Splinter Cell is probably known by most of the people who read this blog. It’s been given extremely high accolades by many gaming magazines. Tons of fans couldn’t wait for it to be released to PC, PS2, or Gamecube, and before it happenend the case for buying an Xbox was that much stronger. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the stealth shooter is not a new thing in the PC gaming world, and, in fact, recently one came out, Hitman 2: The Silent Assassin, which is IMO just as good as Splinter Cell. Here’s a comparison.
In Splinter Cell you play as a covert agent in a super secret US agency. The premise is that data encryption is so sophisticated nowadays that a reversion to more traditional forms of espionage is needed; in other words, agent insertion. Stealth is of utmost importance; leave no witnesses; better to kill someone than to have them identify you.
Hitman 2, by contrast, has you play as a hired assassin working for a global mercenary “problem-solving” agency. You aren’t necessarily playing for the “good guys”; you’re just doing an assignment. Stealth is still important, but disguises may work just as well. Instead of always sneaking about, you can infiltrate your target’s organization by posing as a henchman or civilian.
Moves and Controls
Both games are over-the-shoulder FPS games (which I guess makes them third-person shooters), so they both have similar control schemes (as made standard by Half-Life). The WSAD keys in combination with the mouse moves you around.
In Hitman 2 you can run, walk, crouch, drag bodies to dark corners (some really cool and sometimes funny ragdoll effects here), and zoom your view in and out a bit. Splinter cell lets you adjust your speed in two different stances (upright and crouched) using the mouse wheel, so you could run, jog, or walk kinda like Mario. Splinter Cell features some additional moves your character can do, like rappeling, jumping up between two close walls so that you are above the ground a foot on each wall (a la Jean Claude van Damme in Time Cop or Jet Li in Black Mask), and moving along the edge of a wall or building or along a pipe hand over hand style, whereas Hitman 2 features some scripted actions, like climbing out a specific window.
When you come upon a door, both games allow you to take a peek at what’s behind; Splinter Cell with a fiber-optic camera and Hitman 2 by having you peep through the key hole.
Splinter Cell features a light meter (similar to No One Lives Forever 2) which lets you know if you are hidden or plainly visible to your enemies while Hitman 2 has an alertness meter which is much more spastic (but not in a bad way) which keeps track of how suspicious your enemies are of you. For Splinter Cell if the meter goes up really high, you are in broad daylight, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone can see you at your current location. In Hitman 2 if your meter goes up too high, someone *will* walk towards you and investigate. They may have already spotted you ages ago; it’s only now that they think you might be an unwanted trespasser.
Objectives and Methods
Admittedly I only just bought Splinter Cell yesterday so have not finished the game yet, but from what I’ve seen I think I can assume all the missions feature you sneaking into an area, doing some espionage, and maybe killing or disabling certain things (like alarms) before going to the extraction zone. You are wearing a black uniform commando-style and have things like night-vision goggles, fiber-optic door peeper, and a trusty silenced side-arm. Gameplay pretty much boils down to observing patterns in guards movements, taking advantage of darkness, and sneaking around a whole lot, knocking out or sometimes killing when necessary.
Hitman 2, by comparison, lets you choose which items to bring for each mission, most of these being of the weapon category ranging from piano wire to assault rifles and a whole butt-load of ammunition. During a mission you can take out a guard or civilian and change into his clothes, thus having a disguise for the rest of mission (but if you are seen killing with the disguise on or if someone discovers the naked body of the person you took out, your disguise is blown). Gameplay in Hitman 2 often involves walking around (painfully slowly in a very good way) in plain sight and getting stressed out the whole time, watching your alertness meter frantically move up and down as you approach enemy guards hoping they don’t take the time to take a closer inspection. If you run, your meter goes up; if you crouch, your meter goes up; if you do anything out of the ordinary, your meter goes up. As its name implies, for most missions your objective is to kill a certain person, but each mission plays out a little differently to great effect. For example, on one mission you infiltrate a Yakuza bosses’ home to take him out. You can go in guns blazing (which is always an option for almost all the missions) or you can sneak into the kitchen, knock out the cook, prepare the blowfish sushi wrong, and wait for the servant to take out the boss for you while you make for the exit!
Ending a Mission
If there’s one aspect of the game which Hitman 2 does much better than Splinter Cell, it’s the mission endings. In both games, ending a mission involves going to the extraction point. In Splinter Cell your mission just ends, you get a cut-scene, and then it’s on to the next mission.
In Hitman 2, you are given a screen which shows your statistics for the mission: how many people you killed, how many alarms were raised, shots taken vs. shots scored, and an overall rating of how you did. Scoring a Silent Assassin rating means only killing your target (often using a quieter weapon than a gun, even if silenced) without anyone knowing about it. On top of that, enemies you take out during a mission can be searched for additional weapons or ammo and any weapons you gather during a mission are available to choose from in subsequent missions. You have a base of operations between missions which includes a garden shack loaded with gun racks which are empty at the beginning of the game and hopefully full by the end of the game, sort of a trophy room. This makes replayability very high; I played the game once normally, played again to try to get every weapon in the game, and played yet again to try to get Silent Assassin on each level (which precludes you getting all the weapons in the game).
Which game is better? Well, they both are very, very fun games if you’re into stealthy tactics and together they make a great combo. If I had to choose, I’d go with Hitman 2, but to be fair, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve yet to finish Splinter Cell, so we’ll see. I just don’t think Splinter Cell will have a great replay value, unless I set a personal goal to be as stealthy as possible or, alternatively, to kill as many people as possible, etc.