Product: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Classic Trilogy HD PS3
To begin, I never played these games when they were originally released, this High Definition re-release is my first encounter with these games, and therefore, I will not be comparing them to their original releases. Also, I want to be clear that I really enjoyed these games, they were a lot of fun to play and I found them extremely rewarding. That being said, this review will not focus on my personal opinion of the games as far as game play goes, I will be focusing on the presentation of the product as an entry into the High Definition format.
Splinter Cell- In-game rendering was decently crisp and smooth, surfaces were nice and clear, the lighting effects presented a bold contrast in the environments, and overall, from a visual standpoint, I thought the game looked good.
The cut-scenes are a different story; these did not look like they were treated with tender loving care. Cut-scenes really make this game show its age. The news broadcasts that feature throughout the game have an almost cartoonish quality; the broadcaster's faces almost bringing to mind "the uncanny valley", stuff of nightmares. The cut-scenes that feature the primary cast in conjunction with the main story look especially bad, they seem stretched and over dark, and overall un-updated. The characters movements within the cut-scenes seem stilted and robotic, and surfaces and objects come to sharp triangular points. Lip synching is basically mouths opening and closing without rhythm while the dialogue plays.
While the game looks good (while playing), it suffers from occasional hiccups and freezing. From what I could observe it seems that whenever the player character passes over an in game scripted event point the game stutters dramatically: with NPC's dialogue becoming jilted and echoed and the frame rate taking a nose dive. Also, occasionally throughout the game I experienced a seemingly random freeze that would stop all visuals, allow no player control, yet, maintain the sound of the game. This happened to me two or three times and lasted for about seven to ten seconds. It was annoying but didn't directly affect game play.
Ultimately, though the games visuals are nothing to write home about and the cut-scenes are cringe worthy, none of theses things drastically impeded upon my playing of the game.
Pandora Tomorrow- The opening cinematic sequence looked good, a lot better than any of the cut-scenes from Splinter Cell. It definitely gave me high hopes for the game, and overall (visually anyhow) the game looks pretty good, comparable or better than Splinter Cell. I thought that there were some environments that really looked spectacular with the lighting effects, to the point where I'd stop and just pan the camera around to take it all in.
HOWEVER! Unlike Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow had a host of in game freezes, stutters and frame rate slowing that was so bad it completely compromised the game for me. Right from the first level I was plagued with a half second visual and audio hiccup every couple of seconds that served to completely derail my enjoyment and emersion in the game. The only time throughout the entire game that this constant problem was not quite so constant was in levels that were predominantly indoors, and had only basic lighting effects. Which is a real shame, because the outdoor levels juxtaposed with the lighting used in them would really have been nice to enjoy without having the game stutter-stop every five seconds. The games issues hindered my playing at various points throughout; one issue was that when I'd equip a gun, aim and fire it there would be about a quarter to half a second before the action was translated on screen. In a similar vain controls overall were sluggish: if I had to equip a weapon, fire it and than un-equip it all very rapidly in order to avoid immediate detection or death, fifty percent of the time I was being forced to double press buttons and more than likely failing in whatever endeavor I was attempting. The freezing in Pandora Tomorrow was quite a bit worse than it was in Splinter Cell, while it was more frequent there was also a situation where I had to execute a complete system restart, re-load the game and find out that my last save had been compromised. I also encountered a strange issue where guards were stuck in a strange loop and would just jostle back and forth like a machine unable to complete a circuitous movement, and when they'd move they'd glide across the ground without moving their legs, it was very creepy, reminded me of a movie ghost or something. Dialogue in the game was at times almost indecipherable, dialogue would occasionally coincide with a stutter-stop and frame rate drop and the whole conversation would sound as though it was recorded in an echo chamber, every word of dialogue being repeated two or three times.
Although the opening cut-scene gave me high hopes for the in game cut-scenes, Pandora Tomorrow showcases cut-scenes which are not noticeably any better than those presented on Splinter cell.
Although I did play all the way through Pandora Tomorrow, there were a multitude of instances where I genuinely asked myself if playing through this game was worth the frustration all of its issues caused me. The one minor caveat to what I've written on the topic of Pandora Tomorrow in HD is that it is a stealth game, and therefore is a game of patience and slow stealth, which frame rate drops and freezing will hinder the playing of only so much. What I mean to say is that were this game a fast paced shooter I don't know that I would have been capable of finishing it; Pandora Tomorrow is (fortunately for itself) a slow paced, methodical game and can almost excuse the hiccups, as far as basic game play is concerned. Though that far from excuses it.
Chaos Theory- This game looks a lot sharper than either Splinter Cell or Pandora Tomorrow, light glistens off of surfaces, textures have distinct dimension and there's a real beauty to the environments and the various colors permeating through the layered lighting. The cut-scenes look better as well, though I wouldn't particularly high-light them as any artistic gem: they're better than cut-scenes that I'd describe as bad, which doesn't make them good.
Similar to Pandora tomorrow I again experienced lag during various points throughout the game, glaring pauses in video while the sound still plays, disjointed dialogue that cuts in and out and, in some areas, repetitive looping stutters in the game. These looping stutters were especially irritating as they'd significantly distract from the action going on during the game.
Most of the major issues in Chaos Theory (and the other two as well, really) appeared to be connected in some way to the sound. For instance the first level in the game features an ocean beach front, and at various points throughout the mission the sound of the break of the waves would coincide with a dramatic lag and stutter in the game, both of video and audio. Other similar issues would occur while NPC dialogue was occurring, either enemies or the support team radio conversations. And in both instances it became an insistent skipping that not only was irritating but at times really pulled me out of the game and interrupted the story and flow of "need to know" information.
Summary- So to summarize, these games really could have been presented better, the host of consistent glitches serves only to deride the game play and can make a game that some have describe as a tedious dance of trial and error into a frustrating mess. Than again I was able to play all the games through to their conclusions, and though the issues mentioned were annoying I found the games rewarding enough to ignore the problems and trudge forward. Pandora Tomorrow is far and away (from my experience) the worst port of the three, Splinter Cell would come out in the middle and Chaos Theory would be the standout. If you were looking for the ultimate Splinter Cell collection brought to the High Definition format this product may disappoint. But if you could care less about presentation, only want to play the games and can ignore some glaring software issues, than for the price offered, you may give it a whirl.
(Also, there are no extras on these games. You get the three games with added trophy support. For whatever reason the multi-player component from Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory was excluded)