Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Game Info
Xbox, GC, PS2
UbiSoft Montreal
Stealth Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Strong Language, Violence
The Good

• Awesome graphic engine and lighting
• Multiple primary and secondary objectives for each mission
• Save anywhere ditches painful checkpoint system
• Co-op and online multiplayer adds to game

The Bad

• Online is for the hardcore


In the span of a few years, UbiSoft has managed to establish their Splinter Cell series as a major part of the stealth action genre. Agent Sam Fisher is a super-secretive operative who must sneak into locations and perform actions that few in the government will ever know he's ever done. In the third installment, Chaos Theory, Sam must deal with a new problem - information warfare. When he comes across an algorithm that can be used to shut down the power grids for whole cities or control ballistic missiles, he must deal with the situation before World War 3 is set off.

Chaos Theory is broken up into a series of missions in various locations, including an office building, boat and the heart of Seoul, South Korea. Each mission comes with multiple objectives and often you'll find objectives that occur depending on opportunity and how you deal with enemies (interrogate the right one and you get information you might not have expected to find). Before each mission, you're given a briefing and the option to select your weapons and equipment from one of three set-ups. Each of these setups is intended for different types of players as you can complete missions by any degree of stealth or violence you feel keeps you from being detected. Of course, if you are detected, you can deal with the guards and be on your way. The punishment of mission failure when a certain number of alarms has gone off has been removed, so if you can ditch any nearby guards, you can survive having the alarm go off.

Sam controls with the two analog sticks and performs area specific actions with the A Button. Sam can access computers, open doors, pick locks and pick up items that can be thrown for distraction. Picking locks requires rotating the Left Analog stick until you hit the spot where the tumbler can be wiggled. Retinal scanners, keypads, and computers can be hacked using a encryption decipherer which shows you certain numbers in a sequence and you have to figure out which sequence is correct before time runs out. Of course, with a little sleuthing, you can find out keypad numbers but viewing information on computers or even listening to the right guard.

From the beginning of the game, Sam comes equipped with a ton of great equipment. Using the D-Pad, you can select from one of three visual modes, including Thermal, Nightvision, and EMF. You will quickly find yourself using these modes to get a far better handle on your location, especially when you need to see in dark locations or you need to get an idea of how many enemies may be nearby. Sam's pistol comes equipped with a OCP, which can be used to temporarily knock out electronic devices. For the most part you'll be using it to knock out lights, which draws less attention than shooting them. By clicking the Right Analog stick, you will bring up your EEV (binoculars), which can be used to hack computers from a distance, which proves to be an essential tool for certain objectives. You can also use this to record discussions in other rooms.

Of course, all these tools would be incomplete without Sam's SC-20K assault rifle, which comes with additional spy tools to incapacitate your enemies, including the Sticky Shocker and Airfoil Rounds. To equip a weapon, press the X Button and to swap out weapons, press the White Button to enter the equipment screen. Sam will have access to items that can be used to knock out enemies by pressing the alternate fire (Left Trigger) when you have the assault rifle equipped.

From a level standpoint, UbiSoft has done wonders to make each level such that you can move through it in a nonlinear fashion. While there are sections where you have only one real path to take, many places have more than one option available to you and certain objectives don't require linear thinking to complete. Also, considering that you can choose not to kill or even knock out most opponents, you can play a whole level pure stealth if you want to. To this end, your final score at the end of each level will tell you how good you were at being stealthy.

While there are some minor changes here and there, most of which streamline the action and get rid of some minor complaints fans had about the series, the biggest change Chaos Theory offers is the option to save anywhere in the game. The checkpoint system from previous titles is gone now, allowing players to save anywhere. This allows you to save before a difficult portion of the game and even if you screw up, you're not forced to lose a lot of work going back to the previous checkpoint.

Alongside the singleplayer story, players can play two-player co-op missions via split-screen, system link or Xbox Live. While this is a nice addition, its a shame that there's just not enough of it (there's only four missions and a training mission). Also available online is the Spies versus Mercs multiplayer action, which is still pretty fun, but proves to be a challenge more for the hardcore fan than the casual gamer. If you played a lot of the original version from Pandora Tomorrow, then the revisions will be more than enough to make this experience feel like a fresher version of the previous online mode.

Visually, Chaos Theory is a visual feast that stands out as one of the best looking games available on the Xbox. This says a lot as the previous two Splinter Cell titles both looked excellent, but Chaos Theory looks just that much better. The levels are massive in size and show off a great level of realistic detail. Both the textures and visual effects do a great job at drawing the player into each of the varied locations. While you do find yourself in a number of interior locations, the exterior locations (as seen with the Hokkaido intro area) look spectacular on their own. Lighting, essential for this type of game, is excellently done, along with some nicely detailed and animated character models. Sam Fisher's model and animations are top notch.

Audiowise, the game is rich on many levels. Michael Ironsides is once again excellent as the gruff elder agent. His quips and comments are wonderful and make the game a joy to play. The additional cast works well to give strength to the heavy political and technical commentary. Sound effects prove to be an important element as they let you know where you enemy is and how much noise you're making. The music, when it comes to life, is also pretty good and gives an odd, off-beat funkiness to the game.

Chaos Theory is easily the best offering the series has made to date. If it weren't that there's no tutorial level (all the moves are show in video format instead), I'd strongly suggest this one as the first Splinter Cell gamers should try out. If you're a fan of the series or stealth gameplay in general, do yourself a favor and pick this one up as UbiSoft is going to be hard pressed to beat it.

- - Kinderfeld

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