XBOX REVIEW: SPLINTER CELL: CHAOS THEORY

I could hardly wait for the release of Chaos Theory, the third installment in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series. It's a game of cloak and daggers with alternating action and stealth sequences. Think of it as James Bond on steroids. I wasn't as excited to review this game as I was just to play it as a fan. To have it exceed my expectations was an unexpected surprise. There are days when I just love my job.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory pushes the series into new territory. It continues to evolve by expanding on the best gameplay elements of the first two games. Instead of one, solo mission mode we have a co-op mode and a few online multi-player modes. The replay value is astounding and you don't just play the same missions over. New maps and levels have been created for these new modes. The graphics have been upgrades, new moves and gadgets have been added and there's more freedom than ever before to perform missions as you see fit. I really don't know what else Ubi Soft can do to top this one.

As with all Splinter Cell games you probably won't come to grips with the entire story until the third time through. There's just too much detail to pay attention to. Not to mention that you're not forced to pay attention. You'll be briefed before each mission and that's all you'll need to know.

The star of the show is Sam Fisher. He's a cool, calculated professional on a mission. He's not emotional and doesn't take things personal. To him, killing is just company policy. Using various weapons and gadgets, Sam will be called upon to perform a variety of missions such as infiltrating enemy compounds and retrieving data of unparalleled importance. What follows is a smart blend of action and stealth.

There's so much more to Splinter Cell than shooting bad guys and flipping some switches. It's a very intelligent game where you have to assess each situation, calculate the risks and take the appropriate action.

Stealth figures very prominently into the series and it's made even more dynamic in this version. Stealth is much more of a tool this time than a forced gameplay element. Guards will not be so quick to sound the alarm when they hear or see something unusual. Like the stealth meter which displays your level of invisibility, so too is there a volume meter which displays the level of noise that you make. Make too much noise and you will alert a guard. They will come to investigate but won't sound an alarm unless you reveal yourself. If you remain quiet they will return to their post. You have the option of shooting them but you also risk setting off an alarm which is much more difficult situation to escape from. If you don't find a hiding spot immediately you'll be turned to Swiss cheese.

Stealth fans will enjoy the inclusion of a simple knife. You can make quick and silent kills with it by sneaking up on guards and slitting their throats or gutting them. You can also use it for interrogation purposes as well as cutting through plastic and paper walls to gain access to other areas relatively silently.

Before each mission you can outfit yourself for assault or action. If you wish you can choose Redding's Recommendations which will give you more specific tools to deal with the mission as he sees it. New moves include the ability to hang over enemies, grab them and snap their necks. You also have different choices for opening a door. You can open it normally, open it with stealth so as not to alert anyone on the opposite side or just kick it open and stun anyone on the other side of it. The SC-20K features a built-in sniper rifle and shotgun. The CS pistol comes in handy with a feature that disrupts electrical signals. You can use it to turn the lights off temporarily or even shut down a camera.

The levels in the single-player mode are huge. You can't get to a checkpoint fast enough. Staying alive is a matter of skillful use of technique and tools. You can really reduce the luck factor by playing it safe and choosing the stealth option until you can figure out your next best move. The controls are very responsive and the graphics won't give you any perspective problems.

Co-op play is an incredible bonus. Once you complete the tutorial mode, which stresses teamwork, you will unlock four new levels. Although you can use the same weapons and gadgets from the single-player game you will also be able to exploit some team moves which include boosting, becoming a human ladder and a torpedo move which lets you fling your teammate across chasms or into enemies. These team moves are easy to use since they are all relegated to one button and will deploy the appropriate moves depending on the situation and location. My only complaint is that four levels is not enough.

One online mode pit mercenaries against spies in a traditional Deathmatch. Each team is allowed one gadget. Other modes involve infiltrating offices and retrieving data. New areas on the map open up as you progress. The ability to the use the headset for communication purposes adds another layer of realism to the game. You can also shout to get the guards' attention although the traditional whistle can still be implemented.

I can't say enough about the graphics. I never knew there were so many shades of black. Even though much of the game is played in the shadows there is no shortage of detail. The offices look perfect as do the outside environments with great attention to textures. Even the evening sky sparkles. There is a lot of ambient animation and sound that makes the environments come alive. This level of detail follows the game online as well.

Originally Splinter Cell was meant to be played solo. The title even suggests that premise. Even though the solo mode makes a great single-player experience a little company is always welcome especially when it's handled as well as this. With so many gameplay options, modes and different strategies to try, Chaos Theory will provide you with an incredible amount of quality replay value.

Preview by Chris
Hands On: I know a lot of gamers were disappointed that Ubisoft pushed back this title. I also know Ubisoft had to make a choice and they made a wise one. While Prince Of Persia 2 did not please us as well as the first one, this time it had the chance to compete without Sam in the way. Now I could go on about the fact Ubisoft sort of went the wrong way with POP 2. However, this is a hands-on preview of Chaos Theory. Due to the nature of the Splinter Cell games, this preview will be more about the impressions the demo left and I am not going to go into the story. I just do not think it would be fair to ruin anything for fans that have waited for the next game to arrive.

Ubisoft is already on their way making the game into a Hollywood movie. The opening of the demo is just like a preview to a blockbuster movie. It's sharp and even has a new catch phrase while drawing your interest almost immediately. The way the demo opens looks great and sets the tone great for what awaits the player. If you're hoping this demo is easier to play than the first one, you're out of luck. It is hard but looks fantastic and Sam has learned some great new moves and also has some new skills. Of course he also has a walking arsenal the weapons are great and realistic looking. I said I would not spoil the story line or things in the demo and I am going to stick to that. Of course this makes writing about the demo a little harder but I think this is the right way to handle it. Players will be happy to know the voice of Sam is the same person. He does a great job and really this time seems more into the role. You will also meet a few new members that will offer help in the way of Intel and other help. They also do a great job in the voice-acting department.

The controls are a little different yet are laid out perfectly for the game. I will admit while playing the demo, I had to try a few times to do the moves correctly, but that is part of the fun of this game. Controlling Sam is fairly easy, although it will take some time to get used to the new moves. The extra features on the demo also impressed me. I could watch Sam's new moves and watch how to pull them off.
I am hoping they add this to the final version. The best part of the game this time is that Sam has more than one way to get to the place he needs to go. However, this feature can also backfire since now there is several ways all with different obstacles or enemies to sneak past or get by. The music fits the game and really the graphics are fantastic and really enhance the game. It looks like Ubisoft has another hit come March. Now I know this was a little different than my other hands on previews. However, I did not wish to ruin anything in the game. I wish it had allowed for online play so I could have talked more about this new feature that has fans waiting. I think Ubisoft is making all of us wait for the online play until the game is released.

I walked away impressed and pissed a few times. I mean that as a compliment. The demo was no cakewalk. It really is another chapter rather than a sequel and this fact alone is why this one has the chance to make it big. If you're a fan of the series, you won't be disappointed with Chaos Theory. I really think this one looks to be the best one yet. I know that is saying a lot but I was very impressed. Smooth controls, great voice acting and killer graphics. Oh and one hell of a story to boot. This one is going to really have fans staying up late playing it!

Preview by Vaughn

Recently we learned of the decision to delay Chaos Theory until March 2005. The reasons are threefold: 1) UbiSoft Montreal will have more time to tweak the game 2) All versions will be released simultaneously 3) UbiSoft will not be competing with itself by releasing Chaos Theory and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within at the same time. PoP is still scheduled for a November release.

More screens and info have been released in regards to Chaos Theory's multiplayer scenario and we couldn't be happier. XBL, PC and PS2 Online gamers will once again eat up bandwidth playing the games cooperative and versus multiplayer scenarios. Unfortunately there will not be online support for the GameCube release but we expect that you probably knew that already. If you own a GameCube and are annoyed with having to sit out on all of the fun, it might be worth the effort to put pen to paper and let Nintendo of America know that you WANT to play online. Nintendo's head honchos still maintain that gamers really don't care about such trivial matters. Or you could save a helluva lot time and effort and trade your Cube in for an Xbox or PS2. Your choice.

Press:

“With its focus on working with a partner to gather intel using stealth and smarts, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory’s co-operative multiplayer gameplay will offer a completely new multiplayer experience, much as Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow’s versus gameplay did,” said Tony Kee, vice president of marketing for Ubisoft’s North American division. “And with Chaos Theory, the latest and greatest installment in the Splinter Cell franchise, gamers will be able to enjoy both styles as they work together to prevent a global conflict of epic proportions – or simply open a can of whup-ass on their online compatriots.”

CO-OPERATIVE MULTIPLAYER
The new co-operative maps in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory require players to work together to accomplish crucial intelligence-gathering objectives that are directly related to the plot of the single-player game. Pairs of operatives must develop trust and be willing to depend on one another as they use a host of new gadgets and team-based maneuvers to infiltrate enemy strongholds and help Sam Fisher defuse escalating conflicts around the world. In tandem, the operatives will help each other complete tasks such as scaling walls too high to climb alone, reaching pipes too high for one person and keeping watch while hacking enemy computers. Created to support online, System Link or split-screen game sessions, the specifically-designed, unique maps emphasize stealth gameplay based on shadow detection and AI stimulus, and will force players to attain a new level of strategic coordination using a headset and microphone, or talking each other through the tension from ! opposite ends of the sofa. A special co-op knife challenge mode offers additional ways for players to collaborate and further enhances replayability. Graphically rich, with impressive use of shadow, light, animations, physics and sound technology, the cooperative maps will push the limits of online play and reaffirm the Splinter Cell franchise’s position as the leader in multiplayer innovation.

VERSUS MULTIPLAYER
The versus multiplayer gameplay of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow completely revolutionized online gaming, and with Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, this competitive, addictive game mode continues to evolve. Players will work as teams and will compete against each other by embodying either stealthy, third-person Shadow Net Spies with specific stealth objectives, or heavily armed, first-person Argus Mercenaries charged with protecting their compounds. In several completely new levels, players will have at their disposal a host of new cooperative maneuvers and interactions, gadgets and weapons, hand-to-hand combat actions, additional ways to taunt adversaries, and two game modes (scenario and disk hunt). With destructible items, integrated climate affects that directly impact gameplay and totally redesigned visuals designed to improve accessibility and immersion, the adversarial gameplay will make Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory the most diiverse and immersive multiplayer game on the market.

Preview By Vaughn

Imaginatively titled Splinter Cell 3 when we first saw UbiSoft Montreal's next Sam Fisher adventure at E3, the game has been given the subtitle Chaos Theory, ostensibly to keep it in line with last years Pandora Tomorrow.

Fans of the series might be worried that the lack of the "3" indicates the gameplay hasn't evolved enough to warrant such a grandiose numbering, but we can asssure you that Chaos Theory is chockfilled with enhancements; but don't take our word for it. You'll be able to play Chaos in a couple of months. You read that correctly. UbiSoft has announced that Xbox owners will be playing this game before the end of 2004. Presumably the game will once again appear on the PS2 and Cube, but they'll have to wait until 2005. Commence booing and hissing.

At this years E3 we learned that the government has now allowed Sam to play with knives and he seems to be quite taken with the pointy and extremely sharp implement of destruction. Taking a page from Manhunt and Tenchu, Chaos Theory will feature a bevy of close up kill animations for those who like to get up close and personal. Each level now features alternate objectives if you wish to explore them and the enemy AI will now be more realistic - but you probably knew they were going to continue to fine tune this area. Eventually enemy AI will be so intelligent, one of them will just stick their arm out of the TV and turn off your Xbox, thus thwarting you entirely right at the source.

Other areas of enhancement involve tighter shooting reticules allowing for far better accuracy, the ability to switch the camera view over either the right or left shoulder (which will make taking blind corners a piece of cake), slower door opening ala Rainbow Six 3 or forceful door opening that will take out someone standing in front of it, noise stealth which involves regulating your movement to the amount of noise in an area (if it's loud, your footsteps and other less graceful movements will not be detected), an electrostatic secondary fire function on Sam's pistol which will allow you to open electronic doors, jam cameras and other devices, the ability to slice through thin walls and attack an enemy on the other side and finally a weapon selection mode taken from the multiplayer game which doesn't stop the action. A small weapon selection menu will appear on screen rather than a full screen "take your time" menu.

We know of an online multiplayer coop mode which sounds incredible, and we're sure the multiplayer game is getting its share ot tweaks and upgrades although little is known about that at this time.

Chaos Theory will be in stores in mid November. While you wait, check out the cool 3D screenshots (Quicktime required), the regular screens or the movies. Enjoy!

Features:

  • DEADLY AGILITY: Incredibly complete and fluid variety of moves including athletic moves, stealth moves, stealth kills.
  • REAL WEAPONS OF TOMORROW: The most complete arsenal of weapons and gadgets from the knife to the experimental Land Warrior System.
  • AS GOOD AS REAL: Never see before graphics technology offers the best visuals ever seen on any console yet. Advanced physics engine allowing rag doll physics, particle effects and perfect interaction with the environment.
  • ULTIMATE CHALLENGE: Intelligent A.I with personal attributes, natural behavior where NPCs are aware of there environment and remember past events.
  • AMAZING REPLAYABILITY: Totally open level design with multipaths and optional secondary objectives.
  • COOP STEALTH: Play multiplayer with a friends and coordinate your infiltration in an all new multiplayer challenge

 

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System: XBOX
Dev: Ubi Soft
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - Multi-Online
Review by Fenix
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
5.0
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
4.5