Fisher has more equipment and better moves than ever before in the upcoming Splinter Cell Chaos Theory.
It's hard to believe that the original Splinter Cell hit the Xbox just over two years ago, especially since we're now facing the imminent release of Chaos Theory, the third and potentially best entry yet in the vaunted stealth action series. We've been spending some time plowing through the single-player story campaign, as well as testing out the new cooperative two-player mode, and we can say with confidence that Splinter Cell fans are going to be very pleased with Chaos Theory's gameplay additions and graphical upgrades. Some of the stuff we've seen is cool enough that it might just draw in some new fans, too.
At first glance, you might think that little has changed between Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. On a fundamental level, you'd be right. In terms of basic controls and interactions with enemies and the environment, Sam Fisher's third outing plays quite similarly to his past ones. But Ubi Montreal has gone well beyond the call of duty in fleshing out your stock of available maneuvers and gadgets. In fact, before we'd even finished the first mission, we'd gotten the impression that while the basic similarities are there, the action and visuals are so much improved that this feels like a whole new Splinter Cell.
Somehow, Fisher's missions always seem to start small. It's 2007, and you're sent to Peru to rescue a computer expert who's been kidnapped by revolutionary forces. This particular expert just happens to hold incredibly sensitive information on specific algorithms that can be used to wreak a whole lot of havoc in the global economic and political spheres. Wouldn't you know it, the expert turns up tortured to death, leading Fisher and his superiors to believe that information has fallen into the wrong hands. And so the venerable secret agent must set out to track down the bad guys to whom those hands belong. While all this is going on, Chinese and North Korean naval forces have begun to threaten the coast of Japan, prompting the US secretary of defense to send in the USS Clarence E. Walsh, an ultramodern battleship equipped with weapons of both physical and electronic warfare. As the game progresses, the multiple plot threads will converge to create a serious threat to global stability. What a drag.
The best addition to Fisher's arsenal in Chaos Theory is also the least sophisticated. Somebody finally decided to give ol' Sam a knife, and he puts it to visceral good use in his latest mission. Stealth action games usually force you to dispatch enemies quietly with your bare hands, but Fisher isn't afraid to just creep right up and slit a guard's throat. Trying to grab a guard from behind when he turns around and gets ready to shoot you? No problem. Hit that attack button fast, and stick him right in the gut. On a basic level, it's empowering to have a lethal fast-action move that you can use to neutralize enemies like this, but the knife also comes in handy in less obvious situations. For instance, in one segment of the first mission, a guard you need to interrogate is hanging out inside a well-lit tent. How do you reach him stealthily? The solution: Use that trusty blade to slit the back side of the tent open, and then creep on in. We're not sure what took Fisher so long to realize how useful it is to have a knife along for the ride, but it's making the game a lot more exciting.
In the immortal words of Dr. Hibbert: 'Don't thank me. Thank the knife.'
This time out, Fisher also has a microwave emitter that's mounted on his silenced pistol, which lets him take aim at electrical systems and even light bulbs for the purpose of neutralizing them. Shooting out a light is a great way to attract the attention of the guards, but if you merely interrupt it, you can darken an area without raising suspicions, and then you can move through the area quickly...and before the lights come back on. You've only got a few seconds to get the job done, but at least the light will flicker a few times to warn you that it's about to come back on, giving you a chance to get back to the shadows before you're caught with your pants down (figuratively).
In Chaos Theory, Fisher's gotten more malicious about dispatching enemies once he's grabbed them from behind and extracted whatever information he can from them. You can now break an enemy's back if you want to make sure he's not going to get back up, which is pretty satisfying. But our favorite moves so far have all taken place at great heights. During one mission that takes place aboard a cargo ship, we grabbed a guard, escorted him in a rough manner over to the side railing, and pitched him right into the drink. A similar situation arose inside the ship, when we tossed a guard over a catwalk railing and watched him land on his back on a lower railing. This particular instance showed off the game's rag-doll physics nicely, since the enemy's back must have snapped, given the way his torso and legs were lolling over the sides of the rail. The hand-to-hand action in Chaos Theory has been good, grisly fun so far.