Review by Gruel
"I am a splinter stuck on your back! Ewwww"
The third installment in the popular Splinter Cell franchise is now on GameCube with the release of Chaos Theory. This is still a dang good stealth based game in its own right, especially considering it doesn't have that much competition on the GCN other than the remake of the original Metal Gear Solid. However, just like the previous GCN versions of Splinter Cell Ubi had to tone down the graphics and take away some key features that made the Xbox and PC versions superb.
Even with the stripping down of the game (more on that in a bit), you still have another mesmerizing installment in the Splinter Cell storyline, as good ole Sam Fisher is back again. Yes he still has his patented horrible puns he loves to drop, looks like this won't be the only Fish in the pond they'll be seeing today. Sweet sassy-molassy, somebody award Mr. Fisher with a Commie (the much sough-after Comedy Central award) right now! Back on track, Fisher travels to mostly North Korea and Japan for these missions as the US fear that Japan is breaking its post-WWII agreement and building up its armed forces to launch a military attack. The opening cut-scenes in the game are well produced, and really get you into the story. Unfortunately the pre-mission briefings are almost too much like Metal Gear Solid and drag on for way too long. Thankfully they can be by-passed.
No matter how many new techniques Sam can perform in each new addition to the series, Ubi still finds a way to map it to the limiting GCN controller. Even though the developers aimed to make this game more accessible to novices to the genre such as myself, this is by no means a pick-up-and-play game. I remember being overwhelmed at the initial Splinter Cell's controls, and while this still is somewhat easier to comprehend, I still found myself referencing the manual in my first couple hours of play to perform some of the lesser-used actions in the game. The single player tutorials weren't that much of a help to me, but I eventually got the hang of things, admittedly a little sooner than I expected.
The big new addition to Fisher's arsenal of moves in Chaos Theory is his deadly knife attacks. Sam can now sneak up behind and hold his blade to his villain's throat and threaten their lives for some much needed info, or he can just simply stab them to death to. The gameplay is still heavily focused on stealth, though it doesn't focus you to heavily rely on it in the earlier missions as the first two games did. For example, the first complex you infiltrate doesn't even have an alarm system, and isn't cluttered with as many bad guys as anticipated, making things a lot easier to learn when getting started. As the missions progress, they transition to the more emphasized focus on stealth that the series is noted for, but by the time I was at the level, I was no longer the dumb noob to the genre I once was.
For you Fisher veterans that cry foul at the initial easy gameplay, never fear as there are three difficulties to set the AI at that will give you that challenge you are looking for. I myself applaud Ubi for making the series a little easier to get into; it made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, and helped prepare me for the tougher missions that were in store for me. Some of my gripes I had with the missions is that there are several lengthy loading times in each missions to access the new part of the level that aren't present in the Xbox or PC versions of the game. And even though this is a bit more accessible, I still had moments where I felt the game was too stealthy, though I guess that is to be expected out of this franchise.
I'm sure you all heard by know how almost each version of Chaos Theory has its own little exclusive weather it be in the form of online play, a multiplayer map, certain weapons etc. The GCN version pretty much gets the shaft again, but Ubi has thrown in the nearly forgotten about GBA-connectivity support that allows the GBA to have access to the level map at all times. Though it looks much stripped down from the version that can be accessed from the pause menu, but at least Nintendo fans can rest assured they got some sort of exclusive feature, even if it wasn't all that great.
For multiplayer all that is available is the short, but awesome four mission co-operative mode. There are a variety of special moves you can do only in co-op, like climbing up your partner's shoulders onto a wall, or tossing them up and over a wall. They were a little tricky to learn initially, but once you master them and complete the missions, I felt an amazing sense achievement. It is too bad the co-op is just too damn short.
Unfortunately the four player split-screen versus multiplayer support the other versions had didn't make their way into the GCN version. I still don't see why they couldn't fit the multiplayer in as Chaos Theory is a two disc game. Also not making its way in this version is the obvious lack of online play. I cannot blame Ubi for that one, due to Nintendo's widely known lack of emphasis for online games.
I am glad that I tried out the GCN version of Chaos Theory first. At its own, it is still a pretty aesthetically pleasing game. Supposedly the developer redid the engine from scratch, but this still looks plenty identical to the earlier installments to me. Most of the focus is on Sam Fisher obviously, he has damn near every gadget and gizmo that is easily noticeable on him. I like the fog and shadow affects too. While the rival soldiers and scenery still looked fairly good, I felt they could have been better. The camera also got a little choppy when trying to fixate it around Fisher when I was attempting to navigate him around narrow hallways and corridors. Then I tried out the Xbox version and was blown away, it put the GCN version to shame with its far superior animation, character models and stage design. Don't get me wrong, the GCN version is still good, but nothing compared to what the Xbox and PC was capable of.
Thankfully I didn't notice any hit in the audio in the GCN version. The soundtrack has plenty of high notes and kicks in at the most tense moments of gameplay to add that extra factor of suspense to gameplay. Michael Ironside doesn another tremendous job voice acting Sam Fisher, as he delivers his odd one-liners with such a unique tone that it sounds sometimes like you're watching a movie. The rest of the cast does a commendable job voice acting too, even the common soldiers you off have some witty discussions with their peers while Sam sneaks up on them. The only thing that perplexes me about the sound in Chaos Theory is why the hell is there no background music for the menus in the game?
If your have an Xbox or a damn good PC, than you would be far better off picking up this game on those platforms instead. They have much more to offer, and you have the best gameplay experience in both versions too. If not, the GCN port of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory still holds its own as a solid game, it has a gripping single player mode that is about 12-15 hours long and an addicting co-operative mode. If you dug the past GCN versions, then by all means pick up this latest iteration.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/25/05
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