Third outing for Third Echelon
Joint Xbox and PS2 review
Itís quite interesting to watch the development of the Splinter Cell series of games, games which I feel have redefined the genre of stealth action along with Thief
and of course Metal Gear Solid
. Sam Fisher has been in three games now and the franchise is growing and growing, with the third instalment being the one to really up the ante.Story
When I see the name Tom Clancy
I immediately know I am going to be in for one heck of a thrill-ride in regards to the story. Itís 2008 and information warfare is the new weapon, the new battlefields are the tech-info highways of the world and things are about to go really bad. Once again though I am not here to spoil the story, letís just say that things unfold in true Clancy style from the moment youíre sent into enemy territory.Gameplay
Every time they make a new SC game they seem to add in a few new moves, mostly acrobatic ones. Not this time, the gameplay of Chaos Theory has been well and truly refined and new features have been implemented across both versions of the game, this being a comparison review weíll get down to the biggest gameplay change on the PS2 compared to the Xbox.
PS2: While the fluidity of the moves remains the same in both versions, the PS2 is given an extra lethal attack move where Sam can leap out of the water and drag an enemy guard in, drowning them, quickly and quietly. There are several key places this can be done and you canít miss the actual spot right at the start of the PS2 version when you enter the caves.
Xbox: Lacking the water attack move has not diminished the Xbox version of the game in the slightest. The main reason for this is that while the PS2 has the water attack, the Xbox levels are more open and allow for more stealth gameplay, this will be discussed later on in the section upon level design.
Core stealth gameplay has been upgraded for Chaos Theory and the controls have been tightened up, youíre never unsure of what button does what move and a lot of Samís actions are context sensitive now, if you move towards a thin gap that Sam can get through heíll put his back to the wall and slide along it, rather than you needing to know what button to press.
When youíre pressed to a wall Sam will also move around corners rather than you having to click off and click on again. These kinds of refinements add to the overall gameplay strategy and give you more options when trying to remain invisible.
You now have an ambient noise marker on your HUD that gives you the noise of such things like generators or thunder-storms which can mask your movement if timed right, if your noise meter peaks over the marker then thereís a good chance an alert guard will come looking for the source of the sound.
The light meter remains unchanged.
Gone too are the irritating button presses needed to perform the split-jump or the half-split, when Samís in a hallway or area he can do the move, all you need to do is face the wall and hit the jump buttonÖheís a smart enough cookie to realise what you want to do and do it, rather than just scratching his head.
Thereís a new look to the lock picking, night vision and Samís goggles have an updated EMF view function (Allowing him to see electro magnetic fields). The Zoom is there and added to the tri-goggles (EEV) is the ability to remotely access computers and hack computers or door lock panels from afar (This is harder than normal hacking).
Actions that can be attempted on an object appear in the top right of the HUD and you can always choose to return to game, when youíre not sure of doing something or you want to change your option.
Doors work in a significantly different way now and you can pick locked ones, break the lock with the knife, open them or open them stealthily. (Slowly peeking through and opening the door with the analogue stick) The final option can be used by sneaky players in conjunction with Samís EEV (Thermal image allows you to see through thin walls and doors) mode and is called: Bash, no prizes for guessing the effect it has on the poor sucker on the other side.
Doors can be closed and opened when Sam is unburdened or when heís carrying a dead or unconscious guard. So you donít need to drop the body to open and close a door, this is a great addition and those people that played the original first game will love Ubi for it.
Sam can now leap over a railing and hang there waiting for a guard to come along, you can use the Ďwhistleí move and attract their attention of course but itís risky, some of the guards arenít as stupid as you think they are and they will respond to a trap. But for the hapless mook that gets close enough to the railing, Sam can pitch them over the side and hurl them to their doom, this works wherever thereís a suitable fall and a rail to hang from. Experimentation is the key to success.
The inventory has been upgraded and the process for selecting weapons, equipment and special weapons has been significantly improved. It takes no time at all now to switch items with the white button and this has certainly been one of the better additions to the game, there are of course many more.
Ubi have also added a loadout screen prior to the start of the mission, you can listen to briefings and so on, then go to the loadout and choose from the options. This varies the equipment you take into the field and youíre given several choices, from Stealth to downright Assault.
Secondary Objectives: Numerous small side missions inside the main missions, listen to your HQ for hints on what you need to do.
This game is packed with a veritable plethora of nice new moves and some old favourites, hereís the list of moves in Chaos Theory and remember the PS2 version adds the water attack move to this repertoire.
Crouching: Gives Fisher slower movement and makes him less visible, a good way to remain undetected against a nearby crate or box.
Mantling: The art of climbing up onto crates or tables, the mantling in this version of the game is significantly improved from previous outings and can be used to set up for quiet knockdowns and just general hiding.
Climbing: Sam can climb a pipe or ladder, vertical cable or even a fence. This is a context sensitive move that will trigger when you press into the object in question.
Close Attack: Brand new to Chaos Theory, Sam can now deliver vicious close-quarters moves based on Samís position when triggering the move, if heís crouched or so on. You can choose between lethal or non-lethal. Keeping the trigger pressed will allow you to pick up the dead or stunned guard without having to select body from the HUD.
New to Chaos Theory is the Combat Knife, explained in the equipment section.
Back to Wall: The Back to Wall move has been upgraded to allow Sam to effortlessly slip around corners now. Gone is the ability to peek out and shoot around with the pistol, this has been removed for some reason and I am not quite sure why.
Shimmying: This remains unchanged from previous games although if a guard comes into contact with Sam as heís shimmying the ledge with a railing above him, the interaction option that allows you to pitch him over the side, should come up.
Hand over Hand: Horizontal pipes give Sam a much needed heads up on his enemies, can be used to cross impassable gaps above their heads either legs up or down or as an ambush point for the:
Inverted Neck Snap: This move has been two games coming but its well worth it, one of the best things about being on a pipe is the option to grab an enemy below you and either knock them out by stranglehold or quickly break their neck.
Zip Line: Sloped wires or zip lines can be used to get to the ground quickly or just cross to an area that might be otherwise too dangerous to go to on foot.
Throwing: The throwing system has been improved and itís now just a case of point and throw, thereís a small target cursor and gone are the annoying marker-lines from the previous games.
Rolling: Sam can roll, useful when evading angry guards or just to look classy while running.
Split Jump: Itís back again and easier to do, face a wall and press jump, sorted. Just make sure youíre in an area or corridor thatís high enough and not too wide.
Half Split Jump: Smaller areas and corridors allow for the half split, itís done the same as the full version above.
Drop attack: If youíre above an enemy and you land on his head, Sam will either use his hands or the back of his heel to send the guard into la-la land.
Rappelling: Interact with a hook point and rappel away, you can move up or down and kick-off the wall to get down faster.
Rappel shooting: When in a rappel Sam can use his rifle or pistol to shoot, nothing more needs to be said.
Hanging shooting: If on a pipe. When Samís legs are up heíll swing down and shoot backwards, if his legs are down heíll aim forwards.
Split jump shooting: When in the split jump mode Sam can also equip a weapon and fire.
Switch shoulder: Allows for aiming at any angle, click in the left thumbstick to switch shoulder and perform this trick.
Doors: Stealth, Bash, Lock picking and Break lock are all available with doors, as well as the good old normal open move.
NPC moves: Move a body (Dropping it suddenly with Y or pressing X to whip out your weapon) or grab an enemy from behind and from this move you can choose to knock them out, kill them or if they have informationÖtease it out of them with the knife. If you come under attack press X and make them into a human shield. Some NPCs will have to be forced to use objects in the game world, for this move them to the object and select forced interaction.