Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is easily the most refined handheld version of this series, but it's not without its problems.

I'm a huge Splinter Cell fan but I'm not blind to its imperfections. Hey, I've loved some gals in my time but that didn't mean that I didn't notice their pimples, bunions or their odd, slightly enlarged, asset. Love may be blind but it's not retarded.

Trust me when I say this game looks amazing. Instead of the typical side-scrolling fare this adventure is in 3D. Unfortunately it suffers from slowdown. The engine is being overtaxed and the game really suffers because of it.

Sam Fisher is the lone, secret operative. Armed with weapons, gadgets and the training to use them effectively, he's a one-man army. Missions rely on shooting and stealth as well as puzzle solving and interrogation of enemies for information. The blend of all of these elements makes for a fascinating style of gameplay where you don't know what's coming next. It's not ball-to-the-wall shooting as is Max Payne. It's more subtle and realistic. The stealth is done well in the consoles but the slowdown and excessive darkness really conspire to grind you down.

During some stealth missions you will be forced to use your night vision goggles to see in the dark. The goggles severely slow the framerate down to the point where you won't want to use them. The darkness is just too much for a handheld system. There's no way to lighten it up.

I was interested to see how the touch controls would be assimilated into the game. Once I found out, I was anything but interested. It's way too complex and even after you get used to it you'll find it's actually inferior to the console controls. I like the idea of using the stylus for aiming as it proxies the accuracy of a PC mouse. What I don't like is that you have to switch weapons and gadgets quickly and the control system is not user-friendly in that regard since you have to access the menu for every little thing. If you have to pull out your gun quickly, forget it. This system works good in a stealth environment but if you trigger an alarm you could find yourself at a serious disadvantage.

The gameplay is too linear. Unlike the console version there is only one way to complete each mission. It's trial and error. Make a mistake and you can start back at the last checkpoint and expect the same scripted events in the same order. I suppose it's unfair to expect this handheld game to capture all the details of the console version but with such a great job of the graphics and the co-op mode the developers are almost there.

There are multi-player modes but the only one that's worth the price of admission is the co-op mode. You and another spec op will work together through the missions but new gameplay elements will be available to you that will force you to work as a team such as boosting your partner over a wall that you wouldn't be able to climb otherwise. The four player Deathmatch mode suffers from some bad slowdown making it virtually unplayable.

While there are no voiceovers the story is captivating if not a little wordy. There is some digitized music from the console version which swings from a moody stealth soundtrack to adrenaline pumping techno which lets you know that you've been discovered.

The console versions of the Splinter Cell series are virtually perfect. It's really hard to accept anything less regardless of what system it's on.

Preview by Gooseberry

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, scheduled for release this June, will make use of both screens and continues the idea that touching is good. Players can use the touch screen to switch between the three vision modes, move the camera, manage their inventory, and play through new mini games as well.

Ubisoft has included 8 missions with one that is completely original for the Nintendo DS. Sam Fisher returns to use stealth, force, and lots of weapons to accomplish each mission. All the gadgets and moves from the console versions will make an appearance on the DS version, as well as a new "Swat Turn" move.

There are also two different multiplayer modes available using the wireless DS link. Cooperative Mode allows two players to work together in one of five missions and will chose between Hacker and Assault and the different skills that each possess. Versus Mode allows two teams of 4 players to battle it out head-to-head, Shadownet Spies vs. ARGUS Mercenaries style. As always, spies attempt to hack computers while mercenaries patrol and protect. There are seven different maps available.

We can't wait to get our hands on this. DS owners have a lot to be excited about. Stay tuned for much more info.

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System: DS
Dev: Ubi Soft
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: June 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review By Dean