Special: ?See these? American donuts. Glazed, powdered, and raspberry-filled. Now, how's that for freedom of choice??
Spy: n. ? An agent employed by a state to obtain secret information, especially of a military nature, concerning its potential or actual enemies.
I've been playing a lot of Splinter Cell lately. It's a game I've been enamored with since the holidays, and I can honestly say it ranks up there with the very best of my gaming experiences. Besides the absolutely mind-blowing visuals, (which, as you all know by now, feature the pinnacle of real-time lighting and shadow effects) the stunning level architecture, and the over-all coolness factor of the game's main character, the tough-as-nails career soldier Sam Fisher, this title features some of the coolest gadgets and weapons this side of the U.S. Military. In the same vein as Splinter Cell, I've long been a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series. I started out playing the original title on the 8-bit NES, and upped the stakes with MGS and MGS2: Sons Of Liberty on the PSOne and PS2 respectively, and of course, the currently available Substance for Xbox. They're both fascinating titles, and reflect the very best in the stealth/action genre. It's interesting to note how our fascination with super-spies and cool military hardware manifests itself in the arena of interactive entertainment. Sam Fisher and Solid Snake, two heroes who represent opposite ends of the spectrum, while at the same time sharing the deepest bond ? lone operatives working in the cause of freedom, doing anything they can to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have the right to spy, steal, destroy and assassinate, to ensure that American freedoms are protected. If captured, the U.S. government will disavow any knowledge of your existence.
You are Sam Fisher.
You are a Splinter Cell.
As SC opens, you're introduced to Sam Fisher, a decorated vet with a knack for operating covertly through some of the most hostile territory in the world. Working for a branch of the NSA called Third Echelon, Sam is the go to guy for those thoroughly impossible situations. To get this kind of job done, Sam will have to think strategically, and use every ounce of his skill and intelligence to remain invisible. Throughout the course of the adventure, Sam will have to infiltrate heavily fortified buildings (including the CIA), pick locked doors, set traps, disarm mines, hack into computers, rappel down walls, and use a solid array of neat tools. Chief among these are his night-vision goggles, which allow him to see in the dark, and also double as thermal vision. His 5.72mm SC pistol tactical model with single-action trigger and 20 round magazine comes complete with a silencer/flash suppressor, though the real workhorse of Sam's arsenal remains the 5.56mm SC-20K Assault Rifle. The configuration makes it light and compact without sacrificing firepower, and its multi-purpose launcher is ideal for blasting the latest hi-tech weaponry at enemies. Ring airfoil projectiles, gas grenades, sticky shockers (a high voltage discharge device coated in adhesive resin), distraction cameras (there's nothing like firing one of these babies down the hall and taking several guards out with noxious gas when they come to investigate), and sticky cameras afford the freedom to drop enemies in a variety of fun and interesting ways. For those of you who've been playing the game since its release, you know the insane realism and action this title brings to the table. Stunning visuals, a great story, intense mission scenarios, and a main character that can do anything you'd want or expect, add up to one of the best games to hit the shelves in a long time. The gold standard in stealth simulations.
The legendary hero who has saved the world too many times from the menace of Metal Gear in the past, Solid Snake is an infiltration expert renowned for completing missions against seemingly impossible odds. Originally a member of FOXHOUND, and now a member of the ?philanthropy? anti-metal gear group, Solid Snake is an expert in stealth and subterfuge and highly proficient in combat.
Solid Snake is another operative who's loaded with cool gadgets, weapons, and the ability to move like a ghost through seriously locked-down environments. As described, Snake is the toughest of bad-asses, and is a veteran of many stealth and combat missions. As Sons Of Liberty opens, he's tasked with infiltrating a tanker believed to be carrying the latest metal gear technology. However, before he can act, the ship is taken over by a Russian mercenary army intent on making the weapon their own. At this point, you step into the role, and are greeted with incredible visuals (to this day, the driving rain on the tanker deck still blows me away) and stunning play mechanics. The character models of Snake and the Russian soldiers are meticulous in their attention to detail, and every weapon and gadget is perfectly modeled. Environments are fully interactive, and the ability to use a variety of means from full stealth to all out combat to achieve the objective push the game up into the rarefied air of classic A list titles. Snake's weapons are impressive, and include the modified M9 pistol (altered to fire tranquilizer darts, a huge part of quietly taking out guards), the USP (a 9mm automatic equipped with a flashlight for night operations), and the M4 5.56mm assault rifle (hey, isn't Sam's assault rifle the same caliber?). As for gadgets, Chaff grenades (used to jam cameras, radar, and other electronic devices) Stun grenades, Claymore anti-personnel mines, C4 explosive, and the Nikita smart missile round out Snake's arsenal nicely. To be succinct: MGS2, and its predecessors, again receive the highest honors for stealth/action gameplay. Great scenarios, top of the line visuals and sound, fantastic play mechanics, and memorable characters (I'm not going to forget my boss fight with Vamp anytime soon, nor the bullet I put through the bastard's temple from 200 yards out on Big Shell) make the Metal Gear Solid series a winner, and perhaps the finest stealth simulation ever created.
?Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.? ? General George S. Patton
Our interest in stylized warriors like Sam and Solid Snake takes us into the digital world to experience their adventures, but much of the technology and weaponry we gamers are having so much fun with is straight out of the modern U.S. military. Special Operations forces use a variety of gear that is easily mirrored by each game's respective arsenal. The M16A2 assault rifle is?you guessed it?a 5.56mm air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine fed weapon designed for either semiautomatic (single shot) or fully automatic fire. The M-4 carbine comes complete with an attachable grenade launcher (the 40mm M-203) and an infrared sight. Grenade types include fragmentation, chemical, incendiary, smoke, and illumination. Furthermore, the FIM-9 Stinger Missile is a shoulder-fired, supersonic projectile designed to counter high-speed, low-level, ground attack aircraft. Once fired, the Stinger uses proportional navigation algorithms to lock in on a predicted intercept point. Translation: it's badass. In addition, the AN/PVS-14 monocular night vision device and a new technology called Land Warrior really begin to feel like a melding of fantasy and reality, but they're 100 % legit. Land Warrior has several sub-systems and strives to fully integrate the weapon, helmet assembly, protective clothing and individual equipment with, among other things, a computer/radio and its appropriate software. Certainly one can see parallels with Solid Snake's modified weaponry, custom stealth suit, variable grenades, and Codec. Similarly, Sam Fisher's OPSAT, multi-functional assault rifle, Night vision/thermal headset, and optic cable are obviously heavily based on the tools of 21st Century warfare. Not to mention the fact that the guy looks like some sort of high-tech ninja as he silently pads down a corridor in his pitch black spy wear, bristling with guns and gadgets. Too cool for school.
It's not surprising that so much detail found its way into Metal Gear Solid 2 and Splinter Cell. Each game's respective development team spent countless hours studying real world weapons and tactics, and it shows in the finished product. SC and MGS2 look to continue their reign as the big dogs of the espionage action genre, and gamers everywhere eagerly await the next installment of each adventure. Rumors circulating throughout the industry at this time include speculation as to Hideo Kojima's involvement in MGS3, and the fact that the follow-up to SC is currently being referred to as Shadow Strike. To help with the wait, Kola Cell is available now through Xbox Live. How cool is that? In the time it took my coffee to brew one Saturday morning the week of launch, I had a brand new mission to play?without ever leaving the house. It's a great time to be a gamer, ain't it? So if you're already a fan of our two noble warriors, you know just how sweet the experience can be. If not, I'd advise you to check them out. I promise, once you pop your first guard and hide him in the shadows, you'll be hooked, and as the intricacies of the gameplay become apparent, you'll never want the adventure to end. Welcome to the Theatre Of Operations soldier. Now keep your head down and be quiet, one more alarm and this mission is over.