Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - Review
|1/4/2005||Ubisoft||Ubisoft Montreal||1-2, 4||MA15+||Medium|
2005 has already seen the release of one of the greatest stealth games of all time in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and just months later Sam Fisher is back and he is determined not to let Snake sneak away with the stealth crown just yet. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is back a mere nine months after Sam’s last mission in Pandora Tomorrow, no wonder poor old Sam is showing the grey hair. The last few years has seen Ubisoft develop into one of the premier game makers in the world, continually releasing high quality and enjoyable games. Luckily for us gamers there red hot form has continued with Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, without doubt one of the best stealth games ever made and a game that pushes the Playstation 2 to its limits.
|Taking out the guard.|
The game is set in 2007 and focuses on the strained relationship between the United States, North Korea and Japan. Since the last game, Masse has developed a computer code breaker known as the Masse Kernels, which he plans to use to gather information to start a war between the world’s major powers and generally cause utter chaos, hence the games title Chaos Theory. This plan is well on the way to working, so it is up to Sam Fisher and Third Echelon to find out who stole the Masse Kernels and stop them before they cause world war III. This is pretty much business as usual for Sam though.
The story is pushed forward by some fantastic cut scenes that are as good as you will see on the Playstation 2. Also before each mission you will be told your mission objectives and given some advice by the gang at Third Echelon. While this is pretty good, the story is nowhere near as good as that in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but it does its job in pushing the game forward.
The story does not really matter all that much as the highlight of this game is all in the gameplay. During the games 10 large levels players will find one of the most enjoyable games on the Playstation 2. Like the previous two titles Sam Fisher does his best to avoid bloody confrontations and shoot outs, our boy Sam much prefers to hide in shadows and pick his opponents of one by one, cleanly and silently. The game is again played from a Third Person perspective and plays very well at that.
|Some gorgeous lighting.|
Once again Sam comes equipped with a host of cool gadgets, everything from his previous adventures is again present, Optic Cables, Airfoil Rounds, Sticky Shockers and his ever reliable night and heat vision goggles are all there. This time out however Sam has picked up a few new gadgets, Sam now has a shotgun attachment for his SC-20K which gives the gun a bit more oomph, a new vision option called EMF which allows Sam to see cameras and last but not least a knife. The knife is easily the coolest new addition to Sam’s arsenal; he can use it to hack through doors and a very cool move where he can cut through fabric such as tents to sneak up on enemies. Once he has snuck up successfully he can then interrogate them with his knife to gather valuable information, once gathered Sam can then dispose of them how he sees fit by knocking them out, or taking them out for good unless of course you are on a “don’t kill anyone mission” in which case the knockout will have to do. There are a few other cool ways you can dispose of your enemies as well, if they are near a ledge just grab them and toss them off, if you are in the water you can grab a guard and drown him. These situations are quite rare and that is what makes them so much fun.
Without doubt Chaos Theory is one of the most tense, exciting and enjoyable games around. It is a different type of action game than most are used to though; hiding in a shadow waiting for your chance to strike is an acquired taste that may leave those with an itchy trigger finger a little disappointed. For stealth fans though this is as good as it gets.
This game turns in one of the great performances in multiplayer in all of gaming. You can play the game in co op mode which is really cool. Instead of just playing through the normal game, you and a friend play through four maps (divided up into 18 sections) designed especially for co op. In this mode you must use team work to have any chance of success at all. One might have to cause a bit of a distraction to allow the other player a clear path. Even better is the moves that you have to use, like using each others bodies to climb up to areas that otherwise can’t be reached.This game also supports the Network Adaptor with support for 4 players. This mode was very popular in Pandora Tomorrow, and will again gather a solid following. Players can play as Spies or Mercenaries, the one problem is that many of the maps are the same as those from Pandora Tomorrow, so those that have played that version may get bored quickly and new players may get slaughtered by experienced players. All in all though this game has fantastic multiplayer appeal.
|That's one down.|
It has been all good so far but there are some faults that do bring the game down a few notches. The first is the enemy AI, sure they are ruthless if they spot you and will gun you down in mere seconds, but it is rare to get spotted once you know your way around an area. The guards all follow predictable patters which make them quite easy to sneak up on. Also the previous games alarm system has been removed, meaning it does not really affect your missions that much, you simply kill all the guards in the area and move on. This will affect the new mission stats that appear after each mission, but gaining a perfect 100% rating does not seem to unlock anything anyway so even that does not really matter. The main problem is that the mission objectives have not really changed that much from the previous two games, you still have to tap cameras, Listen to conversations and plant various devices around the levels. While all the missions are still fun some more variety is now much needed. Compared to the improvements made in Metal Gear Solid 3 over Metal Gear Solid 2, Chaos Theory has not made the same leap unfortunately. Also the game has lengthy load times; these occur when you start the game and when you enter a new area.
There are no complaints in the visuals though they are fantastic easily as good as anything you have seen on the PS2 yet. The animation on Sam and the rest of the characters is fantastic. Sam is much more life like in the way he moves now. There are so many cool little touches that really add up to create a visual delight. Small touches like Sam pressing his knife against his leg so it does not make a sound when sneaking are superbly done. The environments all look great as well; once again the highlight is the superb use of shadows. After playing this game I am quite excited by how much life the Playstation 2 still has in it.
The sound is just about as good as the visuals. The sounds are crafted by DJ Amon Tobin and his futuristic sounds compliment the game very nicely. It is a shame though that the music only kicks in once a guard is nearby; I felt that this ruined the experience somewhat. The audio highlight for me however has to be the voice acting; all of it is handled with the highest possible quality. Michael Ironside (Stormship Troopers) again provides the voice for Sam Fisher and again does a great job of it. The banter between Sam and his off screen mates and captured enemies is fantastic and usually pretty funny as well. The voice acting in this game leaves most games for dead and it really adds to the cinematic atmosphere of the game.
|Time to be quiet...|
Comparisons between Chaos Theory and Snake Eater are always going to happen, which I feel is rather unfortunate. Both games are so vastly different that a comparison is unfair; Snake Eater is an action game with a twisted story line and colorful characters, while Chaos Theory is a more realistic tale with more realistic gameplay. In my opinion they are both great and different enough to both warrant a purchase, if not at least a rental. Previous fans of Splinter Cell will again love this title, new players may be a little put off by it, but with a little patience you will discover a great game. My main concern with the Splinter Cell series is where it can go to next, this second sequel is only a slight upgrade over the last game and it definitely needs a shot in the arm for the next outing. For the time being though it is another gaming gem in a year where there has already been many. Few games have pushed the Playstation 2 this hard, highly recommended.
Review By: Graham Darko
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|GRAPHICS||Fantastic animations, environments and shadow effects combine for one of the best looking games on the Playstation 2.||91%|
|SOUND||Superb voice acting and decent music really add to the games cinematic feel.||89%|
|GAMEPLAY||As good as stealth games get.||90%|
|VALUE||10 Large levels should give players 12 to 15 hours play. Online and Co op provides the real staying power.||89%|
|OVERALL||Maybe not quite the evolution I thought it would be, but still a superb game that really gives the PS2 a serious work out.||89%|