The first Splinter Cell caused somewhat of a revolution in the stealth genre. It actually felt like a spy movie, with some clever moves and a rather well written story – what was an exclusive to one console only soon became the benchmark on all systems for how stealth should be done. A sequel was obvious – the only problem was when it did arrive it never really did much different apart from adding a rather nice multi-player aspect. It felt more like an expansion pack to me.
Chaos Theory however moves the genre on – it adds a few new moves here and there and along with a real well written story again leapfrogs in front of the rest of the genre that was nipping at its soft-soled boots.
For the most part the game plays the same as it did in the first installment. Sam Fisher’s best friend is still darkness and the shadows. When in these you are as good as invisible, able to move from dark place to dark place without fear of being seen. It’s actually rather atmospheric and even fun to plot your way around a level. If darkness is not there, YOU create it by extinguishing lights.
The real star of the game is the graphics and lighting engine. Being able to shoot out lights to create new shadows is all well and good, but as anyone who has played the earlier versions would know the guards either (a) hear your shots or (b) see the damage you have caused. This is where the OCP, a device attached to your pistol comes in handy; it allows you for a short period of time to disable electronic devices. The obvious one is the lights, a few seconds cover is usually all you need and the guards put it down to a fault, it can also be used on computers and to some funny effect, a treadmill in one of the later levels.
All the new things in the game are really rather subtle, the inclusion of a knife allows you to tear through items such as tent walls and create new ways around levels – it also allows you to break locks on doors, this may be quick but its noisy and leaves evidence. Hacking is still present but like most of us Sam has moved into the wireless age and you can now hack computers from range so you never even have to get close to the guys operating them. Sam also still has access to his night vision and heat vision which at a touch of a button allows you to see MORE and plan out your strategy and angle of attack.
Another real plus point of the game is how well designed the levels are, they all feel “real” if that makes sense – it allows you to almost know the levels before you start, you can relate to many of the locations and as such feel more at one with the game.
The story is typical of Tom Clancy games and told well with between mission cut scenes which look lovely – it’s actually one of the first games I have played where the story would actually feel at home on the big screen or in novel form without actually thinking it came from a game.
So is it all good? Well pretty much so, from start to finish I never felt bored or overwhelmed, the difficulty level seemed spot on and every death that I suffered or error I made was obviously down to me rather than the game engine or a silly piece of code.
The multiplayer mode is back as well, and the co-op mode can be loads of fun – however I’m still not a huge fan of multi-player games and prefer the more solitary story led mode.
The game still has a few niggles – the AI which is actually rather good still has the odd few hiccups – sometimes guards don’t notice that the bloke they are talking to behind them has just been taken hostage or even question why they are not getting a response. To make matters worse this can be hit and miss and sometimes they notice you when you think they should not. The only other real problem is that the game is still rather structured in its mission parameters. You HAVE to complete the primary objectives, any missed secondary objectives will crop up in a later mission and you have the option also of bonus objectives to get your score up. The game though I feel would benefit by adapting to how you performed – allow for you to take out an opportune but non-objective target and then adapt and change. This would really add to the longevity and replayability as the game is not actually that long and can be completed easily within a day’s play.
That said though its still a wonderful game that looks and feels great, and would be ideal for any fan of the genre.