Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the third game of an initial trilogy developed by Ubisoft. The game's primary mechanic is stealth, and I purchased it long before I came to the conclusion that stealth games were not really my cup of tea. I don't hate stealth as a tactical option, but I don't love games where everything is heavily weighted in favor of it, but that's just my personal taste. Some games have integrated stealth mechanics quite well, but also give you other viable options. Games that are basically stealth games tend to have optics that negatively affect the outcomes of non-stealth approaches to varying degrees. Having said that, this genre has become quite popular by offering its own unique challenges and most stealth lovers rate this as a pretty good stealth game
The story is fairly typical for a spy type theme, where the series protagonist Sam Fisher, a field agent for a counter-terrorism branch called the Third Echelon, infiltrates various locations to discover intel or sabotage enemy plans. This game differs from its predecessors in giving Fisher the option to kill the enemy after interrogation. Also different is that bodies have to be discovered by a patrolling guard or security camera in order to set off an alarm, so hiding them is crucial unless all NPC in the area have been eliminated and all cameras disabled. Although triggering too many alarms will no longer end the game as in previous iterations, it could affect the availability of side objectives, put enemies on high alert, and lower your mission score. Stats are shown at the end of each mission, but until then you won't know if an enemy died inadvertently or if a body was found.
Other differences include the addition of a combat knife, the removal of being able to shoot around corners, which has been replaced with the ability to switch gun hands, and some new moves. There are also three different equipment loadouts you can choose from at the beginning of the mission including a variety of weaponry designed for a non-lethal approach.
Although Chaos Theory does provide for lethal options, achieving 100% in missions requires certain prerequisites, none of which involve being seen, killing anyone, ( unless that is the goal of the mission) or having bodies discovered. This means moving at a crouching snail's pace for most of the game. It also means using night vision much of the time, which makes everything a grainy putrid green. You have to turn it on and off often to determine where the shadows are so you can remain unseen. It's hard to have an appreciation for the visuals as these are undermined by having to use the various vision modes so much. Although night vision is the mainstay, other modes include Thermal, EMF, EEV, Sticky Camera and OPSAT visions. But this is a reminder of what stealth games are about – having the patience to plan tactical approaches and observe the patterns of enemy movements.
The controls for this game are not the best in a couple of areas. One is the speed of movement being tied to the mouse wheel. Noise plays a factor in the stealth and you have to move very slowly to remain quiet. The wheel is a rather imprecise and annoying way of controlling it and has to be adjusted often. Hacking, a mechanic that seems to be a problem in a lot of games, has a very badly explained tutorial and an even worse implementation that takes some getting used to. In addition, non-supported resolutions can push part of the lock screen out of the viewing area.
Most stealth lovers rate this as a good stealth game and I found Sam Fisher to be a pretty cool dude with a sarcastic wit. He maintains contact with the operations director, Colonel Irving Lambert, who has the power to declare the mission a failure any time the parameters are not met. There are ten missions and at the end of each, you get a stat reading. You can then retry the mission for a better score if you want. There are also secondary objectives and opportunity objectives, the latter being entirely optional, but the former carrying over in some new form if missed.
You can play this game offensively, but killing the enemy will bring penalties. However, high stats scores for non-lethal activity actually don't net any benefits except personal satisfaction. Offensively doesn't mean guns blazing though, it just means killing instead of knock-outs. You still have to be careful about raising alarms and having missions cancelled. So, stealth still plays a big role going this route.
In the end, I enjoyed the game well enough, but I had to warm up to it. In fact, I started it, completed the first mission and stopped playing for a couple of months till I felt compelled to go back to it. But after doing a couple of more missions, it grew on me. There is no denying there is a certain challenge to doing stealth, but it requires a lot of patience, which apparently I lack. However, that challenge only lasts during the first playthrough while you are unfamiliar with the parameters, but fortunately, you can replay it somewhat differently by going lethal.
In regards to multiplayer, Ubisoft servers have been closed down, however, if you are interested, you can hook up through a third party app. Tunngle
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, the second game released in 2004, was developed by Ubisoft Shanghai and introduced multiplayer to the series. The game garnered equally good ratings to its predecessor. Unfortunately, on newer hardware Pandora showed problems on the PC due to a light and shadow issue. In 2015, a user developed a graphic fix for this, but the PC game is not widely available.
The development of Chaos Theory reverted back to Ubisoft Montreal and added a co-op mode. Released in 2005, the series continued to retain its popularity and became an instant commercial success. Meanwhile, Shanghai was working on Double Agent, which became available in 2006. This next game in the series introduced multiple endings based on a morality factor.
Although Splinter Cell: Conviction was originally intended to be released in 2007, it was put on hold, taken back to the drawing board, and did not see daylight until 2010. This also spelled the last game with Michael Ironside voicing the role of Sam Fisher and introduced many changes including a new visual style and various editions. It received slightly more mixed reviews being criticized for its short campaign, glitches, and connection problems – made more egrarious due to its always online DRM. This has since been patched out.
Blacklist, the 2013 Splinter Cell game, saw a new branch of development in Ubisoft Toronto. The series veteran Sam Fisher voice actor Michael Ironside was also replaced due to his inability to perform in motion capture technology. However, despite complaints on the replacement, the game was critically acclaimed, although it failed to meet sales expectations. Rumors have it that Michael Ironside will return in a new Splinter Cell game, however there has been no official statement on this.
A series of novels based on the video games were written by various authors under the pseudonym David Michaels.