52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 37
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Release Date: March 28, 2005
Developer: Ubisoft Montréal
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I knew from the start of my challenge that I would be playing a Splinter Cell game at one point. I was hoping that it would be the new Splinter Cell Conviction, but a series of delays has set the release date of the game beyond the scope of this challenge. Taken Conviction's place is Splinter Cell Chaos Theory. The game was released in 2005 for the original Xbox console and helped establish Ubisoft Montréal as a world class game development studio.
The story of Chaos Theory follows the exploits of Sam Fisher, super spy extraordinaire, as he attempts stop escalating tensions between North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan. Now our friend Sam Fisher is not the sort of spy that seduces women, gambles while drinking martinis. This guy is the real deal using stealth, skill and intelligence to defeat his foes and save the world.
As with just about every Ubisoft Montréal game, what struck me most about Chaos Theory was the amazing visuals. This did indeed surprise me as the game is an old Xbox game and I did not expect the game to look so stunning. Maybe the game benefits from the Xbox 360's ability to upscale the graphics and to provide anti-aliasing, but there was no denying the fact that the game looked better than even some recent Xbox 360 titles.
It was not just the graphics that impressed, so did the controls. Even for an older Xbox title, Sam has a full range or moves available to him. As with previous titles, he can sneak, fight and shoot. He can climb up most surfaces, and now has the ability to pull enemies over the railing, disable guards while upside down and one strike knockdown indifferent if detected or not. All in all, Sam is very efficient at his job.
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Splinter Cell Chaos Theory expands on the silent assassin concept by introducing a much more refined stealth mechanism in Chaos Theory. In past Splinter Cell games, the player had to ensure that Sam could not be seen by his enemies. This was done by monitoring an in-game light meter. If Sam remained in the shadows, he was invisible to his environment. In Chaos Theory, the player must now also monitor the sound that Sam makes as he moves around the game world. Making more noise than the already present ambient noise will alert the guards to Sam’s presence, even if they cannot see where he is located, they will know he is there somewhere and may even open fire upon the location where the sound came from.
As I indicated previously, the game places great emphasis on stealth. That is not to say that players must play the game in that manner. Sam is more than capable to gun his way through the game, but let just say the game will fight back and it will fight back hard. The artificial intelligence in the game is very adequate to take Sam out quickly and efficiently. In fact the game features some very impressive artificial intelligence for an Xbox original game. Enemies will attempt to sneak up on Sam, make effective use of cover and attempt to lure him into an ambush. Enemies will also react to environmental changes. For instance when Sam turns off a light, nearby guards will come to investigate, with weapons drawn, same if they hear a loud sound. This reaction can be quite useful to use the “divide and conquer” strategy when dealing with multiple enemies at once.
Yes it is all very possible that Sam can shoot his way in most missions, but it is way more efficient and fun to use stealth to sneak around guards, removing only the ones that get in Sam’s way and eliminating only his main targets. Sam is no butcher after all. Once a guard has been quieted (be it temporarily or permanently), his body will need to be stashed to ensure that no one accidentally stumbles upon it and raises the alarm. Placing the body in a low light area is often enough to ensure that Sam’s presence and actions remain undetected. Not that sounding an alarm will end the mission. Missions will now only end if Sam fails the main objective(s). Performing certain actions, or triggering alarms may cancel sub missions, but will not result in an automatic failure as it did in previous Splinter Cell games. Still there is good motivation to complete missions and sub-missions without getting spotted as the better his performance, the better the score. OK, there is no real incentive as the score has no effect on the game as with the lack of any achievements renders the effort to pull off the perfect mission a bit moot.
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Sam Fisher is a real international man of mystery and as such is well versed in just about every weapon and gadgets designed in the past fifty years. Once of his newest and most useful gadgets/weapons is his combat knife. This handy little tool can be used to cut thin materials such as tents, to intimidate enemies during interrogation and or course as a weapon to deal with unruly characters. Sam may not be a butcher, but sometimes a spy gotta do what a spy gotta do after all. At the start of every mission, Sam will first need to choose the correct “tools” he will require to get the job done. The choice of which kit to choose will depend on the style of game played; the stealth kit is for those that prefer to sneak around, the assault kit for those that prefer to shoot first and then shoot some more and finally there is Redding’s Recommendations which is a perfect blend of both. Some mission require Sam not to kill anyone, in these scenarios the option to choose the assault kit is removed. Good spies rely on fancy gadgets. While Sam may not have any lethal dental floss, he does have some cool guns. Even a pacifist Sam Fisher will need to fire his weapon at times, but this will be most often at electronic devices. His regular pistol is now equipped with a nifty Optically Channeled Potentiator (OCP). What an OCP does is causes electronics to malfunctions (I know a few people that must be OCPs). Some devices such as lights will be permanently disabled, while the effects on other devices will be temporary. The pistol is not the only weapon to benefit from some much needed love. The SC-20K assault rifle (Sam’s personal favourite) has been outfitted with new attachments to reduce recoil, increase accuracy and a zoom to allow sniper mode. The weapon now also allow for non-lethal options such as sticky cameras, shockers, and gas grenades as well. Shooting the shocker in a pool of water is the perfect way to incapacitate multiple enemies in one sweet electrifying moment.
Completing all of Sam’s missions does not indicate that the game is over. Chaos Theory features some great co-operative game play where two gamers, taking on the roles of rookie NSA agents, can play through seven unique missions with ties to Sam’s own missions (but not the same missions). This is rare feature on Xbox 360 games, and is absolutely mind blowing for an Xbox original game. There is also an updated version of Spies Vs. Mercenaries multilayer game, but there was no one available to try this game mode with.
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a perfect example of a game that does everything right. It is a title that manages to stand up even to today's newest titles.