To do all this, Sam does have some very unique and interesting toys at his disposal. Most obvious and his trademark, of course, are the three extra vision modes - light enhancing, infra-red and electromagnetic. The development team expended a great deal of effort to make them work as they should. Light enhancing makes dark areas easy to see in, but it's easy to lose details in brighter areas. Infra-red is much like the Predator's heat vision, using the color spectrum to show how warm an object is. With this mode the player can even see through thinner walls. Finally, there is the EMI vision which we actually haven't found much of a use for yet, but we're sure we will one day. Sam's weapons are interesting too, like the SC20k assault rifle which can use shotgun, sniper, launcher or foregrip attachments. The launcher can fire airfoil and sticky shocker rounds (for non-lethal ranged combat), as well as mini-cameras. Interestingly enough, there is a loadout screen but other than choosing "recommended", "stealth" and "assault" sets, the player can't seem to customize his equipment.
In his quest to evade all detection, Sam will climb up drain pipes, hang off balconies and slide along zip lines. He can hang down from a pipe and snap the neck of the target below him, or employ the non-lethal option of knocking him out. Our intrepid agent can pull down unsuspecting guards patrolling the balcony he's hanging off on, and even wedge himself above a foe in a narrow corridor by jumping up and performing the splits.
That's what the game comes down to - the player must meet rather basic challenges set out by the mission guidelines, and achieve them with all the tools at Sam's disposal. The mission report at the end of a map will detail how many times the player was spotted, identified as an intruder, how many alarms were set off, how many foes were killed or knocked out, and so on. Most of the challenge on many missions is induced by the player himself - can you sneak by the defenses by knocking out or killing as few opponents as possible?
At various points in a map, Fisher might get bonus objectives and developments may force him even change his primary objective. These will usually occur as he hacks into a computer and reads some interesting emails, or overhears a conversation. Some of these conversations are quite humorous, but it'd be a shame to spoil them so we won't.
All in all, Splinter Cell does everything right - the missions feel close enough to the real world and the opponents are sufficiently human, yet the game is forgiving enough not to be frustrating. No one wonders, for example, why all 20 guards stopped responding to their radios over half an hour, and that's what makes playing the game possible. The real-world settings help in giving the player the sense of being the stealthy assassin. The level design is perfect for this, with constant opportunities of overhearing private conversations, even if it's just a couple of clueless guards bullshitting each other. Excellent action and the ability to puzzle your way out of quandaries on top of that makes for some truly magnificent gameplay.
There are two multiplayer modes in Splinter Cell - the familiar Spies vs Mercenaries style from Pandora Tomorrow, and co-op!
Sadly, there are only four co-op maps but four is better than none and maybe UbiSoft will be nice enough to release a level editor. The co-op levels permit only two players at a time, but they're truly focused on giving a good experience. The two characters have unique moves available only in co-op mode, like a two-man rappel or standing on each other's shoulders. Otherwise the missions tend to play out like regular singleplayer designs.
Spies vs Mercenaries pits the heavily-armed Mercenaries, who are generally limited in view modes and maneuverability, against the agile, stealthy and completely non-lethal Spies. So basically, the game pits your standard shooter character against Sam Fisher, less his killing equipment. Guess which is the more popular choice on servers. It's actually fun either way, but inevitably when you look for matches online, you'll see servers being at 2/4 population, every time. And that population is always 2 spies, 0 mercenaries.