Review by T Prime
"Inferiority is in the eye of the beholder"
The politics of gaming is something that many of us in the online community have to deal with on a daily basis. There are those who will always favour one system, or one company, or one game above all others, and this becomes all too apparent in some people when reading something they've written. Of course, it's possible to justify, such as when two or three systems get the same game and comparisons will be made, usually placing one version above the others for reasons only the hardcore or insane really care above. For the rest of us, any version of a game will do, as long as it is intact and it is still fun. The Nintendo GameCube version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is just such a game.
The first Splinter Cell was more or less intact from Xbox to Cube, with only a few parts changed, such as a room being omitted or a path being changed. This had no real impact on how great I found the game to be. Pandora Tomorrow was altered significantly, with the online multiplayer being taken out, the graphics not as great as they should be and some lagging here or there. However, all in all, even with different controls, it played the same way, and was also very enjoyable. Chaos Theory was really developed with the Xbox and PC in mind, so there will be differences in appearance. However, you'd really have to love being able to look at a slightly better background for all of twenty seconds to really favour one of the Microsoft versions, not to mention that the GC version is on two discs, which allows for more room for such things as the cutscenes, which don't suffer at all.
The gameplay is essentially the same as before, which is nothing bad. Your objective as Sam Fisher is to sneak into enemy territory and accomplish your mission without being seen if the mission calls for it. One thing you'll notice right away is that, while looking good, the graphics aren't as great as they should be on the GameCube. After experiencing such games as Metroid Prime, The Wind Waker, Resident Evil and most recently Resident Evil 4, I've come to know the limits of what the Cube can pump out, and this is not it. Some levels can be so dark night vision almost becomes necessary. Brightness adjustment on your television set can offset this, and all in all it's not so bad. The controls have been mapped to the Cube controller in a way that seems awkward, but work extremely well after adjusting to them. I actually feel as if I'm playing an older game while I play Chaos Theory, because to do many things, you must hold down the Z-button and press another button with it, and doing this reminds me of doing numerous combos in older 16-bit games. Sometimes it can be annoying, however. For example, changing guns is Z + C-Left, and whistling to attract guards is Z + C-Up. I can assure you, you will mix these up more than once, much to your chagrin.
Chaos Theory feels very complete in comparison to the first two. In Splinter Cell, the characters were introduced, and Sam accomplished Third Echelon's maiden mission without fail. Pandora Tomorrow felt too similar, much like an expansion pack rather than an all-new game. It still had its moments, though, including new voice actors for Lambert and Grimsdottir, plus the CIA man D.P. Brunton. In Chaos Theory, Lambert's original VA is back, and Brunton has been replaced by the much less-annoying William Redding. Before every mission, Lambert, Grimsdottir, Redding, and whoever else involved in that mission will brief you on what's going down. You even get to choose your arsenal based on your preferred approach: "Stealth" if you plan to sneak around more, "Assault" if you intend to get your hands dirty. There is also "Redding's Recommendation," which is essentially a combination of the two with a couple of unnecessary items omitted.
Level design is also much more complete. Whereas the first one was mainly indoors, and the second one was largely outdoors, Chaos Theory blends the two very well. For example, the first mission is on an island with a lighthouse. You start the level on a beach, and then creep your way through underground tunnels before reaching the guerrilla hideout, which is a series of large and small buildings. You'll never stay in or out too long, even the mission is mainly in one of the two, such as when you must rob a bank. You begin that stage in the bank's courtyard, sneak around the building and then eventually sneak inside, only to be able to return outside later on.
There are the numerous new moves that Sam has that makes Chaos Theory feel much more fluid than either of the first two. Now equipped with a dagger, Sam can slice an enemy's throat open as he passes by, and can also stab them in the back if holding onto them, both by using the R-button. The L-button makes Sam us non-lethal force, such as punching a guy or choking him into unconsciousness. There is also the move Sam can pull off while hanging from a ledge. If an enemy sentry walks by, you can press the A-button to have Sam reach up, grab the enemy and pull him off the cliff, or building, whatever the case may be.
Something that drives me insane is the lengthy load times the Cube version of CT has. Here's the sequence of events when putting this game on: Cube load screen, Ubisoft logo, Dolby logo, CT title screen for 30 seconds, choose language, load profile (15 seconds), load mission (20 seconds), load progress (20 seconds), load level (30 seconds), load exact location (15 seconds). And then, during a mission, you'll have to load certain areas one after the other. (For example, when you play the bank level, you start in the courtyard, then once inside, you must load three different wings, which each can take half a minute to load.) While I do love the fact that I can save absolutely anywhere, as opposed to annoyingly-placed checkpoints, the loading this game requires makes me second-guess that compromise. Whether these load times are present in any other version is unknown to me.
Something interesting about CT is also how the missions aren't totally isolated from each other. There are "primary" and "secondary" objectives. The primary ones must be accomplished before extraction is possible, but the secondary ones aren't entirely vital. If you fail to accomplish a secondary objective, you will have to accomplish it in a future mission. There are also "opportunity objectives," which are the ones you can choose to do should you get the chance. However, only primary objectives are listed in your OPSAT.
The GameCube version has two exclusive features: Sam's water-grab move, and GBA connectivity (of course). The water-grab is like the ledge-grab, except Sam can wait in deep enough water and then grab and drown an enemy, rather than throwing him to his death. However, the GBA connection is disappointing this time around. In the first two, connecting your GBA would give you a radar of the surrounding area and locations of yourself, enemies and non-enemies, sort of like Metal Gear Solid. However, in Chaos Theory, there is a map provided in-game, and it even provides you with red squares to tell you which rooms your objectives are in. The GBA merely shows you this map on its own screen, instead of the handy radar from previous installments. However, there is one good thing in that you can view all of your objectives on the GBA, not just your primary ones.
One new feature I absolutely love is the OCP, a special attachment on your pistol that allows you to disrupt almost anything with an electric current, such as certain lights, certain cameras, and other things like computer monitors and electric windows. Instead of having to shoot one of those out and risk having a sentry hear you, you can merely disable the light or camera and sneak past, plus the OCP causes the malfunctioning item to emit enough noise to disguise your passing if an enemy is indeed nearby. Sound is also more important in this game, because now there is actually a small gauge for it to let you know how loud Sam is. The small square on the bar represents the allowed level of noise, and anything above the square increases the risk of you being heard.
Another new feature is the EEV, which is a visor mode that allows you to view and find objects that you can interact with, such as a computer, light or microphone. You can access and hack objects from a distance with the EEV, and can toggle all your different visors as well.
Even though the online component is missing, the two-player co-op mode is available on this version. Having two players cooperating can be fun, but once again, the controls are mapped in such a way that it will take you a while to get used to them, and even then you may not enjoy them. There are only a few co-op levels, but they are fun just the same, and it's interesting to see the kind of objectives that would require two agents instead of just one.
Is Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory a good game? Yes. There are those out there who would say that this game is absolute trash because it doesn't look as good as it should. That may be true, but teh real question is, is it worth playing of you own a Nintendo GameCube? That's a resounding yes. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the Splinter Cell game we've all been waiting for. If you can do with some patience, pop this game in and get ready to have fun.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/23/05
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