Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Review

posted 7/8/2005 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: PC
Yeah, I said it. All you Metal Gear fans are probably frothing at the mouth right now, but honestly, it’s time for a change. I’ve sampled both series now, and Chaos Theory wins by a wide margin. Metal Gear Solid and its sequels are convoluted tales of genetic conspiracy, riddled with far-fetched coincidences and bafflingly bizarre plots. Sam Fisher’s world is dark, gritty, down to earth and it could literally become tomorrow. Allow me to elaborate on my judgment.

First off, let me say that the PC version of Chaos Theory is the best. If you have a high end PC, don’t even consider getting one of the console ports, even the Xbox one. With the proper hardware and processing muscle, you’ll find that the PC experience is markedly superior.

When examined superficially, the third installment in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell franchise is the perfect spy thriller. It’s glitzy, edgy and all kinds of hard ass. Fisher doesn’t just beat out Snake, he whips Bond, Ethan Hunt, Joanna Dark and almost every other so-called spy in one swift stroke. There’s a very simple reason for this: Chaos Theory is the only spy game that makes you feel like a REAL spy. You aren’t blowing up trucks or leaping from cliffs, squaring off against three story walking tanks or hooking up with aliens. You’re spying. The way it should be.

This is where the gameplay sets itself apart from the rest of the genre, and from the other two Splinter Cell games as well. The formula is so refined and tight, you’ll never want to go back to hiding in cardboard boxes or seducing ditsy foreign babes. Chaos Theory is all about realism, and Sam’s arsenal of tech reflects this perfectly.

He doesn’t have five different types of goggles, he has one pair that has multiple vision modes. They can see in the dark, highlight thermal images, and even hack computers via a WiFi uplink. Sam can access a terminal from across the room, while an enemy is using the same computer. Very slick. His hacking tools actually require the player to interact with a computer’s database and search out the right input codes. Most of this gadgetry is imbedded in Sam’s stealth suit; he travels light, with just enough ammo and supplies to see him through a mission. He doesn’t have the bottomless pockets and utility belt so common in action games.

Sam carries only two guns, a pistol and a rifle, but each one is as versatile as Fisher himself. Both have numerous upgrades and attachments; the pistol fires a scrambling laser to temporarily black out lights, and the rifle has a shotgun, a sniper and a rapid-fire barrel. The weaponry also plays into the game’s new “freedom” mentality; be as nice or as mean as you want. You have an equal balance of lethal and non-lethal tools and techniques to dispatch the enemy, and most of the time the choice is up to you. Granted, some missions require that you not kill anyone, but the flexibility is there through a lot of the game and it’s quite refreshing.

To be honest, I hardly ever fired a shot. Maybe I’m just a nice guy, but I rarely took a life, unless it was necessary or the guy really pissed me off. I prefer the sneak-up-and-interrogate approach, but more bloodthirsty gamers will have the option to snap some necks or perforate a torso or two. Or five. As I said, it’s up to you. This is again where the realism comes in. Real life spies pull the trigger only when absolutely necessary, because the idea of spying is NOT TO GET CAUGHT. Snake may be able to camp out in a locker while the alarm blares and idiot guards scratch their heads, but Chaos Theory is populated with intelligent baddies who are not so oblivious. They really will hunt you down, and they can see and hear a lot farther than five feet in front of their faces. It’s always better to avoid detection.
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