With Splinter Cell 3D Ubisoft sends out its successful agent Sam Fisher for the launch of the Nintendo 3DS. Unfortunately, they forgot to switch the light on...
Shit. It's so frickin' dark in here, you'd think this was the safest place in the world. Actually, the 3DS screen is so dark what you can only make out clearly is the mirrored reflection of yourself.
While you could make a point to only play Splinter Cell during the hours of darkness, or when there's an eclipse, it seems a little bit of a stretch. But it's sadly true that this extreme might be necessary - in normal daylight the Fisher-adventure is virtually unplayable during the darker areas, even with the brightness flicked onto its brightest setting.
Of course you can switch on Sam Fisher's iconic green-lit goggles and turn on night vision ("he hasn't worn them in years!" we hear you cry. Explanations in a minute). But in doing so the 3D effect almost completely vanishes as the image bleeds into green and white tones.
Only come the second level, as you start aboard a freighter, does it get bright enough to call this (at least partly) a normal game experience. Quite a few frustrated players will have capitulated before that point.
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What can I say? Splinter Cell 3D is the perfect example of one of these handheld titles that nobody needs. Sounds harsh? Maybe, but I'm sorry to say that it is the case.
The controls for example. To run we use the analog slide pad, to look around up, down, left and right we use the X, B, Y and A buttons. This is okay, however it leads to some degree of finger acrobatics. The shoulder buttons are reserved for firing the weapons or carrying out the close combat actions, the rest of the controls are mapped to the touch screen. These include, among other things: draw and put away your guns, switch to night vision mode, throw grenades, whistle or switch into sniper mode. That is just too much and strips away any notion of intuitive control. That you can only climb up somewhere without a weapon in hand, is just one stupid error...
Back to the return of the goggles. while Sam's left the stealth suit behind for a more rugged Jack Bauer look in recent years, Splinter Cell 3D is actually a partial remake of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for the Xbox, released back in 2005, the same year the original Nintendo DS was released in the UK.
Despite the retro-fitting the visuals look crisp on the small display
The content borrows from this predecessor and what one gets to see from the graphics looks very crisp on such a small display. The 3D effect is rather soft even when turned up completely.
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The gameplay is basically identical to the older Splinter Cell games. Sam Fisher cracks locks, peeks with his optical camera under doors and, through use of the many dark areas in each level, goes about his stealth kills with abandon, knife ready in hand. He can pull himselve along on tubes and hanging from there kill unsuspecting enemies. The great advantage to all this is that you're not forced to draw the gun and needlessly complicate the controls -a rather foolish reason to force you to forever take the quieter route.
The sound is wonderful, as with all Splinter Cell games. Quiet, stylish soundscapes, always appropriate to what is happening and accompanied by great weapon SFX. Even the volume of your footfalls is picked up by the opponents. Sadly they can't have used that much programming skills on the artificial intelligence in the end. The opponents can be tricked with the cheapest moves. They are simply no real danger.
I had already mentioned this and it stay valid until the end: Splinter Cell 3D is simply not a game that works for the 3DS. This is partly due because such games are generally not really made for handhelds. As much as I was, and still am, a fan of Splinter Cell: Conviction, I think this one here is a poor addition to the series. The "total stealth action in stereoscopic 3D with One-Touch-Slow-action gameplay," which Ubisoft advertises on the back of the package is unfortunately less truth and more spectacular misfire.
5 / 10
complicated controls, the darkness, stupid and boring opponents