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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Preview By: Tim Mitchell

Developer:   Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher:   Ubisoft
Genre:   Stealth Action
Est. Release:   March 2005
Date Posted:  

9-15-04

Strange as it is for a sequel to come out so soon after the latest game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is poised to hit stores later this year, while many of us are still playing Pandora Tomorrow. Has Ubisoft managed to pack in enough improvements in this short interval? Itís certainly looking that way. Chaos Theory isnít just another Splinter Cell; it takes the exciting gameplay of the series to a whole new level.

From the very start, Splinter Cell veterans will be faced with a whole new experience. Instead of the linear paths of the first two games, the player will be able to explore an open environment with a list of objectives to be completed however they wish. Impressive levels they are, too. The always-incredible graphics of the series have been enhanced dramatically. Most fascinating to me at a live demonstration was the way water now wets surfaces realistically during a sudden rainstorm, from the ground you walk on to Sam Fisher himself. It looks gorgeous but also serves a practical purpose - a newly formed puddle makes a tempting target for the sticky shocker, provided a guard makes the mistake of stepping in it.

Sam himself is in top form this time around. His equipment list has been drastically updated, most notably the new combat knife. This versatile blade is useful for everything from slitting throats to slicing a new door through plastic sheeting and other thin material. The beloved SC20K is back and more useful than ever, packing a brand new shotgun attachment. Not the quietest, but any seasoned SC player knows that where stealth ends, blowing away terrorists begins. Still, silence is usually the best policy, and there are more ways to eliminate foes while remaining sneaky than ever before. Youíll be able to grab enemies from above while hanging from an overhanging pipe, or throw them off cliffs and over railings. There are other cool moments for the stealthy player, as well. When the Ubi designer grinned slyly at us, then punched through a Japanese-style paper wall and pulled a surprised mercenary through to the other side, I nearly hugged him.

Youíre going to need all of these new capabilities, because the opposition is smarter than ever. Unlike in previous Splinter Cell games, the enemies in Chaos Theory will never stop hunting you once they know youíre out there. Theyíll communicate with each other, provide covering fire for their teammates, and use other group tactics in their quest to prevent you from achieving your objectives (which usually means killing you). Theyíll be listening for you too, which with the new improved sound mechanics is frankly, terrifying. Thereís now a new sound meter on your display, showing how much noise Sam can make without being detected. Surfaces now carry sound realistically, so youíll have to worry about everything from the thickness of the walls to the acoustics of an area. Your safest bet is to stick close to noisy areas such as mechanical equipment or forests, to cover your movements. You might survive awhile that way.

And how, you ask, will they improve upon the mind-blowing head to head multiplayer experience of Pandora Tomorrow? Simple - they arenít. Instead, Chaos Theory features a 2-player co-op campaign that follows along in parallel to the single player story. Operating as one of a two-man team of Third Echelon agents, youíll have to concentrate on working together if you want to make progress. Snipe the roof clear of guards so your partner can get up there and open a gate in front of you. He can then drop a rappel line for you to climb up and join him, then give you a boost up to an even higher ledge. Communication and cooperation are keys to success in this mode.

Itís coming hot on the heels of the second game, but thereís something to be said for momentum. Chaos Theory promises to be Samís most engrossing mission yet, with more gadgets, more moves, more dark corners to hide in and more bullets to dodge. With an intriguing new take on multiplayer gameplay and a list of improvements long enough to climb down a building on, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory may well prove to be the defining game in the celebrated series. Look for it next March, lurking in the shadows of a game store near you.

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