Splinter Cell is considered one of the best looking games on Xbox and one of the most glaring proofs of the system's potentialities, and that's why many saw a port to the Playstation 2 very unlikely. Anyhow, UbiSoft managed to develop an engine for the Playstation 2 that stands surprisingly well in comparison with the Xbox version. The framerate shutters more often than in the original, loading times are more frequent, since the levels have been divided in smaller sections, but the overall visual strength is still impressive. Oh, and the extra 30 minutes of CG movies that replace the original (cheap) in-game cutscenes are definitely an appreciable improvement.
The original game's most notorious trait is surely the amazing use of life-real lighting effects that deeply influences the gameplay; this feature has remained almost intact on the Playstation 2. Even if the Xbox's lighting effects look a tad sharper, profounder, and overall more realistic, the game is still a sight to see; after all, the Playstation 2 proved that it could handle amazing dynamic lighting effects also in other games.
Character models and animations look identical to the ones of the Xbox version. Extremely realistic and detailed, they show fine details and refinements all over their bodies. Animations have been entirely hand-drawn, and for the most part they're smooth - it must have been tremendously difficult to design and realize Sam's infamous split jump move - even if the transition from one animation loop to the other is sometimes very rough.
Environments are absolutely realistic, both in the layout and in the appearance, but the real surprise is that it's very difficult to notice any substantial difference in the quality of textures between the Playstation 2 and the Xbox version. This said, Splinter Cell boasts many of the finest textures seen on the system, with walls that seem made of real bricks, doors that seem made of real wood, and so on. When textures look blurry - for some reason, this happens especially when there are lots of metal surfaces, like in the oilrig - it's usually because they looked blurry also in the original version.
While the Playstation 2 engine has probably been redesigned in good part from scratch, the game shows problems that were noticeable also in the Xbox version. First of all, clipping issues abound in all the moments where you expect them to be: for example, foliage blends with Sam's character model, and when you drop the body of a dead enemy you'll often see half of it sucked into a wall, a door, or any other nearby object. Aliasing issues are easily noticeable throughout the game, and as I mentioned above, the Playstation 2 version has occasionally some little framerate problems and more frequent loading times. It's nothing terribly annoying, but these are details that make the little big difference between a perfect engine, like the one of Metal Gear Solid 2, and an excellent one.
Like the graphics, sounds are one thing with the gameplay. Silence is your best ally, and in the first training mission, there is a room expressly created to teach you the art of moving silently. This explains why for most part of the game you'll hear nothing but your footsteps, or those of approaching guards. Sounds of weapons, of breaking glasses and lights, the unique "clack" of a lock pick, all is tremendously realistic.
The soundtrack is made of unobtrusive ambient tracks that dynamically change only when an enemy spots you or during gunfights; Splinter Cell doesn't rely on epic themes like other action games, but this minimalist approach fits the game concept perfectly.
Voice acting is good, even if Michael Ironside, the Hollywood actor who plays Sam Fisher, seems to amplify a bit the peculiar "macho" hoarseness of his voice; on the other hand, during in-game moments, for example when Sam is interrogating a scared enemy soldier, Ironside does an amazing job at giving the character that touch of "strange dark sense of humor" portrayed in Fisher personal profile.
Splinter Cell is a pretty long game; you should need 15-18 hours to complete all the 11 missions the first time through. Unfortunately, once completed, Splinter Cell offers little reasons to be played again. The problem, highlighted in the gameplay section, is that the missions are linear and tightly scripted, and give little space to alternative strategies.