Review by JW ACE

"Does the impossible of building on the first two games of the series"

Chaos Theory is the 3rd game in the very popular Splinter Cell series. For those of you who are not familiar with the series, this is a stealth-action game, very similar to Metal Gear. The original pushed the genre into new directions. Its sequel, Pandora Tomorrow, added great multi-player into the mix. Now the third game, Chaos Theory, does something even more amazing. Not only does it have groundbreaking single and multi-player modes, but a co-op mode as well. I can honestly say that this is one hell of a game, and Ubisoft's Montreal studio continues to dazzle us.

The graphics of this game are amazing. The environments are very detailed and realistic looking. The lighting, which was kind of an issue with the first two games, is perfectly done here. The shadows and the glares coming from various light sources are as realistic as I have every seen in a game. The only game with better lighting is Doom 3, and that is cause the engine was built for it. This game uses the latest Unreal engine. Also, the character models and facial expressions are as realistic as you are every going to see.

Michael Ironside returns as the voice of Sam Fisher, the main character. His voice is just as awesome as usual and so are all the other voices. In the first two games, it seemed that the developers did not pay attention to the voice acting for the NPC's, which is not the case in this game. All voices are done very, with a small exception when you are listening to two North Koreans speaking. Why would fellow North Koreans, who are in Korea no less, talk to each other in English? Come on Ubi soft, it would not have been too hard to have one of Sam's, “behind-the-wings” buddies radio in a translation. Maybe even carry a universal translation device.

The controls are the same as the first 2 games, with one main difference. When involved in hand-to-hand combat, you either left-click the mouse for a lethal knife kill, or right-click for a non-lethal kill. Everything else is pretty much the same. It is a very nice combination of the mouse and keyboard. The mouse controls the camera angle and your combat, the keyboard is what you use to select weapons, items, and interact with the environment. There are a lot of controls, however they are so easy to use.

Game play
The game play is what makes this game standout from the first two games. First, as mentioned above, you can either knockout or kill enemies in one hit. Veterans of the previous games will really enjoy this, and beginners will find it much easier as opposed to the first two. Second, the conversations you have with the enemies you are holding with a choke hold are quite amusing. You also never know if the guard you are interrogating will give you a good piece of information. Thirdly, you have about 8 times as many ways to silently take out an enemy as compared to the previous games. This includes dropping from above, choking them while hanging from a pipe, or my personnel favorite, throwing them off a lighthouse. Finally, there is a brand-new co-op mode. This mode has a separate group of missions designed for two players. You and a friend can play together over the network to solve missions. These missions have a heavy amount of puzzles that require two players to solve; one of them is similar to the vault scene in Mission Impossible.

For those who are new to the series, just the general game play is pure awesome. You proceed through large missions while trying to remain a ghost. You can knockout or kill guards as you like, but you should hide the bodies and another guard might see it. There are also various ways to infiltrate an area you need to get to. You can go strait through the door, drop through the roof, or come up through a sewer. Another great addition is that you can hack computers! There is just a ton of ways to solve the missions.

I would also like to mention the fun factor. While the first 2 games were great to play, neither of them can compare to how fun it was to play this one. I don't really know why, but I had more fun playing this Splinter Cell than I did playing the first 2 combined. There are just some great and memorable levels in this game. Which brings me to one small issue, the mission stats screen. One of the specs they give you is the %-completed stat. It is very misleading, as it actually is a combo of completing all the objectives and not killing anyone unless you are told to. I find this a little stupid because in the end, if you completed the mission. Sure there are hidden objectives that you might miss and that should be reflected in the % completed, but if you kill one of the guards without getting spotted and dispose of the body, how is that different from when you knock out a guard? While this is minor, I believe you should be judged on how well you cover your tracks, not by how you kill.

Anyone who is familiar with Tom Clancy should know that the story for this game is top notch. For those of you who don't know who Tom Clancy is and want to know why his name is on the game, here is a brief intro. Tom Clancy has written many books that involve the CIA, special ops, and government conspiracies. All of them are well researched and very hard to put down once you start reading them. Having said that, this story involves the Japanese, the North Koreans, the South Koreans, and Americans. We are having issues with North Korea, we are spying on them from our Japan stronghold, a couple of ships blow up, a couple of politicians point fingers and…well I think that should be enough. You will be amazed at how the story ties into what is going on today.

Overall, this game just kicks ass! It improves on every aspect of the first two games in its series. The graphics and the game play are way better than the last game. Not to mention the added co-op mode and solid multi-player. Plus, I still can't believe how much fun it was to play this game, which is what developers these days seem to forget about and just put up some cool graphics instead. It kills me to say that this game isn't perfect. I did encounter a small bug while playing the game, in the bank level. One of the doors that I went through once would not open a second time, until I reloaded my game. There are also some in-game ads, which isn't too bad seeing as how it's just the Ubisoft and AMD 64 logos. There are also steep system requirements, but if you have the minimum requirements then you should be fine, as the game seems to scale well. Not only that, but the game goes along at a slow pace anyway because you are sneaking around all the time.

If you are a Splinter Cell fan, you should even hesitate to get this game. Fans of Metal Gear should enjoy this one to, seeing as how it blows it out of the water when it comes to Stealth Action. Everyone else that likes games that require a little thinking, but still keep up the action and the fun factor, get this game.

For the Splinter Cell series, the third time is a defiantly a charm. Keep them coming Ubisoft.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/18/05

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