Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

released on Mar 28, 2005

You are Sam Fisher, the NSA's most elite black-ops agent. To achieve your mission you will kill from close range, attack with your combat knife, shoot with the prototype Land Warrior rifle, and use radical suppression techniques such as the inverted neck break. Also take on cooperative multiplayer infiltration missions, where teamwork is the ultimate weapon.

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Its generally good, but never really made full use of its mechanics.
Chaos Theory's stealth system is quite similar to those of the Thief games. Your main method of remaining hidden is to keep in the shadows where enemies can't see you and to watch your footsteps so as to make as little noise as possible (or at the very least make less noise than whatever is happening in the background). But while this system worked well for Thief, its a much more awkward fit for the rest of Chaos Theory's gameplay.
First, and most obvious while playing, is the disconnect between visual and auditory cues in the environment compared to what the game actually recognizes in terms of gameplay. If you see a shadow, god only knows whether you can actually sneak in it. Sometimes its exactly how it looks and you can remain undetected as long as you're underneath it but far too often the shadow wont actually offer any meaningful coverage. The area may be darker, but not dark enough for enemies to actually ignore your presense (oddly, enemies can see you in practically any lighting that isnt complete darkness meaning 95% of the light meter is irrelevant so far as gameplay goes) or the shadow might offer no advantage at all since the game doesn't actually recognize it. And with the 3rd Person perspective, the disconnect between how you see the lighting and how the game percieves it is even more apparent than in other titles and thus even more frustrating when that mismatch works to your disadvantage.
The sound doesn't tend to work well either. The volume you produce will fluctuate wildly even under identical conditions. Walking at the same speed on the same type of floor can produce very different sound levels which makes anything but the slowest speed possible a large risk. And while you have some leeway since you're allowed to make noise thats quieter than anything in the background, this never actually connected well to what I could actually hear. The game might recognize loud rooms full of machinery as being perfectly quiet where enemies could hear even a subtle footstep while quiet rooms with nothing more than a computer's fan blowing might offer substantial leeway. At least the game recognizes this issue to an extent and outright tells you what the ambient sound level is through the UI, but even then it can often fluctuate significantly even within a given area which made the system very unwieldy.
I can put aside these issues to some extent if the game offered a way around them, but that generally isn't the case. The big point where Chaos Theory diverges from earlier games like Thief is in its level design. This game is extremely linear. You have a start location for the level a path towards the end, and a designated extraction point. While there may be somewhat different ways to progress along that path (Though typically its either the door or an air vent) you're always going through the level in the exact same order. Meaning that if there's a particular point where the game's systems are awkward and causing issues for gameplay, there's a very high chance that you won't have an alternative. There aren't any different paths from which to approach the problem or any way you can bypass it altogether. If there's a point where the game's technical problems are causing issues, you just have to deal with them and abandon any hope of sidestepping the issue through other means.
Chaos Theory is by no means a bad game, but there wasn't too much here that I thought was great. Its technical problems are common throughout plenty of other great games but, unlike them, Chaos Theory's structure meant they posed a far greater issue to the gameplay than normal. The level design was alright, the music was good, and the atmosphere was tense. Its component parts were generally good, but there wasn't anything exemplary that could elevate this game beyond everything else in the stealth genre.
The game is only 12 or so hours so its probably worth a shot regardless. But go in expecting a good game, not a masterpiece.

I've completed this game multiple times on multiple platforms, (including the shoddy PS3 remaster) and it's a masterpiece of stealth gaming. The player is given so much freedom, the levels are interesting and have multiple routes, the enemies will work together to hunt you down. The story is your typical Tom Clancy espionage thriller, but the voice acting, the graphics, the art style, the level design, it's all top-notch. An absolute must play. Even though this game came out in the early 2000's, it hasn't aged a bit.

I see the vision.
Dropped this a while back because my dumbass couldn’t figure out how to take out the pistol at first, but coming back to it I can easily see why it’s so beloved. Outside of the by the numbers plot and one or two moments where it feels like the enemies have a chance at seeing you through walls if there’s enough light, it really doesn’t have any major flaws. Sam is also surprisingly charismatic and likable for a 2000s Ubisoft protagonist, I really hope they keep his sense of humor in the coming remake to the original. This is the pinnacle of stealth that I’ve experienced right alongside the modern Hitman trilogy.

It was an amazing game, the coop was the greatest shit and I crave the same type of coop to this day.

A game that I desperately want to give 5 stars to. At its best, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is an impressive stealth game that gives the player a huge bag of tricks and lets them go wild with them. This works to great effect in earlier levels such as the bank and the ship. The later levels, however, are much more linear, which is a bit of a disappointment. It's not the case that any of the game is bad, just that it has a lot of potential that I feel like it didn't quite live up to.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory: The best of the classic Splinter Cells definitely isn't perfect, but it has mostly withstood the test of time and is worthy of yours should you enjoy stealth-action games. This is a "replay" because I played it back when it came out, but barely remembered anything from it.

The biggest issues, first: in 2023, you'll be needing to download the widescreen fix from PCGamingWiki unless you're a rare CRT fanatic, then edit an .ini file to fix the FOV. This fix doesn't help with the cutscenes which are very low resolution and now stretched, though thankfully there aren't many. I ran into a hard crash which are never fun, so be sure to quicksave often, and if you want to alt-tab while playing you have to rapidly mash tab like a dozen times before it gives up its bizarre resistance and lets you. Never seen that one before.

Other than that? You're playing Chaos Theory, baby, the Splinter Cell game. It's easy to see why the game was (and still is) praised: the lighting and sound has received a comically large upgrade from the abysmal and forgotten nightmare of Pandora Tomorrow. Sam feels like Sam again, no longer the bland G.I. Joe from the previous entry but a uniquely bulky, lumbering, iconic ninja. Every level is just ripe with stealthy potential. The plot is still pretty stupid this time around, but at least it's not just following an uncharismatic dick while he makes phone calls. Pandora Tomorrow also had many segments where stealth was impossible and you simply had to murder dozens of guys in your playthrough: in Chaos Theory, you're actually penalized for killing people unnecessarily.

The scoring system after every level is probably the biggest upgrade from Pandora Tomorrow and exactly what this series needed. It's like Sam is being debriefed and told how he could have done better out there. You'll get a knife in Chaos Theory, but if you want that 100% rating, you'll only be using it to cut through tents and pierce generators. What's great is it's entirely your call: if you don't give a shit about a single digit percentage score at the end (it doesn't hinder progress), you're free to choose the 'Assault' loadout and bring a shotgun attachment and frag grenades with you on the operation. Do you want to dodge guards, only leaving a few fellas unconscious in dark corners, or do you want an onslaught with a trail of corpses? You do you.

I played on Hard and found it to be pretty challenging, it lead to my playthrough being a longer one. There's actually a difficulty above it, which sort of sounds insane to me, because on Hard enemies see you unless you're engulfed in shadow. On your meter, it can barely move out of pitch black before they "think they saw something" and come looking. Guards pull out flashlights or flares when this happens, too, adding to the challenge and atmosphere. Unfairly, multiple times they spotted me around a corner, though perhaps this has to do with the FOV stretching and widescreen fix. Remember, kids, ABC: Always Be Cuicksaving.

I enjoyed being a stealthy lad, taking my sweet time to ensure I got the 100% (or as close as my patience would let me). I didn't like how the penultimate level has an ending that's comically difficult to sneak out of, it felt jarring and poorly done. The last level does a better job of changing the pace and still lets you be quiet should you figure out how. You can't make any narrative choices in Chaos Theory outside of doing/avoiding secondary objectives, but I could see wanting to go back and trying out a 'bring the noise' playthrough.

As of a few days ago this game is old enough to smoke and vote, but I think it manages to play like it's somewhat fresh. It looks good, it sounds good, it plays... pretty good. Again, I wasn't crazy about some levels having entire sections that felt like they belonged in a Call of Duty instead of Splinter Cell. It's not perfect, but it's good, and the universal praise this game gets is simply tough to argue with.

I recommend Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.