Remember when I said I want Splinter Cell 2 now? You don't? That's ok, your first mission is to go and read the review of the Xbox version. Then come back and see what the differences are between that and the PS2.
I hope so, because combined with this small review it will give you an idea of what's changed and what's been added. And to be honest, this isn't just a straight port, it's almost a completely new game - in fact if you own an Xbox and a PS2 - you'll want both versions just for the new features, and the different gameplay.
So let's get into it.
The story remains the same in the PS2 incarnation of SC, except now it features a four-minute CGI introduction by a famous director. And it shows, the whole intro has the music backing of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra as well and shows us just why agents Blaustein and Madison didn't come back from their mission to find out just what Nikoladze was up to in good old Georgia. The cinematic sequence isn't just eye candy for once, it tells the story of the agents mistake and how it cost them dearly - we move then to Sam Fisher, diving to experience the danger and the majesty of the Shark in all its glory.
Sam's little trip is interrupted and he learns that the fate of the world could well rest on his shoulders, from Col Lambert - his daughter is taken into safe custody and you are thrown right into the NSA training range featured in the Xbox version. So what has changed apart from this?
The answer is everything.
All of the in-game cut-scenes have been replaced by CGI cinematics that are just as good as the opening intro one. Any of the old CGI footage has been replaced and sharpened, some of it has been altered only slightly to fit into the way the game now plays and the story has been expanded. New scenes have been added to flesh out the story more and provide more of a rounder picture.
All of the toys and gadgets from the Xbox version remain in the PS2 and Sam's Tri-Goggles now feature a brand new vision setting, with a click of the right thumbstick you can engage Sam's binoculars and zoom to scope out enemy presence well before they get to you. Essentially something that was lacking and missing from the Xbox version, but didn't mar the score at all since it was never advertised as a feature and most of us just got by without it.
As I said, this isn't a straight port, it's been built from the ground up to work with the PS2 and compared to the SC demo, and this is much, much better. Sam's night vision and thermal modes have been improved over the Xbox version and while they feature less colours and a slightly more fuzzy resolution, it fits and it looks gorgeous.
Sam remains as fluidly animated and just like his Xbox counterpart, the enemy as well have the same level of detail they had on the Xbox and it's nice to see that the PS2 owners actually get a harder game for their troubles. The AI in the PS2 version of SC is slightly more aggressive and Sam takes more damage from weapons now, so it's a lot easier to die in a gun-fight, stealth really is the best option unless you're forced to fight - if you are, don't camp, move and shoot...keep moving and keep shooting.
Another gigantic difference is in the levels themselves, to take advantage of the PS2's hardware and graphics the designers have had to rebuild all of the levels, to cut down on draw-distance problems and provide easier routes and solutions to puzzles that were kind of ambiguous on the Xbox to a lot of people. I never had any problems getting from one place to the next myself, but I heard a lot of people complain that they couldn't make a particular section or they found something too easy or too hard.
The developers obviously listened to their fans and implemented a lot of change in the PS2 game, it's worth owning both if you can just to see what the PS2 can do if someone puts their minds to it. There will always be the die hard Solid Snake fans out there, but Sam Fisher does really put a nail in Snake's coffin now and PS2 owners have something to brag about to their Xbox friends who must have waved SC in their faces - because I hate to admit it, SC PS2 is the better game of them both for features and entertainment value.
Levels are graphically less impressive than their Xbox counterpart, but conversely they are also in some places better architecturally designed now. Not wanting to waste a bit of space they're like playing a whole new game - at times I was wandering down a corridor only to turn into a dead end that wasn't there before or find a guard that was never there in both settings on the Xbox. It's like having a sequel really, which is something that I desperately wanted when I did my Xbox review, thank you for listening devs - because this is a much more complete game.
Ok, so before I move on to the biggest change in Scell PS2 let's have a quick look at the graphics. Not as good as the Xbox version, well, yes and it doesn't really detract from the game either - the developers have made the best use of the PS2's hardware they can and come up spot on in my opinion. They've even managed to get some of the funkier lighting effects from Sam's Xbox adventures (Sounds like a new game or a Nintendo one) into the PS2 incarnation and the new level looks much better in places than some of the Xbox ones. It really is an odd little beast, but play it, you'll see what I mean. The difference really is only marginal and it's nice to see that the developers really have pulled out all the stops to try and make the game look as good as it plays for the PS2.
But I can get the new PS2 level from Xbox Live can't I?
No, wrong, that's what you think. You can get /a/ downloadable level from Xbox Live for SC - but not the level that's featured in the PS2 game. For a while now, PS2 owners have lamented the Xbox's exclusive features that appear in some of the games, like Spiderman and the Kraven 'The Hunter' level for example - well now the tables have turned, the Powerplant Level from PS2 SC is exclusively built and designed for that version, with new Cinematics to introduce it and a wholly new chunk of story to support it. It fits into the SC plotline perfectly and works a dream; it's also harder to play and features a new outfit for Sam to boot. Now that's a quality additional feature and new gameplay all rolled into one package.
So the bottom line for this game is that it's well worth buying if you have a PS2 and loved the look of SC on your buddies Xbox. It's well worth buying if you own both consoles and want to see the way the game should have been done on the Xbox and it's well worth buying if you're into that kind of game and you're sick of MGS2 (Substance) which didn't really add anything and left a lot of us feeling irked and used.
Buy it, it really is well worth it, there's so much that's been added - tweaked and redesigned it would take more than these few words to describe it to be honest. Sam Fisher's adventures just got bigger and better, and PS2 owners have something to boast about. With slightly more loading places and the load times have been optimised for the console, you'll find that it'll be easier in some ways to complete - but the evil enemy AI and the need for Stealth will make it a definite challenge and one that you should come back to. Oh and one more thing, all the features from the Xbox DVD are there too - so you can marvel at how the game was made.
Remember though: You are not Sam Fisher; you are not a Splinter Cell. If you haven't seen the advert yet, try and find it, it's extremely funny.