The most popular spy in the world may be James Bond, but in the world of videogames Sam Fisher reigns supreme. Comparing the personalities of these two spies, you can also find the differences between Bond games and the Splinter Cell series. Sam Fisher is a more serious, tough and deadly spy than the famous Englishman (Scottish in Sean Connery’s case). The Splinter Cell games have always tried to showcase those traits, having many ways to incapacitate or kill your opponents but in a more realistic fashion. You can’t just march in a room full of enemies and expect to come out alive. In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the best characteristics the series has to offer were improved and given a facelift. It’s not just a boring remake, but a well-thought-out sequel. Chaos Theory completes a Splinter Cell trilogy of games, and hopefully it doesn’t end there.
Judging by previous reviews for Splinter Cell games, the adjectives for the game’s graphics will sound repetitive. Ubi has always achieved outstanding visuals in all three games, but Chaos Theory raises the bar yet again. Sam Fisher has even more life-like moves than before, as with the characters used for the cooperative mode. Sneaking up on opponents is now more fun to watch because Fisher’s moves are believable, like ones a real spy would pull off. While crouched, Fisher will balance his weight from one side to another to avoid making extra noise. The addition of a combat knife to the arsenal of weapons is a graphical improvement more than a gameplay improvement. If Fisher wasn’t menacing enough before while grabbing an enemy from behind, now he surely is. Interrogations at knife-point seem to be more effective than with your bare hands. It’s a huge improvement but it adds to the realism that the series has tried to achieve on each game. You can kill your opponents with the knife when you are behind them with a ninja-silent stab, but you can’t kill with the knife when you already have your foe grabbed from the back. No big problem, less gratuitous violence. While on the subject of new moves and weapons, it has to be said that the characters in the co-op are the ones with the most new moves. All of these moves relate directly to the fact that there are two players cooperating to complete a mission, thus making combo moves necessary between the two. Abilities range from simple things like getting on top of a wall helped by your partner to taking out two enemies at the same time.
In cooperative mode the graphics, unfortunately, are weaker than those in the beautiful single-player campaign. You can’t have everything, so there was more effort put into better gameplay for these game modes than graphical excellency. Either way, the graphics are far better than most co-ops. The spies are not as realistic looking as Sam Fisher, nor do they move as fluidly, but they are granted with different abilities and offer a twist on the traditional gameplay.
Realistic enemies and NPCs are exciting, but not as much as visiting vast landscapes and exotic cities. Too bad Sam Fisher is never on vacation in these games. From the streets of the capital of Georgia to East Timor, the locales in Splinter Cell have always been not only a big bonus to the already great graphics, but they also play a role in the strategy and gameplay. Every new place that has to be visited offers different natural obstacles, and some offer unique advantages for stealth. This time around Fisher does Asia, mainly visiting Korea and Japan. The graphics in each of these places are outstanding; it’s a live world even with the limitations of a linear, scripted game.
Ambient sounds and any noises in general – provoked or not by the gamer – affect gameplay in Splinter Cell games. Silent approaches are the best weapon a spy can have, vastly preferable to noisy firearms. Gunfire is intense and can really make you a nervous wreck. Part of the success when playing these games is educating your ear to subtle sights and sounds. Strategic planning goes a long way, too, but having your senses ready is part of the strategy. Chaos Theory may be a lot more forgiving in difficulty than its predecessors, but it will not be a walk in the park either. So, the sounds still play a big part of the strategy in the game. Try to be deadly silent to be more effective. The GameCube’s sound capabilities are fully used in this game. Thanks to that the GC’s version of the game is not the ugly duckling in terms of sound.
The first son of the series was successful thanks to the innovative gameplay it offered. Never did a spy game make the gamer feel like one without being a cartoon version of a deadly spy. Chaos Theory follows the same pattern and gives an outstanding – although not revolutionary – incursion to the world of spies. As mentioned before, being a shadow is part of the strategy the gamer has to follow. Logically, more detail is added to the gameplay when facing those situations where you have to sneak up on the enemy. Sam Fisher has a great arsenal of moves to go with the deadly arms. The moves range from the acrobatic to the practical. The game is more open-ended than the previous efforts. That’s not much to say because all Splinter Cells have been very linear games. But it’s apparent that there was some time put into making the game open to various ways of accomplishing the objectives; there’s not just the one way to finish a mission. Be mindful that it’s still a linear game; there are not many reasons for the gamer to be wandering around (no matter how cool the scenery is). So, don’t expect mind-blowing differences in terms of gameplay because Chaos Theory plays in the same fashion as its predecessors. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is a philosophy that has worked for many sequels. The co-op mode works suprisingly well also. It’s a surprise because it’s not easy to achieve good gameplay in two modes of the same game, in the same package. The actions are well distributed on the GameCube’s controller, not intuitive at times but effective enough.
There is a fairly big fan base out there for the Splinter Cell trilogy, and many of those had great expectations for Chaos Theory because it announced many changes to the series that appealed to many, changes that don’t transform the game into another but only make it better. Chaos Theory can be defined as mild revolution. It brings freshness to the series without alienating what made it good in the first place. Only calculated risks were taken here. For purist fans that’s a relief, and for those who expected a 360? turn, you’ll have to wait. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is a must-have for fans, and for non-fans, step right up and enjoy.