[i]Chaos Theory[/i] is the third installment in the immensely popular stealth series [i]Splinter Cell[/i] from Tom Clancy. As is always the question with a sequel, we have to ask what’s new that makes this part of the series an improvement over the second or even the first? As you might expect, the same great stealth gameplay that we have come to know and love is still there, but does [i]Chaos Theory[/i] bring anything new to the table? Is Ubisoft milking this one dry? Read on to find out, and if you’re good, I might even let you in on the secret of why exactly terrorists can’t see the trademark green goggles Sam wears from point blank range.
As far as gameplay goes, if you are at all familiar with the first two games you will be able to pick this one up and get right into things. It plays pretty much identically to the rest of the series in terms of moving Sam around and in the presentation, menus, and interface. So what’s new this time around? Well, a lot. Sam has been outfitted with several new gadgets as well as some new moves and is even equipped with a knife this time around. First of all, you’re multi-purpose headgear now has a new function. Not only does Sam have his night vision and thermal vision, he now has a third option which detects electromagnetic pulses and helps to show you everything that may be hidden on walls or that you can manipulate with the OCP which can be used with your pistol. The OCP can be utilized multiple ways. You can no longer shoot cameras out, but you can lock them up for a short amount of time with the OCP, as well as knock lights out temporarily.
No longer does a locked door stop Mr. Fisher. Besides being able to pick locks, if you get into a pinch and need to get away quick you can break locks which is much quicker but makes a lot of noise and will alert enemies that may be in the area. You can also use the new hacking system to get to places you otherwise may not be able to. Along with the new gadgets, Sam has been given some delicious new stealthy moves on top of that. You are now able to drop onto enemies to knock them out, pull the unsuspecting over ledges or railings, and grab people through fabric walls or tents.
Along with the plethora of gadgets and moves that Sam has acquired since your last visit, he has also been given a bit more freedom. The game is most definitely still stealth based, but a few things have changed. There are now multiple paths and routes in many levels that will get you to the same place. You are allowed to choose whether you want to sneak through missions or if you want to pull out the big guns and blast your way through the opposition. Now this isn’t to say that you can just run start through the game shooting everything. The game is certainly much harder if you want to attempt to throw stealth out the window, but you have more flexibility in gameplay this time around. Alarms no longer serve as a, “three strikes and you’re out” system. Alarms do have an affect still, but rather than ending your mission they just cause more guards to be posted and eventually he guards are armed with helmets and bulletproof gear.
The visuals of Splinter Cell have never exactly wowed me. Things have always seemed a bit too dark (I know it’s a stealth game but, c’mon, it really is a bit much) and the series has always looked a bit rigid and flat. With all of the talk about the graphical look of [i]Chaos Theory[/i] on the Xbox you might think that that would go for the other editions of the game as well but this is not the case. The game is still very dark which I expected but I was really hoping that the character models and the environments would look much better. Unfortunately, Sam still has 90 degree angles for elbows, character models are still rather bland and rigid, and the environments are still pretty plain and uninspiring. I will say that, as much as I have to say bad about the visuals in [i]Chaos Theory[/i], it isn’t all negative. The game doesn’t look terrible; it just doesn’t utilize the full potential of the PS2. A few of the textures and the lighting would have to be the visual bright spot of the game. The audio of [i]Chaos Theory[/i] follows in the footsteps of the graphics. Not necessarily bad, but certainly not optimal. The voice-acting is still quite cheesy and the terrorists still sound like talking causes them immense physical and emotional pain.
So what exactly does [i]Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory[/i] do to advance the series? You get the same great stealth gameplay, with a bit more action and a handful of new gadgets and moves. [i]Chaos Theory[/i] is short just like both of its predecessors and is still bang your head against the wall difficult. Oddly enough I actually enjoyed the story of [i]Chaos Theory[/i] better than the last two. I say this in the same way as I would say that I enjoy someone kicking me in the groin much more than someone shooting me in the chest. [i]Chaos Theory[/i] still comes up rather short on the story end of things, but it’s certainly an improvement on the last two titles. I would have liked to see an improvement in the voice-acting or the visuals of [i]Chaos Theory[/i] but to be honest, [i]Splinter Cell[/i] games aren’t about voice-acting or shiny character models. The co-op play brings in a whole new set of co-op moves and a different gameplay experience that can be very fun with a friend. If you enjoyed the first [i]Splinter Cell[/i], or [i]Pandora Tomorrow[/i], you will most certainly want to pick up [i]Chaos Theory[/i]. It improves on the previous two games in almost every aspect of the game. Oh, and terrorists are color-blind. Duh.