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.