Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory PC Review

After being disappointed by Pandora Tomorrow’s thoroughly mediocre
single player campaign, I was highly skeptical of this title. However,
Chaos Theory is vastly improved over its predecessors in every way. The
level design is much better, production values rival any game on any
platform, and the co-op mode is a fantastic addition to the series –
provided it actually works. If the co-op mode had a few more levels and
hadn’t been so terribly buggy, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory would have
been the best PC game in years. As it stands, it is still one of the
finest stealth/action games ever made, and every fan of the genre should
own it.

The cornerstone of this game is still the single player
campaign. The previous titles have featured strictly linear levels with
small maps. Chaos Theory features much larger maps and a much larger
degree of freedom. It also boasts a much higher degree of interactivity
with the environment. The levels are still not open-ended by a long
shot. They are best described as “semi-linear”. Each level features a
linear series of mini-challenges that usually have two or three
solutions to them. You might be able to enter a room through the front
door or by a vent that comes from a storage room, but you still end up
in the same place. On average though, the design and flow of the levels
is excellent. The game keeps you moving towards your objectives without
ever making you feel like you are on rails. The best part about each
level is the size. The levels are very large and typically last you an
hour or more, depending upon your style of gameplay. The game’s ten
levels will probably take you between 10 and 15 hours to finish.

level also contains one or more optional objectives, and a scoring
system that rates you based upon how many alarms you set off and how
many objectives you accomplish. This system works much better than the
“three alarms and you fail” or “one alarm and you fail” system of the
previous games. It also gives you incentive to replay each mission until
you achieve a perfect score.

In addition to the better level
design, the single play game features some other improvements. Chief
among them is much improved audio – namely, a huge number of sound bites
and well-written lines of dialog. The terrific voice acting from the
first game has returned. You can interrogate most guards, and most of
the interrogation dialog offers some amusing moments, as well as some
useful gameplay tips. The atmospheric sound is superb as well. The
terrific audio complements the game’s gorgeous visuals, which easily
rank amongst the best that the PC has to offer. Sam is decked out in
detail all over his body and all of his moves look very cool. The
environments are beautiful and the lighting is simply perfect. Chaos
Theory sports arguably the finest production values in any PC game to

Does the gameplay have any faults? A few. One of them is
inconsistency in the AI. The sharpness of the AI occasionally changes,
based upon the level. Sometimes guards won’t notice if their buddy gets
knocked out three feet away from them. Other times, they will notice
their KO’ed buddy when he is in complete darkness 35 feet away. Another
minor flaw is that the game favors an overly aggressive approach versus a
nonlethal approach. For most of the levels, You will have to
self-impose a “no-kill” rule to give yourself some challenge. Also,
like its predecessors, the campaign lacks lasting value, and the story
is average.

Once you are done with the single player campaign, a
true treat awaits you on-line with the game’s innovative co-op mode.
This assumes that you can actually get it to work. More on that later.
The game mechanics of the co-op mode are largely the same as the
single-player campaign, only this time you have a partner, and there are
more guards. The game also throws some high walls at you that can only
be scaled using special co-op moves. For example, you can give your
friend a boost to the top of a wall, and then he can let you climb up
his back to get up over it. The result is usually quite thrilling. The
co-op mode is full of “you take the guy on the right and I’ll take the
guy on the left” moments. Quietly taking out a room full of guards with
your buddy is an experience that is a unique and very memorable This
part of the game is a long, long overdue addition to this genre, and you
will probably be left hoping for an exclusively co-op game in the

Unfortunately, the co-op mode is riddled with so many
bugs that there is less than a 50% chance that you’ll actually be able
to play it. Ubisoft has patched the game twice, but I wouldn’t rely on
being able to play co-up just yet. Plus, there are also only four co-op
levels, and you can’t save your progress. If these issues didn’t exist,
Chaos Theory would be worthy of a 9.3+ score. Nonetheless, co-op mode
adds a lot to the overall package and helps elevate the game to elite

“Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory” has breathed new life into a
series that was on the risk of going stale. It sets high standards for
production values and, in the meantime, provides an innovative new
gameplay mode. The single player is by far the best of the series, and
co-op is pure ecstasy — if you can actually get it to work. As an
added bonus, you can get the DVD-ROM version for this game, instead of
some clumsy 5-CD job. Sooner or later, you should own “Splinter Cell:
Chaos Theory”.

Verdict: 80/100       

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