Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory Review

Sam Fischer is back in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the third game in the series. UbiSoft Montreal, the original creators, are back behind the wheel again after UbiSoft Shanghai took the reigns for Pandora Tomorrow.

This time around Sam has a different kind of enemy he’s going against: the cyberterrorist. Chaos Theory is far more technologically savvy than previous Splinter Cell games. Sam even has the ability to hack through doors (ala System Shock) and hack into computers. Sam also has a few more tricks up his sleeve than in previous Splinter Cells. He now runs up the wall to do his leg split move and to grab onto pipes and ziplines. He also now has a knife at his disposal for killing and interrogation.

Is Chaos Theory better than the last two Splinter Cell games? Let’s find out.

This is a tough section to score because I’ve had the luxury of playing this version (PS2) as well as the Xbox and PC versions. If taken strictly from a PS2 point of view where you don’t know about the Xbox and PC versions, the graphics are pretty good in this game. The biggest fault that can be attributed to it is that the darkness is set to 11 on the Spinal Tap scale. Yes, there is an option to brighten your TV, but when I went into that option I already saw that I was at the optimal brightness setting for the game. This is all fine and dandy, but I had to spend most of the first mission using my night vision goggles to see anything.

In contrast the Xbox and PC versions are much brighter (with the Xbox I am using the same TV) and I don’t have to use the goggles to get through the first level because everything is beautifully lit up where it should be. Having played other versions of this game, it isn’t quite fair to the PS 2 version. The graphics in the PS2 version are really good, but once again if you compare this version to the Xbox or PC version you see that the walls are moved in closer to Sam and the levels are a bit more confining than they are in the Xbox and PC versions. Once again, if you only have a PS2 you probably won’t notice the differences unless you know of someone that has the visually superior versions.

I am a tad bit surprised that UbiSoft Montreal couldn’t push the PS2 to the levels that, say, Hideo Kojima does with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. When you put Chaos Theory up against a game on the same system, it really fails in the graphics department. Add to this that I’ve played other versions of this game that far outdo MGS3‘s graphics and I have a hard time understanding why the graphics in this game weren’t bumped up at least a bit.

The Splinter Cell series has always excelled in this section and Chaos Theory is no different. They’ve brought back the usual voices with Michael Ironside lending his gravely voice to Sam once again. With a story that is better told than in Pandora Tomorrow, but still not award worthy, Ironside does a fantastic job with Sam. The rest of the voices are well done as well. The rest of the sounds in Dolby Pro Logic II are also exceptional. The guns and environmental sounds come together to bring you an aural feast.

The music in the game is also well done and was actually done by electronica artist Amon Tobin and is available as a separate soundtrack. Adding a big name to the score makes the music much better than the last two Splinter Cell games.

Once again though, if I had to do a head-to-head on this game with other versions, the Xbox game has a vastly superior sound field.

I hate to continue in my contrasts, but the control felt a bit loose on the PS2 Chaos Theory versus the other two versions I played. Sam just doesn’t seem as responsive on the PS2 game as he does on the others. This isn’t to say the controls are bad for the PS2 version, I’ve just found things aren’t as tight as they could be.

Sam does have some new moves though. He now has a knife that can take people out quickly. He also has a knee jam into the back that will incapacitate its victim. He also now has a move that jams the hand into the nose and kills the enemy. Along with this he can climb on pipes, drop upside down and do a neck breaking twist while upside down. It is also important to note that Sam can no longer lean against a wall and fire from that position, but he is able to lean left and right and shoot at people.

Overall the controls are good, but unfortunately since I’ve played other versions they just aren’t as good as those.

This time around Sam is sent to take on some cyberterrorists instead of the usual radical physical terrorists. Sam will visit a bunch of destinations as usual and take out the bad guys. With Chaos Theory, things have changed a bit though.

Gone is the trial-and-error gameplay of the first two games. This time around the developers have let you have 3 different ways out of a situation. Even when you are loading up at the beginning of a mission you can choose to take a stealth route, an assault route or a balanced route when picking your weapons. Also gone is the annoying level 3 alarm that means you are instantly dead. In this game, even at a level 3 alarm you still have the chance to get out of the situation, but you have to think fast. The enemies are a bit smarter this time around although they don’t much care whether a dead body is in broad daylight like they used to. Maybe that kind of thing just happens everyday and they’ve become desensitized to it.

My favorite thing about Chaos Theory is that I can finally be the kill everyone person I wanted to be in the other two games. I can literally go in with my SC-20 and blow everyone away if I want to. Watch out though because they’ve added a sound indicator onto your HUD. It shows how loud you are and this creates an all new level of stealth if you choose to take that route.

The game takes about 10-15 hours to go through the solo campaign and veterans of the Splinter Cell games will probably find this game to be a bit easier than either the original or Pandora Tomorrow. Once you’re through the solo campaign you can check out the online portion of the game.

The PS2 version also has online multiplayer, but not nearly to the level the Xbox or PC version have. You can play co-op, but only split-screen (unlike Xbox where you can take it to Live) and there are only 3 types of online spy vs. mercs games this time around. The Xbox and PC version also have versus modes which the PS2 version does not have. For the short time I played online with the PS2, I found it to be a good time, but obviously if you’re seriously into this kind of stuff you’d probably be better picking up the Xbox or PC versions if you own one or the other.

I’m a big fan of the Splinter Cell series, but I’m not one to pick up the PS2 version of them. If you own just a PS2, I think Chaos Theory will do a good job with filling in the need for the next Splinter Cell game. You should find enjoyment in the game as long as you haven’t seen the Xbox or PC versions of it. The multiplayer should keep you involved for a while as well.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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