Splinter Cell Chaos Theory Review

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Graphics: 9.5
Sound : 9.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : 9.0
Overall : 9.2
Review by Alex D.
Sam is back and meaner than ever. Ubisoft Montreal has once again created a masterpiece with the third installment in the Splinter Cell series. The NSA’s top field agent has returned to help fight terrorism anew as cyber warfare takes up a completely new meaning and Sam must save the world from the brink of war. With the addition of co-op and the return of the Spy vs. Mercenaries multiplayer, Chaos Theory is just what the series needed to spice things up. Grittier action and approaches that are more open-ended are but a few of the new features present in the iteration alongside the thrilling story that all add-up to make the latest Splinter Cell title, the most enthralling game of the series.

Every aspect of Chaos Theory has been revamped and it really pays off, although the game’s inner mechanics have been slightly modified, veterans of the previous titles will feel right at home. The plot is truly worthy of the name of Tom Clancy, high-tech gadgets, conspiracies and terrorism are concepts that have been beaten to death by the Splinter Cell series, but always seem to remain fresh and captivating. Sam Fisher is called upon once more to serve his country in the light of events that have shaken the world and this time around, he’s packing some new moves, alongside an arsenal of even deadlier weaponry. The most distinct addition is the knife that Sam now carries with him, which allows for some seriously brutal takedowns and a shotgun attachment for the trusty SC-20K, which becomes available further into the game. The silenced pistol has also been redesigned with a secondary function, which disables electronical equipment such as cameras and the likes. Sam’s all-purpose assault rifle has also received a fresh, new appearance that looks and sounds deadlier than ever. Foes can now be dispatched in an extravagant amount of ways, ranging from silent yet deadly knife kills to all out shootouts. The choice of lethal approaches is one of the reasons the latest installment in the series is so astonishing.

The restricting and linear environments have been dealt with in a satisfying manor and are now greatly improved. Every map has multiple routes to arrive to your objectives and dispatch of terrorists. A perfect example of this open-endedness would be when Fisher is faced with a door, whether it is locked or not, players can choose from a range of different entry methods varying from stealthier approaches to full-out assault. Bashing open a door will knockout whoever is unlucky enough to be on the receiving side of the handle, but creates a considerable amount of noise, whereas entering stealthily will leave terrorists unaware of your presence. Approaches like these are what differentiate Chaos Theory from its predecessors. The single player campaign will span an average of 10 hours, but feels extremely short; much like its precursor, Pandora Tomorrow; especially considering how much better the latest title is compared to its foregoer. Each level begins with a terse, vocal briefing from Sam’s off-site team, with returning favorites such as Lambert and Grimsdottir, alongside a few new faces. Adjoining the conference is the choice of Sam’s gear in the form of three pre-defined layouts from the team’s recommendation, assault and stealth. While it is nice to have the illusion that the choice of gear will have an effect on the way you play, it doesn’t. The same basic layout is present throughout all three of the choices minus the addition of some impractical items.

The gameplay in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is much more forgiving than in the past titles, players will no longer find themselves restarting missions over again due to having tripped too many alarms or the likes. The new, softer approach to tactical errors tends to lead to careless actions and movements that more often than not, trigger encounters with enemies and turn Splinter Cell into a mixture of action and stealth instead of simply the latter. Employing the same technique as Pandora Tomorrow, when an alarm is sparked, guards are sent off to investigate with basic weaponry and no armor. With each triggered alarm, guards become more aware and equipped to deal with you, thankfully, after three alarms, the game does not end. Amateurs may find the lesser restrictive single player campaign a walk in the park; thankfully, Chaos Theory features three different difficulty levels for all kinds of gamers. Players can deal with threats from a multitude of methods, which is a nice open-ended touch and is made possible thanks to the bigger, more creative maps. Each environment is peppered with routes for both kinds of player: the stealthy and the aggressive. While both methods of play are acceptable, Splinter Cell is a stealth game at heart and your mission rating will reflect on the way you have played through the level. Triggering too many alarms, leaving bodies lying around to be discovered and general, non-spy like behavior drag the score down, even though it has no effect on the rest game.

Another one of the many improvements in the game is the enemy AI. Terrorists will no longer wander around into the dark alone or fire blindly into the shadows at the drop of a hat. In previous titles, when Sam would make a noise or shoot out lights, foes would explore the shadowy area alone and fundamentally blind. Thankfully, that issue has been resolved. Although some enemies still react in a suspiciously silly manner, most will now call for backup when it is available and venture much more cautiously into the dark. On occasion, enemies will even use flashlights and flares as they roam in search of intruders. When teaming up, attackers also converse with each other, making for some comical situations as they admit their fear and whimper around in total darkness searching for the cause of the noise or power outage.

Returning once again in Chaos Theory is the tried and trusted Spy vs. Mercenaries multiplayer mode. Originally introduced in Pandora Tomorrow, the new mode took players by surprise and proved an extremely fun approach to working as a team to complete objectives. The latest iteration innovates on the already winning formula of the previous title’s online aspect and totals up to make Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory one of the prime titles to play on Xbox Live. New modes of play include Disk Hunt, Deathmatch and Story alongside the classics from Pandora Tomorrow. Seasoned players will rapidly get accustomed to the layout and feel of the multiplayer, as little has changed since the last installment. Players will follow spies from the third perspective, while mercenaries can be controlled through the first-person. Splinter Cell is a 3rd person game at the core, and it shows when commanding a mercenary: controls seem a little sluggish like in the previous title, but the gripe is minimal and easily overlookable, as the overall online aspect is more thrilling than ever.

New to Chaos Theory, and certainly welcomed, is the addition of a co-op mode for split-screen, system-link and Xbox Live. Under implemented in the gaming world, the inclusion of co-operative play is just what the Splinter Cell series needed. Spanning a total of four missions and a training level, players can now interact together on a completely new level. The four missions tie in very loosely with the game’s single player campaign, but the story is not the highlight of the new mode. Working on a strategy with your teammate is key, and is incredible when it is successfully executed. Use of the Xbox Live headset should be obligatory for Chaos Theory, as players can use it to communicate with others and it is vital for success. Speaking too loud will also alert foes and send them over to investigate the source of the noise, leaving you to dispatch of them how you please.

Visually, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has no competition; it is without trouble, the best-looking game on any console up-to-date. Everything looks superb, and I mean everything! On more than one occasion, I found myself standing in the open, admiring the detail of the environment; certain areas could pass as photo-realistic, that is how breathtaking the graphics are. The models are all outstanding and animated in a very life-like fashion, Sam hasn’t looked or moved this good in ages as well, motion capturing must be the one to thank. Players will visit a wide variety of exotic locales throughout the course of the game, each one looking as good, if not better than the last and amplified by the game’s impressive lighting engine. The Splinter Cell series has always been known to boast amazing graphics and Chaos Theory really raises the bar high, and in doing so, establishes the latest installment as the best-looking game out there at the moment.

Sounds have always played an important part in the Splinter Cell series, and Chaos Theory has capitalized on this aspect. A gauge has added to Sam’s HUD, displaying the amount of noise produced by the environment and him. If players make a sound too loud to be masked by the ambient noises around them, enemies risk being alerted and may come investigate. The vocal work in the game is top-notch once again as well, Michael Ironside and Don Jordan return to reprise their respective roles as Sam and Lambert. Listening to Fisher exchange banter with his off-site team will surely bring a smile to the faces of many gamers as they stalk their foes in the shadows. All the sound effects in the game are excellent and sound exceptionally realistic. The game’s soundtrack features a mixture of ambient and tense, suspenseful tracks composed by Amon Tobin, which cue in and out at the perfect moments, depending on what is developing on-screen.

The Montreal team has shown to the world once again what they are capable of, and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the proof. Not only is it a game that will have you hooked from the moment you pick it up, but it is the best looking title available on any console. Featuring an amazing single player campaign and even better multiplayer, Chaos Theory is a game that should be tried by everyone, even if you weren’t a fan of the previous installments. Top-notch graphics, gameplay and sound blend perfectly to create what may be the best game of the year and then some.