Version tested: PlayStation 2
In my humble opinion, the "Silent Scope" arcade game has been Konami's highest moment to date. Okay, with the possible exception of "Legend of the Mystical Ninja" on the SNES. Lets look at the reasons it was a success. Firstly, it actually included a sniper rifle complete with LCD zoom. Second, oh, it included a sniper rifle. Third, fourth, fifth… you get the picture. Only people like you or I who weren't simply gasping at its genius in the presence of four beer-soaked friends, actually cared about the game's pace, style and, at the risk of evoking a P45, scope. (Clear your desk -Ed) Bringing it home was always going to be tricky. For starters, much to everybody's disappointment, there's no sniper rifle. Such a peripheral would, despite impressing the wife and terrifying the kids, have cost upward of £100. After playing the PS2 version of Scope for a while though, I'm actually of the opinion that the game as it is plays better without the gun. Sure it takes a little getting used to, but after a while it's no harder to line up a sprinting terrorist in your sights with the analogue stick than it is with the big plastic sniper rifle. For those of you that haven't played Silent Scope, the idea is very simply to remove you from the height of the action, and equip you with the means to pick off enemies from miles away. As such you are rarely in any danger yourself, but you have to make sure no one on the ground is either, by centring your view on those rapscallion terrorists with the itchy trigger fingers and putting a bullet in them first.
Graphically the game hasn't changed at all - it is as far as the eye can see arcade perfect, right down to the splattering blood and polygonal explosions. Regrettably though, the perfect port from the arcade extends further than the visuals. Arcade games aren't meant to be games one plays on a console at home. Developers should know, gimmicky concepts will earn you big in the arcade, but putting them in the home is always difficult for a trio of reasons. Firstly, you lose any big gimmicks you've been using, i.e. sniper rifle. The pace of the game isn't necessarily correct for a closed audience, not to mention the fact that arcade games are notoriously short, because you need your player to feel that all those coins he's been pumping into the machine are working toward something. The thing that makes Silent Scope so hard to recommend is that, yes, it is very short. It's great fun while it lasts, naturally, but a couple of hours' gameplay is never going to be enough to win people over. If we had been making Scope, we'd have trimmed out some of the bad bits, produced a bunch of original levels, slowed the pace down and included a classic arcade mode for completists. However, as is sometimes pointed out to us when we go on these little daydreams, we don't make the games, we just review them. Bah humbug. Back to the good bits for a while though. As I said before, the arcade version included a tactical sniper rifle, and the main purpose of that rifle was to use the LCD display to zoom in on your victims. Part of its attraction was that it felt like you were a real sniper. You weren't just someone with a Light Gun pointing it at targets. In order to try and retain this feeling (and make it possible to see your victims, who are often several hundred metres away), Konami superimposed the LCD view onto the main view, and allowed you to control it with the O button. When the O button is released, you zoom in, and the display moves more slowly so you can precisely position your shots. When you depress it, you can zoom around and broadly centre on the target. Using the two in tandem quickly develops into a fine art, and unlike some other games we could mention, repeating the action of picking off bad guys over and over does not lose its charm. And incidentally, I reckon I have the best aim in the UK by now, so watch out, chumps!
"Watch out, folks"
Control-wise, that's pretty much it. Get to grips with the analogue stick and a couple of buttons, and before long you can waft around, zooming in a split second and putting a bullet in a terrorist, or a truck driver, or the pilot of a jump jet. We kid you not. The level design is really quite ingenious at times. We could have predicted that we would be firing from the tops of buildings at street battles, perhaps even into neighbouring buildings, and at a stretch picking off the driver of a mad eighteen-wheeler might just have gotten in there, but picking off terrorists as they invade an American Football game? With the commentator telling the crowd to keep calm while you pick them off from a chopper? How about taking out the pilot of a jump jet? Oh we mentioned that one. Okay, how about parachuting under cover of darkness onto an airstrip, having to shoot out searchlights so that you cannot be pinpointed and fired at in the air, whilst simultaneously worrying about anti-aircraft gunfire? You just do not get bored with action like that. Incursions into Hotels are also impressive. At this point one might moan a little that the texturing is a bit drab, or perhaps that gaining extra lives by managing to find a naked lady in your sights or something similar is a touch crude, but you can't fault the gameplay.
I've not been looking forward to summarising Silent Scope, really, and you're probably surprised that I have to start so early, but it's also no doubt obvious where the full weight of my critique is going to fall since I've pretty much described the entire game in just over a page. Beyond what I've said there's a fairly decent Training mode and some reasonable difficulty levels, but it didn't take me long at all to finish the game, nor to get my aim down to a finely tuned action - so much so that I can now finish most of the levels without dropping a point. So here it is, Silent Scope's biggest flaw is its length. It's so short that a reasonably skilled player (and certainly anyone who has played the arcade version) will be able to overcome it in just over an hour on their first attempt. There's no real capacity for replay either, and no hidden extras to uncover. Silent Scope is a thankless mistress, and not a terribly tough one either. I had all I wanted out of her in a matter of hours. The dilemma one now faces is whether the game's ingenious concept and pretty much faultless execution outweigh the lack of replayability and length. I think this is definitely one you could get the mates over for, but if you're buying it for yourself and £45 means as much to you as it means to me on a Friday night, this isn't a good idea.
I'm sick of praying for sequels to games that didn't quite make the grade, so in this case I'm just going to say that Silent Scope isn't good enough. It lacks replayability, scope (hah!) and it costs £45. If you're happy in the knowledge that you'll be done with this in a day, then by all means buy it, it's a top quality arcade game, but if you want something that will hold your attention, look elsewhere.
6 / 10