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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
By: Matt C. on April 18, 2005

It's no secret that the Xbox is more powerful than the PlayStation 2, so when the original Splinter Cell was announced for Sony's less powerful system, most people were concerned that the PS2 port would be watered-down. Surprisingly, Splinter Cell for the PlayStation 2 played nearly identical to the Xbox, and looked nearly as good. Soon after, Pandora Tomorrow came along and Ubisoft managed to release a respectable port for the PS2. Now we're at the third game in the series and it seems Ubisoft removed some features for the PS2 version. Which items were removed? Keep reading to find out.

For newcomers to the franchise, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a third person stealth action game where you jump into the sneaking suit of Sam Fisher. At 50 years of age, Fisher is far from young, but he is still the best field operative the U.S. government has -- or better yet, doesn't have. Technically he doesn't exist, so if he is ever captured, the U.S. government can deny any involvement with him.

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is made up of three gameplay modes: Single-Player Campaign, Co-op missions, and four person online and LAN multiplayer. The basic mechanics behind the single-player mode has not changed at all from its predecessors. The game still requires you to use as much stealth as possible as you travel through extremely dark locales to complete your mission. Most of the time, you'll be sitting in the shadows, waiting for an opportune time to attack. When it is obvious that there are two or more guards in the vicinity, then you'll probably be waiting even more, because simply running into combat without a plan will reward you with the "mission failed" screen. Of course, this is Splinter Cell's appeal. There are countless action titles out there where you can just run and gun and kill everyone, but there are few games that handle the stealth formula as well as Chaos Theory does. Sneaking through the dark with only night vision and thermal goggles to guide you is surprisingly fun and you really do start to feel like a well-trained government agent.

The good news is that the game is more forgiving to impatient and careless behavior this time around, so if you want to shoot most of your foes instead of sneaking up on them, go right ahead. It will make things more difficult for you, but it's possible. In fact, before each level, you can choose equipment more geared towards assault tactics instead of stealth. You still have to pay attention to cameras, wall mines, and such.

Many of the same weapons and gadgets make a return in the third Splinter Cell title, including the sticky shocker, sticky camera, and airfoil ring. One new gadget is the OCP, which is attached to your pistol. When your pistol is drawn and pointed directly at a light source, camera, or computer; you can hit the L1 button to disable it for a short period of time. The OCP is completely silent, whereas shooting out a light can still alert nearby enemies despite your pistol being equipped with a silencer/flash suppressor. For the most part, the OCP is useful, but mostly optional through much of the game. However, there are certain spots where it must be used to progress in the mission.

As veterans of the series already know, executing Fisher's basic moves requires very little effort. Jumping, crouching, drawing/holstering your weapon, picking up bodies, grabbing enemies from behind, and more are all accomplished by pressing one button. Latching onto ladders and poles is easy too -- just walk up to it and Fisher will automatically grab on. Naturally, Chaos Theory also offers some new moves. First off, Sam now uses a knife in some of his close combat moves. When you grab a character, he will now hold the knife up to the person's throat. Once a character is in your clutches, you can press R1 for a quick lethal attack or L1 for a non-lethal choke attack that makes the person pass out. If you actually want to slit an enemies' throat, you have to sneak up on them and press R1 without grabbing them.

One thing I noticed is that close combat attacks are a lot more effective this time. In previous games, knocking someone out with a melee attacks required hitting them at least two times (the first hit would just daze the enemy). In this game, one punch is all it takes to deliver them to the floor. I'm not really complaining, but it's worth mentioning because it generally makes the game easier -- although there are different difficulty levels for people who want a better challenge.

What about the enemy AI? Well, it's definitely smarter this time around, but at the same time more forgiving. It is pretty easy to go through most of the game without setting off any alarms. There are alarm buttons on the walls on some levels (some levels don't have alarms at all), and when enemies come under fire, they don't always run for the buttons. They usually concentrate on killing you first, or yelling for backup. But don't worry if you're prone to setting off alarms, because the "three alarms and its game over" rule is gone.

One cool aspect about the smarter AI is that enemies will notice various changes to their surroundings better than before. They will notice opened doors that were previously closed, broken lights, malfunctioning security cameras, and more. And when they see or hear you, sometimes they will come and investigate with flares or flashlights. So don't think that you can always just hide in the dark and wait for guards to go back on normal patrol when you slip up and make a mistake.

In the co-op mode, you and a friend can go through various missions together with a vertical split-screen view. The best part in the co-op missions is that you can preform special co-op moves with one button press, such as boosting each other or creating a human ladder anywhere you want. There are other moves as well, but they are can usually only be preformed in specific parts of the level. You can even share equipment. The co-op mode is pretty cool, but it's disappointing to know that the Xbox version has online co-op.

As for the four player versus mode (can be played online with a broadband connection or through a LAN), I admit that I haven't spent very much time with this mode, but I can tell you that it is very similar to the multiplayer from Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (One 2 player team of spies and another 2 person team of mercenaries, which can only play in a first person view). Here, you will find many of the original Pandora Tomorrow maps, and some new maps to mess around with. The versus mode is fun, but you really have to practice in order to get good at it.

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is better looking than the average PlayStation 2 game, but the game can look bland at times. Don't get me wrong, the lighting is great as always, and Fisher's animations are usually top-notch, but some levels are simply too dark, dull and claustrophobic. For example, most of the computers are just the same recycled prefabricated objects used over and over again by the level designers. To be fair though, this game was optimized for the Xbox and PC. At least some levels have multiple paths, although the differences in the paths usually aren't very drastic.

Bottom Line
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a worthy sequel to Ubisoft's popular franchise, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed by the lack of some features in the PlayStation 2 version. For example, I would have loved an online co-op mode, but as mentioned, it was removed. One interesting thing I saw on more than 3 occasions were guards getting stuck and walking in place. This leads me to believe that the PlayStation 2 version of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory was rushed or Ubisoft simply didn't want to spend the time to make it as full featured as on the Xbox. Previous installments sold well on Sony's machine, so why the cut back?

Nonetheless, if you don't have an Xbox, I'm confident that you will still have fun playing this game. Overall, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is one of the better PS2 titles out there, and it's definitely worth a look.

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© Copyright 2005 PlayStation Pro 2.0
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Gameplay 8
Graphics 7
Sound 8
Replay Value 7
Ingenuity 7
Overall Score 8.5