It's been just over a year that Ubisoft released the excellent Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, which makes it so surprising that we already have a new game in the series. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is not just another rehash of the original, but is instead a totally new experience.... and who doesn't want more Fisher?
Chaos Theory is the true sequel to the original Splinter Cell. It incorporates all that made Splinter Cell so great, and then it adds even more. The new additions won't re-invent how the Splinter Cell series play so you will still hide bodies, shoot out lights, hide in shadows; you know all the stuff you love about the series. It's just that now there are more ways to it. First off you will notice that there is a mission load out screen, here you can pick if you want to go into the mission with a weapon set of stealth, or assault. Stealth is classic Splinter Cell, everything you're used to from the original game, whereas assault will allow you to use brute force if you need too (although stealth is still the key).
Ubisoft has also added in a knife to the arsenal which is used to slit open fabrics, or make a quick kill on an enemy, a lot more effective than a punch in the face. Another way Chaos Theory really helps differentiate itself from the previous Splinter Cell games is that you are now able to save anywhere, that's right no more having to wait for checkpoints. Although this may turn off some of the hardcore Splinter Cell fans who like that trial-and-error sort of gameplay, it's only good news for most of us.
Chaos Theory is easily one of the most immersive games on the Xbox. This is because of a few different reasons, most importantly the level set up. No longer do you have to follow one set path, Chaos Theory actually opens it up quite a bit with multiple routes and optional objectives. This is a huge improvement because it almost completely eliminates the overly-linear style that the previous games took on; it also helps to add a ton of replay value as you will want to retry each mission using different strategies. Chaos Theory is also immersive because of the abandonment of the alarm limit. No longer will you have to hear Lamberts voice over the radio to tell you that you have failed due to the fact that you set off too many alarms, now he just tells you the mission is a mess and to hurry up and finish. It's a nice touch.
Lastly, Chaos Theory's A.I. is exceptional; they will hunt you down in groups, take cover, call for help, and most importantly they don't know your every move. This makes the AI feel quite a bit more life like and a lot less game like. The immersive-ness of each level may actually serve as a bit of a downfall to the story side of Chaos Theory as you will be so caught up in the sneaking, and pulse pounding action that you may begin to forget about the story. This isn't to say the story is bad; in fact it's probably the best story of all the Splinter Cell games. The story once again sets Sam Fisher off to save the world, only this time it's from a computer virus with the potential to launch nuclear missiles, destroy security, etc. It's an interesting premise that is carried out well through a chain of news reports at the end of each mission. However most of the story comes from playing through the 10 single player missions.
The famed multiplayer from Pandora Tomorrow has once again returned in Chaos Theory. Allowing up to 4 players it pits spies against mercenaries in 2 on 2 combat. The spies are given a mission that they must complete and it's the mercenary's job to stop them. The spies appear in 3 rd person view like the single player Splinter Cell, however the mercenaries are in first person and are much more deadly than the spies (who's only real lethal attacks are breaking the necks of their enemies). This makes for a cat and mouse style game where the spies are trying to avoid all contact with the enemy and the mercenaries must hunt them down and set traps. Although that was all done in Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory has added 11 new maps, all of which feel more complete than the ones in Pandora Tomorrow.
Beyond the versus mode, and brand new to Chaos Theory is a ground breaking co-operative mode. This is where 2 spies must use each other to accomplish each mission. The co-op was excellently done, with a huge variety of different co-op moves that can be used to reach new heights, hack keypads, and even shoot one spy torpedo like into an enemy. Each of these moves is completed by one player pressing the co-op button (usually the black button) to initiate a move, and the other player pressing the button to complete it, simple, fun and very effective. The only big problem with co-op is that there are only 4 maps that you can play your way through; hopefully more will be released over Xbox Live downloadable content.
Graphics & Sound
When you first start playing Chaos Theory you will see an opening CGI cutscene in the same fashion as all the previous games, it's no doubt nice to look at, but doesn't do the game justice. You will be absolutely blown away once the first mission actually starts and you notice that the in game graphics actually outdo the cutscene in realism. In fact Chaos Theory looks so good you may think it was an Xbox 2 game at first glance. The lighting has always been a staple to the series and in Chaos Theory it is no different, the lighting is absolutely phenomenal. The textures and environments are beautiful to look at and highly detailed. The characters facial expressions and animations are spot on, and the character models are some of the best ever seen. Simply put Chaos Theory is the best looking game to ever be released on Xbox.
The sound is really good, but can in no way stack up to the graphics. It's nice to see that the enemies now speak in different accents, something the series has lacked. The soundtrack was also well done and offers some intense music at the perfect times, although for most of the game you get nothing but silence, just the way it should be.
Chaos Theory is more about evolution rather than revolution. The single player plays quite similar to what you're used to, just with a few excellent tweaks and some fairly big additions. This isn't a bad thing though, because the Splinter Cell games have always been close to stealth perfection, and Chaos Theory only helps elevate it even closer to that title. Although the single player doesn't reinvent too much the co-op does. We've all seen co-op done before but never like this, it's new and refreshing and totally fun. It does for Chaos Theory what the versus mode did for Pandora Tomorrow, introduces a whole new way of playing multiplayer, and Splinter Cell.
Chaos Theory is full of cool moves to pull off. From throwing enemies off edges, to hanging down and breaking necks, Chaos Theory adds a ton all of cool moves we have come to expect from Sam Fisher. Throw in the adrenaline filled action and the amazingly fun co-op mode and you have a title that will get your mojo going for sure.
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is easily the best Splinter Cell game released yet, from the jaw dropping graphics to the pulse pounding action Chaos Theory goes above and beyond the call and creates one of the best experiences yet for the Xbox. No matter what Chaos Theory should be a must buy for all Xbox owners. Ubisoft is really showing that they are a premiere developer/publisher with the release of both Brothers in Arms and Chaos Theory in the same month.
Gameplay: 10, Graphics/Sound: 10, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 9. Final: 9.5
Reviewed by Cameron Bourne -
April 12th 2005