So I had every intention of playing and reviewing Pandora Tomorrow, but it doesn’t seem to exist online to purchase, you can only play the disk version. So here I am with Chaos Theory instead, which some have said is the best Splinter Cell game. It was released in 2005, compared to 2001 for the original game. So I do have an expectation that I’ll find it a little easier. But am I right? For this video I’ll be focusing purely on the solo campaign, but there is also competitive and cooperative multiplayer to enjoy.
Chaos Theory follows Sam Fisher, who gives off some serious ‘I’m too old for this shit’ vibes. It has a significantly darker tone than its predecessors featuring more combat and the option for Sam to kill people he interrogates, as opposed to merely knocking them out. As a result, it was the first Splinter Cell game to receive an M-rating by the ESRB, which has since been applied to all subsequent releases in the series. Actor Michael Ironside reprised his role as Sam Fisher, while Don Jordan returned to voice Irving Lambert and Claudia Besso returned as Anna Grímsdóttir having both been replaced in Pandora Tomorrow. Chaos Theory was a commercial success, selling 2.5 million units across all platforms within a month of its release. It was also free recently on the Ubisoft Store, mere days after I purchased it for 2 whole British pounds.
This instalment has some significant improvements made to it and this was the first of the series to use ragdoll physics, because everyone loves to see that. One thing I love about this game is the inclusion of the sound monitor which gives you the background noise of the environment, as well as how much noise Sam is making. So in noisy areas this enabled me to move faster without any concerns of being detected, at least not from being heard anyway
In the first game, after Sam left an area, the AI would perform a sweep for all unconscious and dead bodies in a well-lit spot. An alarm would be triggered if any were found, which happened to me frequently. In this game however, bodies have to be discovered by a patrolling guard or a security guard in order for the alarm to be triggered, something I wish I knew before I started, I could have saved myself a lot of time.
Another major change was that triggering too many alarms will no longer cause Sam to fail the mission. The enemies will become more alert and combat-ready, but this does feel much more forgiving than the first game, which I grew to hate by the time I finished it because it was so difficult. Each mission now has a score, so triggering too many will cause you to have a lower score, but I can’t say I was particularly bothered by that prospect, I’m just happy to complete a mission in one piece.
Each mission now comes with optional objectives so these can be completed to obtain a higher mission score. You’re also given options on load-outs, which you never were previously. You can opt for Redding’s recommended kit, and then either an assault or stealth kit. It was tempting to go for assault every time, as it gives you more ammunition but this is at the expense of less non-lethal options. In missions where fatalities aren’t permitted, you can’t even choose the assault kit. I found Redding’s recommendation to be ideal, as it provides a good balance of stealth and assault, and I never found myself to be short of ammo as you can usually find some throughout each mission.
If you are going to play this on PC, I would recommend taking a look at the mapping of the keyboard controls. By default, Space is sprint and enter is interact. So I had to change both of those and enter isn’t exactly ergonomically placed for gaming. The game handles nicely though and has aged well in this respect.
The game is also made significantly easier by some of the new equipment at Sam’s disposal, such as the OCP, or Optically Channeled Potentiator. That name didn’t mean anything to me either, but basically it’s the secondary fire on the pistol that can deactivate anything electrical, including cameras, for a period of time. This was a godsend for lights I couldn’t shoot out and security cameras. Whereas in previous games I had to be perfectly timed with my movements, this gadget allowed for a significantly larger margin of error.
The SC-20K also returns with a raft of new attachments. It now comes with a foregrip that reduces recoil and approves accuracy. I found this questionable at times though as I would have a perfect headshot lined up, then somehow miss. For that reason, I favoured using the pistol instead, as I found it to be much more accurate. The sticky shocker, sticky camera, and airfoil rounds are all back, as well as gas grenades. I found the only equipment I really used was the sticky shocker and occasionally the gas grenades, mostly because I forgot the rest were there.
Another handy piece of equipment is the EEV, or Electronically Enhanced Vision, a feature of the Multi-Vision goggles. This is great for hacking into computers or electronic door locks from a distance. I used this on literally every mission because usually the thing I need to hack is in plain sight.
The OCP and EEV make this game significantly more accessible and player-friendly than the first game. Parts of the original game just felt impossible and I found myself having to rely on guides often. Whereas with Chaos Theory I was largely able to figure things out for myself.
When playing the first splinter cell game it would keep crashing at every cutscene because it was trying to go from 1080p gameplay to videos of a much lower resolution. I had no such problems here and I think the game only crashed once or twice the whole time I was playing. I definitely would not recommend streaming over discord as this was what kept crashing it. I also initially struggled to record it with OBS. If you do plan on playing and recording this, just use windows capture instead of game capture and it should be fine. It just wouldn’t record any audio for me, for some reason. I did also have one glitch where the night vision and thermal vision were completely blown out and I couldn’t see anything. This only really happened when I was tabbing to another screen and was fixed by restarting the game. Aside from this the game ran smoothly and I had no issues with frame rate dips. It’s not like you’d need a powerful PC to run this either
The solo campaign has 10 missions and I’d say it probably took me around 10 hours to complete them, so it’s by no means a really long game. I did play this on normal difficulty though, so obviously that will impact how long the game takes. Plot-wise, this is a typical globe-trotting Tom Clancy conspiracy story, but I’ll do my best to summarise. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
Set in 2007, Japan forms the Information Self Defence Force (I-DSF), which causes rising tensions with China, North Korea and South Korea, who consider this to be a violation of Article 9 of the port-World War 2 Constitution. China and North Korea form a blockade in the Yellow Sea so as an ally to Japan, the United States dispatches the USS Clarence E Walsh, hoping this will cause North Korea and China to back down.
Meanwhile, Sam Fisher is sent to investigate a lighthouse outside of Peru where he must find and rescue Bruce Morganholt, who was working on deciphering Phillip Masse’s weaponized algorithms. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because he was assassinated by Sam in the first game. He was captured by a Peruvian guerilla organisation called the “People’s Voice” led by Hugo Lacerda. Poor Bruce is tortured and killed by the guerillas and Sam needs to wipe whatever data they learned from the interogation from a laptop. Next Sam infiltrates a cargo ship called the Maria Narcissa to find and kill Lacerda. Once Sam gets his hands on him, he reveals that he was contracted to kidnap Morganholt in return for a substantial reward.
Sam then follows a lead to Abrahim Zherkezhi found in a Panama bank and while investigating his apartment, the United States and Japan are hit by a simultaneous cyber-attack by an unknown source, causing mass blackouts. Admiral Otomo of the I-SDF contacts Third Echelon and warns them that North Korea and China are likely responsible. Back at the apartment, Sam makes the shocking discovery that the mercenaries inside work for Displace International, a US government funded VIP protection corporation run by Douglas Shetland, a close friend of Sam’s.
At the Displace headquarters Sam finds out that Zherkezhi has been moved to a safehouse in Japan, and that Shetland may also be involved. At the safehouse Shetland murders Zherkezhi with a sword and escapes before Sam can catch up to him.
During the events after the Blackouts, the USS Clarence Walsh was sunk unexpectedly by a missile while the crew was celebrating Independence Day. Third Echelon tracked the missile’s point of origin to a North Korean military battery, which was presumed deactivated. Sam is dispatched to the battery to find evidence of North Korea’s involvement where he discovers that the missile was launched remotely from Seoul.
In Seoul Sam is ordered to retrieve the data on the launch for analysis, and to keep it out of the hands of the North Koreans. Sam manages to remotely transmit the data drives to an EA-6B airship but it is shot down. Sam then needs to destroy the plane to stop the Koreans getting their hands on the data.
Third Echelon determines that the attack actually came through Japan. Shetland is tracked down to a bathhouse in Japan but he works out that Sam is tracking him and places bombs throughout the lower levels of the bathhouse to try and slow him down. Sam and Shetland eventually come to a standoff on the roof and Sam must choose between shooting Shetland or holstering his pistol. I of course shot him because I’m Sam Fucking Fisher.
After Shetland’s death, Otomo attempts to return Japan to Imperial rule and threatens to use the algorithms to launch a North Korean nuclear missile against a Japanese city, and basically start World War 3. When Sam manages to end Otomo’s plans, he attempts to commit seppuku, but Fisher saves his life and captures him. Otomo stands trial at the United Nations and takes full responsibility for the entire Korean crisis, returning stability to the region.
The varied setting of each mission means the game never feels stale, with each area feeling unique. Thankfully this game has no guard dogs and when guards do have torches, they don’t feel like the homing beacons that they did in the first game. What I will say though is that the level design for each mission is excellent and offers a tonne of replay value, even more than 15 years after release. The only mission I struggled with was the Hokkaido teahouse that has a key objective where you have to eavesdrop on a conversation and is surprisingly easy to miss. I ended up having to replay most of the mission to complete this one.
In terms of difficulty, this game is significantly easier than the first game. With all the changes mentioned previously it just feels so much more accessible and enjoyable to more casual gamers. I struggled with the end of the Bathhouse where you need to diffuse Shetland’s bombs, and towards the end of the Seoul mission. Seoul didn’t feel impossible, but once an enemy spotted me, they never seemed to lose track of me. I was also pretty tired by the end of this level and did the morally corrupt thing of leaving the pilots to what I hope was a quick and painless death. Perhaps this is the reason I got a success rating of 0%. I completed the mission so that at least warrants something surely.
One of my favourite missions was probably the Panama Bank which started off with a very Mission: Impossible feel as I was lowered into a room surrounded by motion sensor lazers. Unlike the film though, I triggered them within seconds and alerted everyone to my presence. I also really enjoyed the Displace mission which had a similar feel to the CIA Headquarters from the first game. There is also a reference to that mission along with the Abattoir and a sneaky Half-Life reference where Grim says that crowbars are for geeky video game characters. I also spotted Pandora Tomorrow on a TV in Zherkezhi’s apartment. I’m sure there’s many more easter eggs that I missed too.
I got a final rating of 45% and you know what, I can live with that for a first playthrough. If I had to rate this game, I would probably give it 85%. The game is very difficult in places, as you would expect from the series. But it never felt impossible, I think for me I just lack the patience to keep grinding until I figure out a solution. Considering this came out in 2005, the game has aged exceptionally well and if you haven’t played it before I would definitely recommend it. If you have played it before, go get yourself that hit of nostalgia. There’s another Splinter Cell game on the way, so why not re-familiarise yourself with the franchise’s strongest game.
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