Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Review

Everyone’s favorite covert agent is back in action in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. This time out Sam Fisher must unravel a conspiracy in the Far East that has begun to push Japan and the Koreas towards a crisis that can quickly engulf the region. Japan feels that its economy is threatened and forms a special branch of its Self Defense Force to protect its electronic systems and suspicions between North Korea and Japan hit an all-time high. As in prior Splinter Cell games, there’s enough plausible storyline to provide the motivation for your missions but not enough to fill a Tom Clancy novel. In fact, many players will skip through as much of the story as they can (especially since a good portion of it is conveyed via pre-mission briefing screens) and get right to the gameplay. This is entirely forgivable as the gameplay in Chaos Theory is quite good…

The Splinter Cell games have always been all about stealth. You’d be armed with no more than a silenced pistol and its main purpose was to shoot out light bulbs. Trip an alarm, leave a body out where it could be found, or get yourself noticed and your mission would invariably end prematurely in abject failure. Chaos Theory is still definitely a stealth-based game, but the restrictive nature of the series has been changed – and consequently the game is not nearly as difficult as its predecessors.

Sam has picked up some new moves.

First of all, tripping an alarm or being spotted by a guard will not end in mission failure. It will certainly make things more difficult for you, but you won’t be faced with an immediate “Mission Failed” screen. Another change is the addition of a “loadout” option before each mission. You can now select a set of weapons and gadgets more suited to stealth or to armed and deadly approach. If you’re not sure which way to go, the game will recommend a loadout that is usually good for a more balanced approach to the mission.

Wait a minute; you don’t have to take a stealth approach to the missions? That’s right, Chaos Theory gives you more leeway than ever before in your approach to the missions. You don’t always have to be in full stealth mode in the game – you can choose to, say, enter a room and immediately take down the guards inside with your modified assault rifle. This doesn’t mean that you can take the typical guns ablazin’ approach typical for action games, though, you’ll still need to do plenty of sneaking around. However, you’re a lot freer to let your gun do the talking this time out. Those of you who found the mission design of the previous games in the series too linear or constrained will really appreciate the leeway Chaos Theory gives you in approaching your objectives and choosing your path through the missions’ levels. This design change does not come at the cost of alienating those who loved the gameplay in the first games as Chaos Theory still lets them choose to play in the classic pure stealth style. On a disappointing note though, the hardware limitations of the GameCube means that GameCube players get modified versions of the levels in the Xbox version. The bottom line here is that there are not as many paths to choose from but you get the bonus of additional mid-level load screens.

In addition to the new guns at your disposal Chaos Theory will finally let you carry a knife. It’s funny that it took the developers until the third edition of the game to include the ultimate classic stealth weapon, but this oversight has finally been corrected. The knife can of course be used to off enemies, either from behind or in a brutal, face to face stabfest, but it’s more versatile than that. You can use your knife to cut cloth and canvas, say to make a new door in a tent and surprise its occupants.

Sam Fisher is a modern super spy, and as with any self-respecting super spy he carries an assortment of handy, high-tech gadgets. Most favorites such as the snake cam used to sneak a peek at the room behind a closed door make a return in Chaos Theory and you’ll also have a few new toys to play with. The OCP can be fired from your pistol and will disable electrical devices in the vicinity. A new goggle attachment makes it easier to locate vulnerable devices by detecting the magnetic fields emitted by electronics. Cool stuff!