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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Score: 78%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Entertainment
Media: GCD/2
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Shooter/ Stealth

Graphics & Sound:

While most of the Tom Clancy-inspired series of games focus on head-to-head firefights between heavily armed forces, the Splinter Cell series has always been a departure from that and focuses more on stealth and subterfuge. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the long awaited third installment in the series and delivers the most engaging experience yet. That said, a complicated control scheme and unintuitive problems mire the game and serve to frustrate players while failing to deliver an engrossing back-story.

Attractive visuals are about the biggest strength Chaos Theory has. The game successfully delivers an immersion in a high-tech world of sabotage and military infiltration through its dynamic environments. As usual, Sam Fisher’s trademark three-eyed goggles play a constant role in your activities as you switch between specialized views such as thermal and night-vision.

The only sound effects really worth mentioning are the generic, though I’m sure true to life, weapon and military battle sound effects found in the game, the impressive level of detail to where sound effects were placed, as well as the (generally) superb voice acting. Michael Ironside reprises his role as Sam Fisher, and again delivers one of the more memorable performances seen in a game.


The concept of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the same as the rest of the Splinter Cell series. You are to achieve your objectives with secrecy by avoiding detection and straight confrontation. If you try to get into a firefight with a room full of soldiers, you’ll be dead faster than a soldier in a clown outfit on D-day. To this end, you must stay in poorly lit areas, utilize special modes of vision to see, and implement a creative arsenal of weapons and gadgets.

If I had one complaint, it’s that the game environments are, on the whole, far too dark. While it might make sense for Sam Fisher to hide in the shadows, forcing you to navigate through ridiculously dark environments, it comes across more as a design crutch than anything else, and frankly becomes boring and tiresome as a game mechanic.

As usual, the back-story placed into Chaos Theory is sub-par. After a 5-10 minute cut-scene involving your characters, describing a hostile computer program that could be used to do some nasty stuff, you’re briefed for your first mission that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s been going on... at all. While things eventually swing back toward the major story, this sort of helter-skelter storytelling, which doesn’t use its own levels to push the plotline forward half the time, manages to keep the story of the game fairly mediocre and unnecessary. I don’t think we need people talking to Sam about philosophy in 20 minute intervals, a la Metal Gear Solid 2. But Tom Clancy is a writer, and putting his name on a game should suggest a certain caliber of narrative. Most fans won’t give a hill of beans about the story anyway, so it’s not that big of an issue.


The biggest problem I ran into was the game’s steep difficulty curve. Even during the first level, the game is absolutely unforgiving; make one mistake and you’re in for a world of hurt. With such an open-ended game with all sorts of choices to make at any one time, you need to allow for a novice to experiment a bit to find his groove. But in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, a newcomer to the series may find hours of frustration in the first level alone as they die over and over again trying to find their groove. After being sent back to the beginning of the level for the 12th time, you may find yourself wondering why exactly you’re subjecting yourself to this horrible punishment.

Game Mechanics:

The controls are pretty unintuitive, and you could spend quite a few hours getting used to the control scheme. For those that get the hang of it, however, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is quite a ride. Nothing quite compares to the thrill of taking out a room of guards without them having a clue as to what’s going on.

For those with a friend, Chaos Theory offers a co-op mode that tests the strongest of friendships. There is very little to like about this particular game option. It’s impossible to see clearly in the various goggle modes with half a TV screen, and the mechanics for performing the team-up moves are just flat out horrible. I suggest staying far away unless you and your friend have a lot of patience.

Stealth games are a unique breed and fans of the genre are hard-pressed to find a fix. Aside from the Metal Gear Solid series, Splinter Cell is just about the only other choice. If you’re a fan of the first two Splinter Cell games, a Metal Gear fan who doesn’t need a story, or can work past the initial difficulties, there’s a lot to like about Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.

-Alucard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Stephen Triche

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