With many classic Nintendo titles set for a makeover on their new 3DS, we already have a few remakes gracing its launch line-up. Sadly, in the case of Splinter Cell 3D, this modern generation make-over is a very ugly one indeed. With confused controls, a poor camera and half baked attempts to include recent evolutions in the series, Splinter Cell 3D is an embarrassing entry for the well established SC franchise.
Despite its misdirecting title, Splinter Cell 3D is actually a remake of the third SC game, Chaos Theory. The plot is fairly standard fare, following series protagonist Sam Fisher as he traipses through multiple locations attempting to prevent a third world war from breaking out. Joining him along the way are recurring characters Lambert and Grimsdottir, who command and gather intel for Sam respectively. For those who remember the plot to the original Chaos Theory, it is gripping and engaging overall, if a little cluttered and clichéd at times.
Note how Fisher’s head helpfully takes up about half the screen
Being a stealth game, you’ll find yourself having to be at your sneakiest. Sadly, Splinter Cell 3D is one of those annoying titles that inadvertently wants to prevent you from enjoying its core gameplay at all costs. First the good. Movement is satisfying thanks to the 3DS’ thumb slider analogue nub. A fantastic, if late, addition to Nintendo’s new handheld. The rest of the controls are all downhill from here though.
The pre-Conviction Splinter Cell games have always had complex control schemes on account of their complex game mechanics. Trying to distil these controls onto a handheld is an ambitious, but failed, endeavour in SC3D. Aside from the camera and attacks that are assigned to the face and shoulder buttons respectively, (more on that later) all the actions available to you are clumsily assigned to either the directional buttons or the touch screen. The Dpad actions I could just about stomach, but the touch screen actions are so bumblingly chucked onto the bottom screen that it almost hurts. The fact that contextual actions have to be scrolled trough with a single touch screen button and that equipping weapon attachments is an absolute nightmare are the least of your worries.
There are far too many buttons on the bottom screen for my liking
The next offender on my list is the game’s camera. It’s mapped to the face buttons for convenience purposes but, whilst it’s easy to manoeuvre, it’s horrendously sluggish. Considering the stealth in Splinter Cell has always been about surveying your surroundings and planning your moves carefully, a slow camera can be a real game breaker. The camera also has the issue of being a little too friendly with our protagonist. For nearly the entire game, all you’ll see is Fisher’s back filling half the screen, something that makes identifying the guys shooting you a surprisingly awkward endeavour.
If you can get past the control issues, you’ll find that the core game isn’t all bad. The original Chaos Theory was a brilliantly executed stealth romp, so it stands to rights that SC3D will emulate at least part of this. The main campaign is reasonably varied, engaging and offers a lot of content. My only main critique has to be that the levels don’t feel quite right on a handheld console. Something about it all just seems awkward and boxed in. Whilst the single-player offers some decent playtime and challenge, the enjoyable multiplayer elements of the original Chaos Theory are sorely absent from this port.
The visuals are competent enough, with some nice cues from Conviction
In terms of presentation, SC3D does a reasonable job of showing off what the 3DS can do. The graphics are well accomplished enough, if a little blurry, but they generally do the job. The audio also includes full voice acting the whole way through, though this proves problematic if you want to play the game on mute for any reason. The big plus is that the 3D effects look good and add a sense of immersion to the proceedings. One interesting visual inclusion that is specific to the port is the objectives being projected onto the environments, as seen in the recent Splinter Cell: Conviction. It does look good and suits the game well, but it seems a waste that they couldn’t have included any of the other fantastic new elements of Conviction in this port as well.
Stealth fans may be tempted by the lure of a portable Splinter Cell adventure, but don’t be fooled. You’re better off waiting for the upcoming Splinter Cell HD trilogy if you want some true SC action, as Splinter Cell 3D is a poor imitator and not the real McCoy. There are far better ways to enjoy your 3DS launch, so vote with your wallets and leave this horridly rushed port where it belongs: On the shelf.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Graphics are reasonable, 3D effects are satisfying, Good campaign length, Interesting attempt at 3DS mini-games, Moving around works well with the thumbstick
Camera is constantly far too close, Level design doesn't suit handheld gaming, Dumping so much on the touch screen clutters the controls, Brightness levels can get confusing, No multiplayer modes, Mini-games feel quite tacked on
It's certainly Splinter Cell and it's in 3D, but this game is a long way away from the 2005 stealth classic it's modelled on. With camera and control issues galore, and no sign of the original Chaos Theory's multiplayer modes, Splinter Cell 3D is a shallow and unsatisfying handheld port
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