chaos Theory and Zherkhesi and goes beyond with missions from the forthcoming Splinter Cell Double Agent. I myself don't see this as a good move upon Ubisoft's part. Double Agent isn't out until November so what's the point of revealing the story now rather than keeping it under wraps. Anyway the game is a bit shorter than your normal console Splinter Cell game but substansial nevertheless and you can unlock bonus missions by going to the website and entering codes which you'll obtain as you play through the game expanding the lifespan even further. It does drain the battery pretty quickly but you can get a few missions in so it's not that bad.
The first thing you'll notice is the camera needs to be manipulated pretty much constantly if you want to see where you're going. You do this via holding the circle button down while pushing the analog nub in your desired direction. This is frustrating as you can go into firefights and have no chance because of the unruly camera. Constantly having to manipulate the camera will detract from your overall enjoyment of the game and again why coudn't they have just left it alone. The control system in general is a bit different this time around with a few things changed to accomidate for the PSP. The main spanner in the works is the night-vision and thermal-vision which are used by pressing the left button on your d-pad. In Splinter Cell on consoles this would be mapped to two different buttons but because you can only use the left button you have to cycle through so you can't get directly to what you want. This is made even more so arkward by the fact that you have to use night-vision so often as it's so dark. Also the left button on your d-pad is used for peeking around walls so that's three commands on one button which doesn't work. To change weapons you press and hold the up button on your d-pad so all in all the control system is clumsy and could have been implimented considerably better.
The game somehow managed to fit in all the dialogue you'd find in any Splinter Cell game. Due to the limitations of the UMD though there are a few noteworthy bugs. The game does slow down and can even get so bad that it freezes which caused me to have to reset the system this only happened to me once though. Also Lambert and other chracters like Grimssdortir can start talking like the Beastie Boys going all Fffffffinnnnddd tthhhhheeee cooooddddeee Saaaammmm if you happen to move when they are talking. At first this can make you laugh but it shoudn't be happening. The game uses a checkpoint system which breaks up the action far too much. When you're playing a level you'll hit a checkpoint asking if you want to save your game etc. Then you'll hit a loading screen and be forced to wait another 20 seconds or so to get back to the action which slows the pace of the game down even more.
Splinter Cell Essentails is an adequate if not good game for your PSP. It's certinaly Sam's best portbale eperience to date with the whole game being brought over to the PSP rather than a cut-down version. The game has slowdown and too many loading times and checkpoints for its own good. I suppose you can put this down to the system itself rather than Ubisoft's lack of trying but with the game spanning across the entire series, you can never really get a sense of the story and you can't help but feel this is a mere stop-gap for Splinter Cell Double Agent. Even Splinter Cell diehards should approach with caution.
6 / 10