Splinter Cell earned incredibly high marks from even the
most jaded critics, and amazingly Pandora Tomorrow took the
series to a whole new level by adding in an excellent online
multiplayer mode (on Xbox and PS2 at least) and several small
single-player improvements. Chaos Theory takes the series
yet another step forward with the addition of a co-op mode, and an
even higher level of refinement in the single player mode.
Unfortunately, the experience has once again been scaled back on
GCN/PS2, and as usual the lack of online play makes the GCN version
the redheaded stepchild of the series.
Naturally, the focus continues to remain on the single-player mode and
Chaos Theory presents another international tale of espionage. Japan
has created an Information Self-Defense Force, which is seen as a
violation of international laws and ignites tensions in Asia.
Meanwhile, Sam Fisher is called in to investigate the kidnapping of a
computer geek knowledgeable of advanced algorithms related to Philip
Masse (remember him from the first Splinter Cell?) that could
prove dangerous if in the wrong hands. As youíd expect these events
are all related, and soon Samís traveling around the world to save the
day once again.
introduced alarm stages, in which the enemy would gradually add
additional armor and increased patrols as Sam was spotted. However,
setting off too many alarms would still result in mission failure.
This was unrealistic (since Samís already there shouldnít he just
finish the job?) and forced gamers to remain stealthy even in
situations where itíd be better to come out blastiní. Mission failure
as a result of alarms has been done away with completely in Chaos
Theory, although there are still consequences and the enemy will
adjust their behavior and equipment accordingly. This provides even
more gameplay flexibility and accommodation for gamers that might not
have the patience to remain stealthy.
Additionally, objectives are now broken down into Primary, Secondary,
Opportunity, and Bonus objectives. Obviously primary objectives must
be completed to finish a mission, but the others do not and only hurt
the final level score if uncompleted. Some secondary objectives
actually carry over to the next mission if not completed, adding in an
extra layer of flexibility as well. To reflect all of this Sam can
now outfit himself before each mission with three different gear kits
that play to the strengths of each play style, either with a stealth
setup, an assault setup, or Reddingís Recommendation (usually a mix of
However, the game still rewards sneaky and non-lethal gameplay. As I
alluded to before players are awarded a score at the end of each
mission based on how well they did during it, which includes penalties
for setting off alarms, bodies found, etc. Additionally, grabbing
NPCs from behind and interrogating them often provides a variety of
intel (most notably keypad codes) or simply amusing conversations not
otherwise available. Speaking of which, Sam can now hack computers,
retinal scanners, and other electronic devices by guessing the
appropriate IP address from a list of available ones. As Sam begins
hacking a timer appears, which counts down while each of the four
parts of the IP address are revealed in intermittent fashion. Not
only does it provide for some tense moments (an alarm is trigged if
hacking fails), but it also helps accommodate players that want to
blast their way through a mission. Hacking was one of my favorite
parts of the GBA version of Tom Clancyís Splinter Cell: Pandora
Tomorrow, so Iím particularly happy to see it implemented here in
Sam also has several new moves at his disposal. This includes the
inverted neck snap, which allows Sam to hang from a pipe and grab NPCs
that walk under him. He also has an option for Electronically
Enhanced Vision (EEV) now, which allows him to scan an area for
special objects (viewed in all white) and includes a built-in laser
mic. Also, when opening doors Sam can now bash it in (to knock out
enemies on the other side) or break the lock instead of picking it.
The pistol now has a secondary fire that can jam electrical devices,
effectively replacing the camera jammer.
However, the biggest addition to Samís arsenal is a simple knife, with
which Sam can use to slice enemy throats (without even grabbing them
first) or cut open various hanging fabrics (like the side of a tent)
before walking through them. Unfortunately when you add capabilities
to a game already full of them you have to make room by getting rid of
others, so we have to say goodbye to several nifty moves found in
Pandora Tomorrow. These include the SWAT turn (which I loved and
miss), back to the wall shooting and throwing (not a big loss), and
the Half Split Jump and Half Split Jump and Jump (both complicated and
Another big improvement in Chaos Theory is found in the level
design. Splinter Cell has never been less linear, as there are
often several ways to handle any given situation. Although there are
still primary locations the player must reach, there are usually
several different ways to get there. Do you shimmy up the pipe, climb
on top of some boxes and jump, or simply take the stairs and go the
long way? Enemies can be dealt with in similar fashion; do you snap
his neck from above, grab him from behind and interrogate him, shoot
him and risk the noise, or just avoid him altogether?
As expected the online versus mode that proved to be a big hit in
Pandora Tomorrow on Xbox and PS2 makes a return in this
installmentÖbut of course itís not found in the GCN version at all.
Instead GCN owners again get GBA support. Once a GBA is attached, it
can be used as a secondary OPSAT as well as monitoring Sticky Cameras
not destroyed by enemies while Sam performs other actions. While it
doesnít fundamentally change the way the gameís played and GBA support
was included in the first two Splinter Cells, itís nice to see Ubisoft
is still thinking about Cube owners.
New to the series is the co-op mode, and thankfully GameCube owners do
get it too. It consists of four levels not found in either the single
player or versus modes. These levels are fairly simple, with the
co-op moves automatically available in preset locations. These moves
include things like hurling a teammate like a missile, boosting over
walls, etc. Since there are only four levels (and itís not playable
online like the Xbox version) it isnít worth buying the game for on
its own, but itís a cool addition nevertheless.
As great as Pandora Tomorrow looked, Chaos Theory looks even
better. The lighting is more realistic, with blinking lights and
other dynamic elements. The environments are more expansive than
theyíve ever been, with longer corridors and larger and more detailed
environments providing Sam with more ways to accomplish objectives.
Animation has improved significantly over the previous game, and that
game featured some of the best animation ever found on a console.
Samís sneaking is now more realistic, as heíll shift his weight subtly
while creeping up on a foe.
However, once again the graphics are significantly inferior to those
found in the Xbox version. The GameCube version is certainly being
held back in this regard, as itís a port of the PS2 port and as a
result not optimized for the GameCubeís strengths. For once Iíd like
to see Ubisoft do a GameCube version that falls somewhere between the
PS2 and Xbox versions graphically. First, the graphics are inferior
on a technical level, with fewer and more simple objects found in each
environment and reduced texture quality. For example, a complex
computer screen in the Xbox version is now a solid color and a
polished bank lobby with a complex laser grid system has been reduced
to a simple room with a minimal laser grid, glass cage and a couple
chairs. It still looks good, just isnít anywhere close to recent
GameCube exclusives like Resident Evil 4.
The graphics are also inferior from a design standpoint, and thatís
what hurts this port the most (even more than no online play). Levels
that were one continuous area on Xbox are now hacked up into several
different sections, and reduced in complexity as well. For example,
on Xbox the ship level features an open deck with several different
ways for Sam to go, but on GameCube itís reduced to one linear path.
Virtually every area in the game features a simpler layout, and as a
result the player has less freedom to explore and fewer challenging
situations to conquer.
The biggest improvement sound wise lies in the new meter that measures
environmental sound. By monitoring this and Samís own sound on the
meter, the player can tell exactly whether Samís being too loud or
not. This is a big improvement, as sound was always factored in
before but never really measured. Thereís also much more dialogue
than before. Sam will now have discussions with many more enemies
than before, some serious and others lighthearted and humorous.
Throughout the adventure players are treated to other environmental
effects as well. Engine rooms are noisy, an enemyís radio gets louder
as Sam approaches, guards have discussions in the distance, electronic
gadgets short out with a realistic crackling sound, and there are many
other effects too numerous to list here. These also add to the
environmental noise meter, meaning sound plays an expanded role this
time around. Amon Tobin supplied the soundtrack for the game, and
his alternating mix of pulsating techno and Halo-like epic-ness
perfectly fits Sam Fisherís dangerous world.
Another incredible single-player adventure, full of Clancy-esque plot turns.
The co-op mode is an excellent addition to the franchise.
More gameplay flexibility than ever with an improved alarm system and hacking
abilities. Yet, the game still rewards the stealthy with additional dialogues/intel
and an increased end of mission score.
More new moves to play around with that outweigh those we lost, with the
inverted neck snap being the coolest (a close second is the PS2/GCN exclusive
water grab) and the simple addition of a knife opening up new abilities. The
EEV also allows for new types of objectives.
After complaining about it in my reviews of the first two Splinter Cells, I have
to mention that I didnít see a single body clip through a wall or other object
Iím gonna miss the SWAT turn.
A few areas seem awfully reminiscent of previous Splinter Cell
Once again no online multiplayerÖ
And once again the levels have been chopped up into bite-size
Ubisoft has again created a sequel that remains true to the seriesí
roots and provides a fresh experience at the same time. The
environments are better than ever (despite the hack job) and
gameplay has been tweaked for the better yet again, providing the
player with more ways to handle most situations than ever.
Tom Clancyís Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
continues the seriesí tradition of excellence, but the PS2-oriented
ports and lack of true online support mean the series will never truly
reach its potential on GameCube.
Overall Score: 8.2