A hapless guard goes about his routine patrol. You load your modular rifle with a projectile noisemaker and fire it at a wall, in a corner, obscured by shadows. You could be hiding there, but you are not. You are in a flower pot, unseen. You are deadly! You set off the noise maker and startle the guard. He runs to the source of the sound, only to find it a source of noxious gas! He staggers, clutches his throat, gasps for air but only comes up with your terrible poison. He falls. You have struck again.
Quiet as the owl. Cunning as the fox. Silent. Unseen. Deadly. You are a Splinter Cell.
In the PC version of Ubi Soft's Splinter Cell, you become Sam Fisher - Fly On The Wall Extraordinaire! It's your duty to crawl, climb, rappel, and headshot your way into the depths of enemy intelligence to solve the mystery of two missing operatives, and maybe even prevent World War III. If this sounds similar to the acclaimed Xbox version of Splinter Cell, it should. In fact, the two games are basically identical, with the exception of improved saving options.
The overall arc of the game is still linear, as are the objectives. Do this to get there. Kill him, and receive further orders. Kill them and the mission is over. However, Sam, bad-ass man of espionage and reconnaissance that he is, has lots of tools and abilities that present several choices in how he accomplishes objectives. The game is like a puzzle this way.
For example, at one point you have to grab an enemy commander and make him open a door for you. However, this task is made difficult by several factors, not the least of which is the fact that he's constantly moving and alert. I found that the best way to get him was to leave bodies in a place where he was sure to find them. Upon encountering his fallen friends, he would try to revive them, and that's when I'd make my move. Subtle as a serpent, I would strike, and force the officer to do my bidding, after which I'd discard his useless corpse in the shadows.
However, I didn't come to this conclusion on my first try. Or on my third or fourth. This is why the ability to quicksave is so helpful and so much better than the checkpoint system in the Xbox version. Splinter Cell is a tricky game, and difficult even with quicksaves (especially since you can quicksave yourself into a hole and not be able to get back out).
Splinter Cell's gameplay is perfectly adapted to the mouse and keyboard. You move using the W, S, A, and D keys and use a context-sensitive display panel to perform most of Sam's more specific actions, like grabbing a baddy or opening a door. You can still perform the wall-jump and the split jump, grab guys and use them as human shields, hang off ledges, climb lattices, and shimmy hand-over-hand along wires. And you can even do all this while shooting! Talk about covering the bases.
Running, walking and sneaking are effectively manipulated via the mouse-wheel, one click of which will take your speed up or down one notch, and is another example of how intuitively every aspect of the play mechanics transfers to the PC version.
Otherwise, all gameplay elements are identical to the Xbox version, such as creeping around and watching your shadow-meter as you attempt to stay concealed from enemy eyes, not to mention the cool gadgets (lock-picks, cameras, noisemakers, grenades, etc.)
However, the graphics, which were breathtaking on the Xbox, aren't as impressive in a PC context. They are still marvelous, but the beauty of Splinter Cell lies more in creative use of light and shadow than having smoother edges or finer textures. This isn't to say that Splinter Cell looks bad, because it certainly does not. It's just that the credit is due more to the developers' artistic propensities and not the game engine (even though the animation is as smooth as 007, and certain effects, such as night-vision, are so realistic it's uncanny).
The sounds are also done well, with different effects for different floor surfaces and slight aural details which become noticeable the faster Sam moves. All of the voices are clear and well-rendered and the acting is fine. It would have been nice, though, if lines could have been delivered in their original language and then subtitled.
If you grow bored with twitch-action mayhem, rocket launchers and the dumbest enemies ever, then you may want to step into Sam Fisher's quiet and quite menacing shoes. Likewise, if you enjoy the notion of taunting your hapless victims from the shadow and weep every time Buffalo Bill puts on his night-vision goggles in The Silence of the Lambs, you too should definitely give this game a gander. And finally, if you just like video games and own a good PC, then pick this up, don the black duds of Sam Fisher, and instantly become a fan of the stealth/adventure genre.