Splinter Cell HD is exactly what it sounds like (although it’s not “true HD”, as Sony execs call 1080p true HD). It’s the first Splinter Cell, but in HD. Those who read the PlayStation Blog periodically are inundated with stories about the “remastering” process applied to God of War Origins. They write posts reminding us that the Ico / Shadow of the Colossus collection is 1080p and includes making of videos.
Splinter Cell HD has none of this. It’s the original game, exactly as it was, but uprezzed to 720p. To be honest, Ubisoft did the bare minimum here, making series of release date delays inexplicable. Menu layouts and navigation remains horrid, character textures are laughable (environments, however, are surprisingly nice), contextual actions are still tricky at times, etc. This isn’t like Zelda 3D with it’s cleaned up interface and sexy textures.
The worst part is that the framerate often drops from 60fps during action scenes, or when there is one or more light sources in a room, or anytime the screen isn’t all black. The game doesn’t chug, but it does slow down, which is distracting after some 60fps ventilation shaft sneaking. This makes absolutely zero sense to me; even if Ubisoft had to include an entire PS2 emulator and this game, you’d think the infinitely powerful PS3 could run it.
This game is only nine years old, but feels so archaic to me. You can’t invert the camera Y-axis. Your lock picks aren’t available contextually at doors, you have to manually equip them. The AI is laughable, being half-blind yet with hypersensitive hearing. Guards who are actively being shot at by other NPCs will perk up and search for you with one wrong footstep, and they will beeline directly towards you until they are about five feet away, no matter how stealthily you try to evade them. If you throw a bottle or can from behind a pair of guards, one will investigate the noise and the other will inexplicably investigate the exact location where you threw the can from, even if they could not have seen the trajectory. Sam Fisher cannot open doors while carrying a body.
Despite all that, I’m really digging Splinter Cell HD. The lighting and shadows remain better than some modern games, and the core gameplay is extremely satisfying; avoiding guards just feet away feels great! I love this game, and sneaking up on guards is always fun. It’s just weird to think about just how far we’ve come in only nine years.
It's unlikely that I'll write up Impressions posts on Pandora Tomorrow & Chaos Theory, but I might do a double-post discussing the two (or even three) of them again.