Is Chaos Theory As Good As I Remember? | Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Retrospective

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is widely regarded by fans as the best Splinter Cell game in the series, and, as you probably know, I love to be a contrarian; I’m the guy who genuinely believes the first Mass Effect game is the best one for example So, with that in mind, I will say that, actually yes, Chaos Theory is brilliant and almost certainly the best game in the franchise I’ll reserve full judgment until I’ve replayed them all for this video series, but I’d be amazed if my opinion changed As year after year passes by without any announcement that Ubisoft is working on a new Splinter Cell game, more and more of me starts to wonder if my love of the series is just nostalgia talking Surely, if the games are really that good and enjoyable in 2020 we would have seen more of them by now? Ubisoft isn’t exactly scared of milking franchises Hell, this game includes a teaser trailer for a Splinter Cell movie described as coming soon That was back in 2005 In my videos for the first two games, I tried to present a fair balance of what was good about the games, while also examining their many drawbacks when played nearly 20 years after release Both the original Splinter Cell and Pandora Tomorrow are solid games that are worth your time, but it is undeniable that any recommendation has to come with caveats They’re the sort of games you recommend people play, but you when you do so, you also offhandedly mention that they feel dated in places, just to set appropriate expectations This isn’t true of Chaos Theory My recent playthrough confirmed that memories of this game are not clouded by nostalgia in the slightest and this 15 year old game needs no caveats alongside the recommendation It smooths out many of the niggles from the first two games that dated those entries and has probably the best maps in the series With the exception of the visuals in cutscenes, it doesn’t feel dated at all Chaos Theory was great in 2005 and it’s great in 2020 It should serve as proof that the formula can still work, although, I do accept that some changes would be required for a full $60 big budget release in the present day As discussed in my video on Pandora Tomorrow, after the release of the original Splinter Cell, development of the sequel was passed to Ubisoft Shanghai who had two years to make Pandora Tomorrow, with Ubisoft Montreal being given an extra year to work on Chaos Theory The game was originally supposed to release in autumn of 2004, however, it was delayed until Spring of 2005 because some of the higher ups didn’t think it was quite ready That’s not entirely surprising given that development did have more than its fair share of issues, such as the writer and lead designer both leaving before it was finished Unusually, the creative lead Clint Hocking, actually argued against the delay and was confident the team could get the game ready for the initial release The extra time was well spent The dev team used 8 months just to update the engine to Unreal Engine 2.5 and the improvements are noticeable On a purely visual level, there is parallax mapping, HDR, and the lighting is somehow even more impressive than before and one of the reasons the game still looks so good today I should point out, I am using a mod for widescreen support and HD resolutions, although in this case, it doesn’t make a huge difference, except that enemy faces now look really odd during interrogations One of the key changes with the new engine is the introduction of ragdoll physics which means enemies now no longer clip through walls all the time That used to happen quite a lot because you always wanted to hide bodies near walls There are also nice touches like Fisher having more animations to his movement which is especially noticeable when he’s sneaking because his body shifts slightly as he gets closer to enemies It makes the transition from moving to grabbing an enemy much smoother One area that didn’t quite get sorted out is grabbing enemies who are sitting in chairs While the animation is slightly smoother than it was in Pandora Tomorrow, you can still see the awkward way in which enemies kind of have to stand up for Fisher before he can grab them It’s also touch and go whether Fisher will grab them at all because you have to pretty much bump into them to activate the button prompt There were plans for an extended animation when Fisher changes the modules he’s using on his gun Initially, Fisher would go through the lengthy process of crouching down and manually switching the gear which sounds a bit like the system of Metro Exodus The animation was used in the E3 trailer and was apparently met with a positive reception, however, even when demoing the trailer, the team knew it wouldn’t make the final cut While realistic, the animation would clearly get irritating after you’ve seen it a couple of times I was a touch disappointed to see some of the new features from Pandora Tomorrow get dropped There’s no squat turn anymore, which I didn’t use much when it was available in Pandora Tomorrow, but ironically wanted to use a fair few times in Chaos Theory There’s also no flashing indicator to signal when it’s safe to drop an enemy in a dark location where they won’t be spotted, however, there is a cool new ambient noise meter that shows how much sound there is in the environment, so if you’re in a loud location, you can make more noise without a risk of being heard It even shows sounds like thunder than can be used to mask sound One new move is added, letting you grab enemies from above when holding onto a pipe, but as with many of these fancy moves, you hardly ever get a chance to use it I only found one time to do it in my playthroughs This reminds me of the infamous split jump which is still possible, however, I never did it once In terms of gear, the best new addition is probably the jammer With a quick press of the alternative fire button while the pistol is drawn, you can

temporarily shutdown any electronic device which gives you a few seconds to move to a new piece of cover This saves the hassle of shooting lights out, although it must be said, the pistol is a lot more accurate now so there’s no need to shoot three times at a close up lightbulb anymore Other nice tweaks are the addition of a knife, so Fisher can quickly and easily kill enemies in melee if he wants to, although I should point out that this can lead to unwanted kills In the first two games, you pressed the left mouse button while holding an enemy to knock them out, and it wasn’t until I got to the end of the second level and noticed I’d killed about 15 people, that I realized you now had to press the right mouse button because the left is an execution Oops The knife can also be used to break locks if you don’t want to go through the effort of picking them, however, be aware that this does make more noise You can also bash down some doors which obviously makes a lot of noise, but is 100% worth it if there happens to be an enemy standing on the other side Some of the attachments have been removed, although as Clint Hocking pointed out on a Tone Control podcast he recorded in 2013, it was more a case of combining attachments to remove unnecessary ones I completely agree that there didn’t need to be two types of sticky camera for example Speaking of which, I still find these cameras more annoying than they should be The idea is that you stick the camera to a wall and lure enemies over with a noise and then release the knockout gas Except the enemies nearly always spot the device before you have time to release the gas and they shoot it instead I found the best tactic was to just shoot the camera at their feet and then immediately release the gas, at which point it might as well just be another gas grenade Enemy AI also got a huge revamp While enemies used to react to lights being shot or switched off, they didn’t do much beyond a cursory investigation and switching the lights back on again The enemies of Chaos Theory are much smarter First of all, they are sensitive to more things, so you can’t expect to leave doors open without getting noticed either This makes a lot of sense with high security doors that require a password to access although in some cases, like a slightly ajar bathroom door, it does feel a little much And then, when they investigate these disturbances, they go to the effort of pulling out flares or flashlights to light the way This stops you using cheap tactics like turning off lights and waiting in the dark for someone to come and switch them back on before sneaking up and knocking them out You can still do that sometimes, but the guards are much more alert And they stay that way for longer Guards are slower to go back to their normal routine, especially on the higher difficulties, and they have stages of alertness now You can see and feel the step up in tension of the guards from being slightly suspicious to being on full alert The music even plays into this Whereas before, there were pretty much just two levels of soundtrack: either silence because you hadn’t been spotted or full blown orchestral score which could signify anything from an enemy hearing a stray footstep to a full blown shoot out, you now get a feel for the danger through the music as it gets louder and more urgent as the situation gets worse The new enemy AI doesn’t always work consistently mind you For example, I once shot out the lights and then opened a door planning to sneak up on the guards using the computer console One of them looked in my direction and noticed that the lights outside were off but not that the door to this high security area was now open Enemies also won’t fix problems while you’re out of range which leads to odd situations such as when i turned out a bunch of lights to sneak through a room and then came back later only to find them just starting to react to the lack of light The AI presumably gets switched off while you aren’t nearby One improvement is the increased level of environmental awareness, so if an enemy does hear or see you, their reaction will be contextual to where you are, with references to you being above or below the enemy, or near a door or landmark Their casual conversations are even interesting, such as the guard who admits he is still afraid of thunderstorms because when he was young the US army used the noise of a thunderstorm as cover for an attack This is actually the game’s way of telling the player you can do the same, but the added flavor is appreciated I especially enjoyed listening to the guards go through stages of fear because it made them feel like real people For example, when they investigate a low level threat, they mutter to themselves about how they are glad they didn’t find anything anyway and I could really resonate with that I know I’d make a terrible guard, because I’d always be hoping not to find anything Hell, I remember when we had a mouse problem in our house and if I saw something suspicious, I would always check it out, while keeping my fingers crossed that whatever I saw had already legged it because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of catching it Fisher is slightly more dangerous than a mouse This level of self-preservation extends to combat, where enemies are now less likely to run out into the open during a shoot-out and will instead take cover, and there’s the much improved interrogation system during which most enemies will happily tell you whatever they know when Fisher has a knife

to their throat Interrogations were in the previous two games and in both of my videos on those games I specifically mentioned how it was an idea that was never built upon properly In both games, the only notable interrogations are during the tutorials, and the concept is largely dropped after that except for the odd scripted event Not so in Chaos Theory Fisher can interrogate roughly half of the enemies now, and they nearly always provide a snippet of useful information such as pin codes for locked doors, the location of security cameras or medkits, or mission sensitive stuff such as who is meeting whom I also love little touches such as how Fisher demands more information if you happen to already know the info you’re given You don’t have to interrogate anyone mind you, because one of Ubisoft Montreal’s guiding philosophies when developing Chaos Theory was that there should be flexibility of approach for players and far fewer game over moments which it felt ruined the flow of the earlier games For me, this is one of the ways those earlier games feel more dated than Chaos Theory For example, in one part of Pandora Tomorrow, you need to capture a guard to use a retinal scanner, except if you accidentally knock out that guard you get a game over because it’s now deemed impossible to continue Similarly, there were game overs for raising a certain number of alarms, or killing when you weren’t supposed to This led to the first playthrough of both games having a lot of trial and error moments which the team was keen to eliminate this time around Every map and mission in Chaos Theory was designed from the ground up to offer a choice of approach to the player, not just in playstyle, but in the route taken, and, where possible, Ubisoft Montreal removed the game over screens Before starting each mission, you’re given a choice of three loadouts: there’s the stealth loadout, the assault loadout, and the recommended loadout from Redding, your new handler The stealth loadout doesn’t contain much deadly ammunition but does include a lot more of the non-lethal options such as airfoil rounds, shock rounds, and gas grenades The assault option is obviously the opposite You can’t quite go all out assault in every mission because there are a couple of no-kill moments, but they are far fewer than in the previous two games, and most importantly, they feel much more justified this time which keeps the experience consistent Pandora Tomorrow in particular seemed to just keep flicking a switch at random for when you could and couldn’t kill people Redding’s recommendation is basically just an average of the two and I wouldn’t recommend it In fact, I wouldn’t really recommend assault at all and would always choose the stealth approach, but to be fair, assault is a legitimate option As Lambert is keen to point out, there are no alarm limits this time, so you can make as much noise as you like, but you should expect more guards and more protection on the guards as a result The reason I don’t recommend this approach is simply that I don’t think it’s much fun While the shooting mechanics have been improved from previous games, Chaos Theory is not fun as a straight up third person shooter in its own right and your lethal weapons are limited to your assault rifle and silenced pistol, although the assault rifle does have a special foregrip now for improved aim in combat I suppose you also have wall mines, but it’s still a long way from varied It’s not like in the Metal Gear Solid games where you can whip out all sorts of crazy weapons if you wanted to take that route For me, the real strength of the added flexibility comes through in the stealth approach which now feels a lot more fluid due to the removal of those failure states There aren’t any missions where you fail immediately when you’re spotted a certain number of times Enemies have to physically find bodies now, so if you eliminate all enemies in an area, you know the bodies won’t be found This is a big improvement on the approach the first two games took which was doing sweeps at regular intervals to see if there were any bodies in the open, regardless of whether there were any enemies around to find them Retinal scanners, which previously acted as a roadblock of sorts, can now be hacked by Fisher if he accidentally kills the guard who unlocks it, as can all door keypads and most computers This means that not only do all levels have ways to play stealthily, which to be fair, you’d expect, they have multiple ways to play stealthily You can hack a keypad or interrogate a guard for the passcode or find another way in via a vent or even avoid the need to go into the room altogether I especially like how these options are not always obvious and right next to each other which has been a complaint of mine in games like Prey and The Outer Worlds In Chaos Theory, the guard with the passcode might not be near the keypad in question and the vent could be in another guarded room, instead of just right next to the door

Going around the room entirely could be quite a convoluted process This isn’t quite as varied as, say, Dishonored or Hitman, but it’s not bad Fisher also has a lot of non-lethal options at his fingertips as opposed to just two for assault In addition to standard stealth stuff like distracting enemies with noise or sneaking up and grabbing them, he has the gadgets like gas grenades, shockers, sticky cameras, and airfoil rounds, plus he can turn off their computers with the jammer or use it to switch off a light that has them move from their location And ghost runs are now a core part of the experience By ghost run, I mean you don’t just avoid setting off alarms and being spotted by enemies, you don’t even knock them out You are in and out of the level without anyone ever knowing you were there The maps were clearly designed from the ground up with this in mind and you are awarded for your efforts with a score at the end of each level You start each mission with a score of 100% and lose percentage for enemies killed or getting spotted or not completing optional parts of the mission Technically, knocking enemies out doesn’t detract from the score, so you can still get 100% without it being a pure ghost run but it does make a point of telling you how many were knocked out and it is certainly satisfying to see zeros across the board Or at least I imagine it is I must admit, I didn’t get any 100% scores on my main playthrough, although there were quite a few 95% scores I experimented with ghost runs and while I certainly had a good time with these in places, they ended up taking me out of the moment a bit For starters, there are still a few issues with enemies spotting you when they shouldn’t be able to see you, although this is now rare It is unavoidable, however, that knocking out enemies is always the best option, because you often have to get past enemies multiple times Many maps require a bit of backtracking for missions or to get to the extraction point at the end, so it isn’t just a case of sneaking past enemies unaware once, you have to do it at least twice Plus, as discussed, the ghost missions don’t affect anything and therefore you are doing it solely for your own satisfaction which motivates me a bit, but often not enough I found that, due to my own lack of discipline, the process led to a little too much save scumming for my tastes, but your experience may vary There is one significant drawback to all this flexibility and player choice and that’s how it tends to make the experience a lot easier Only one map, the bathhouse, was challenging in the same way that the many of those in the early two games were, even though I deliberately restricted myself on the use of airfoil rounds and gas grenades, and the like In fact, Chaos Theory reminded me a bit of the Metro games in that, even though there are a lot of options, there’s always a clear route of least resistance which you’d be crazy not to take In Chaos Theory, this route typically revolves around the new hacking mechanic As I mentioned, you can now get through locked doors and retinal scanners with hacking, and the hacking minigame is pretty easy, so why wouldn’t you do this all the time? I never once saw a retinal scanner and wondered who I had to capture to activate it or went out of my way to obtain door codes through computers or interrogation Hacking was always easier The hacking mini game is alright Nothing overly offensive and I preferred it to the lockpicking one The only time I used the retinal scanner properly was when the guard who activated it happened to be right next to it and he told me about it during Fisher’s interrogation of him However, it would have been quicker just to hack the thing since he was asleep on the job anyway In fact, it would have been even quicker just to go to the unlocked door nearby because that’s just as easy a path to the goal So yeah, there’s definitely a lack of built in challenge Completing the main mission is rarely that hard There are now three difficulty settings with guards becoming increasingly more alert on the higher settings although I rarely found it made much difference if you’re already being careful You also take more damage, but I didn’t get into gun fights in the first place The only time I took damage was from falling when I was in a bit of a rush There’s an attempt to add more challenge through optional objectives Typically, at the start of a mission, someone will pop up on the radio and ask Fisher to do a bit of extra work, like tapping phone lines or even removing taps from phone lines before they are found Completion of these objectives improves your score at the end of each level and there is usually some additional dialogue to recognize your accomplishment, but that’s about it I’m fine with the lack of any tangible reward although it certainly would have been good if completion of these objectives had more impact in some way Maybe there could have been rewards such as additional non-lethal rounds for the next mission or even new gadgets, but I’m genuinely not sure if that’s a good idea I think modern games have rewired my brain to expect shiny new toys whenever I check off a box These optional adjectives are definitely a welcome addition and they may seem harmless because if you don’t want to do them you can just ignore them, however, I did notice one potential drawback to their inclusion They change the way you play the game and not always for the better As discussed, the maps offer a choice of route to your objective so maybe instead of sneaking past the guard at his desk, you can go through a side room and come out the other side or perhaps there’s a vent that helps you skip past three enemies sight unseen All great stuff and satisfying to find However, the optional objectives typically force you to explore the entire map by, for example, hacking five computers spread throughout the map or tagging a bunch of crates That makes sense at first glance If you could complete them all on the way to your main objective, they wouldn’t have anything to add in terms of challenge

The optional objectives are forcing you to explore every nook and cranny and keep your eyes open So that’s what you start doing You start exploring every part of the map, including areas in the open, and before long, you find yourself going into a new mission with that as the goal Finding a vent to crawl through or a curtain to cut open used to be satisfying because it meant you were avoiding other areas, but if you’re going for those optional objectives, you know that at some point, you are almost certainly going to have to back track because there’s a phone you need to tap in the kitchen or a computer in that office you’re crawling over the top of You aren’t given any guidance on where this optional stuff is and I nearly always had to explore the entire map to find the last one or two things I was searching for Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to remain stealthy and overall I did enjoy the extra layer of challenge, but it did mean I uncovered most of what a map had to offer on the first run instead of discovering the secrets at a second or third attempt It might have been better to link the optional objectives to the hardest route or reward stealthy behavior in some way Perhaps you can only listen in on a phone call if the caller hasn’t been spooked off by Fisher raising alarms? However, that would have been harsh on those doing assault playthroughs I guess I don’t really have a solution to this problem, but I do think the change in mindset for these optional objectives is a problem, albeit a small one Fortunately, I enjoyed exploring all the maps because they are incredibly strong this time around In fact, without meaning to, I’ve transitioned from referring to them as levels in the previous two games to maps this time around because that is what they feel like I’m reminded more of the new Hitman games at times, than the first two Splinter Cell ones The quality of the maps isn’t entirely consistent In general, the earlier maps are better than the later ones with the first three maps standing alongside the later Bathhouse map as being the best However, the overall quality is high and the low points aren’t all that low My favorite map is probably the third one: the bank Unsurprisingly, this sees Sam Fisher breaking into a bank The objective is to steal information from the servers, although he also happens to take $50 million in French bonds just to make it look like a robbery There’s a lot to love about this level from the choice of the way you break in: which can be through the front door, via vents, or, my personal favorite, climbing down from the roof, to little touches like finding out via an interrogation that you can get through a laser grid by carrying an enemy body And of course, breaking into a high security vault is always fun Probably my favorite part of this map is the aforementioned optional objectives which in this case see you upload a bunch of fake emails so that when the robbery is investigated it will look like an inside job I thought this was a great touch, although it is one of those objectives that sees you eventually explore the entire building regardless of the route you take in For example, I opted not to go through the front door for fairly obvious reasons, but you still need to end up doubling back there because one of the computers you need is at the reception desk by the door I ended up exploring this place so thoroughly that I found the other ways in by mistake, spoiling any potential variety in a second run Another great feature that comes with a caveat is the laser alarm you can trip as you leave the vault If you trip the alarm, which you likely will because it’s nowhere near as visible as other lasers on this map, then obviously the alarm sounds and you will need to fight your way out It’s not especially difficult, mind you, and you don’t have far to go to the extraction point, but it certainly spoils a stealth run you might have been attempting If you’re clever and playing it slow and steady, you might spot the laser and deactivate it before leaving This is brilliant However, if you leave the vault before taking the money, which I did because there were some other things I wanted to do in the map and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to after grabbing the money, you can walk in and out of the vault as many times as you like without triggering any laser And, of course, it doesn’t activate when you walk in, which really it should The laser isn’t triggered by the protective case opening or Fisher physically taking the money; just walking out of the vault while holding the money I appreciate that I’m probably in the minority by walking into the vault and then leaving without the money to go and do other stuff, but it did still take me out of the moment a bit Still, the bank is an otherwise great map Other strong maps include the first one, which sees Fisher start off on the beach and make his way through a bunch of caverns, which again offer multiple paths, before eventually making it all the way to the top of a distant lighthouse, and the second level which sounds dull at first, but is surprisingly open bearing in mind it takes place entirely on a cargo ship Fisher has a lot of freedom to move all over the ship from back to front, or bow and stern I guess, and through the four different decks Your mission updates a lot as you progress and it genuinely feels like the story is changing as you uncover new information The open ended nature of the level means you don’t just complete an objective, listen to an update, and then move forward until you get the next update and so on There’s a good chance you’ll have already been to areas that you then need to backtrack to after a mission update In my case, I had my exit route figured out well before I was ready to leave According to Clint Hocking, Ubisoft consulted with a former Navy SEAL to ask how Fisher would infiltrate the boat and then leave at the end They told them that you’d probably leave your agent in the water on the boat’s path

and have them climb aboard, and then leave by going back into the water and waiting to be picked up So that’s basically what Fisher does here The other excellent map is the Bathhouse which is the second to last map Really, this could have been my favorite, but there are a couple of missteps and missed opportunities that drag it down a bit But first, the positives This is a large level that sees you starting on the streets of Japan to infiltrate the bathhouse and ends with Fisher executing a friend The level is quite challenging, but it’s also gorgeous, so I didn’t mind replaying the same sections again a few times The baths themselves look lovely and I really enjoyed sneaking around this under construction swimming pool although I’m not sure it’s actually easier than the more obvious route despite what I was led to believe during an interrogation The steam rooms and baths look great, the whole health spa vibe is fun, and you can even find a couple of spies who have barricaded themselves in a room to record events My main issue with this map is that there are a couple of points that are largely luck based as to whether you are spotted When everything goes wrong at the end of the mission, you need to sneak through this corridor which is regularly lit up with flashes of light due to the chaos of battle No matter how carefully you time your run, there’s a good chance Fisher will be spotted Likewise, you need to get through a room with three guards all well armed and protected Fortunately, I still had a large supply of gadgets and I tried them all out, but the group was largely impervious to gas grenades and flash bangs The only thing that worked was the smoke grenades, and even then, they didn’t always work The first time I used them, I ran through the area and no one spotted me I was still celebrating my own ingenuity when I ran straight into an explosive wall mine I love this trap here I think the devs knew full well that a lot of people would be running after that room and left the trap as a gotcha and a reminder to never take things for granted because you can’t tell what’s around the corner Unfortunately, when I tried the smoke tactic again it didn’t work Nor the time after that All in all, it seems to work about one third of the time The reason this is a huge pain is that this is the last room before effectively a boss encounter where you have to find and defuse a load of bombs You should be able to do this in relative peace, however, if you alerted anyone in that previous room, you’ll have a huge group searching for you while you search for the bombs Of course, my struggles with these two areas could just mean there were better tactics I could have employed or routes I could have taken and just didn’t find, but I don’t think so I tried leaving a trap for these enemies however it appears that wall mines don’t go off once you’ve moved into a new area I don’t consider any of the maps to be bad, although the one in the Displace International office building is probably the worst because it is just a dull office building which is hard to distinguish from similar office building maps in the previous games The rest all have their moments to remember them by The penthouse map is one of those ones where you start a long way from your goal, having to navigate the streets, then through a parking garage, then up to the roof where you zipline across to the next building and then finally enter a multi-floor penthouse Overall, the Splinter Cell series does a really good job with maps like this that make you appreciate the scale of the missions Hokkaido Island is a nice looking map although I didn’t appreciate the fake time pressure at the end You’re told to chase Doug Shetland so I stupidly thought I actually had to move quickly and then got caught in an ambush Thing is, you don’t need to move quickly at all Shetland always escapes and there’s no failure state for not getting close enough to him before he does or anything so you might as well take your time Hokkaido also has that thing I hate where you can’t get past a rather innocuous obstacle, in this case a gate that Fisher could easily climb, and of course, this turns out to be close to the final part of the mission and you go through it on the way out The North Korean base is a bit dingy and confusing to navigate, although I liked being on a missile base, including sabotaging some of the missiles, and then rushing to switch off the radar while a missile is in mid-flight The time pressure is real this time Seoul is an interesting map It’s a large city complete with UAVs which add an extra layer of challenge to moving around undetected Sure, you can temporarily jam them, but it’s not uncommon for them to reactivate while you’re still in the middle of an enemy camp or even mid-interrogation One slight criticism is that this map is broken up with an awkwardly placed cutscene I’m sure it would have been possible to see the plane shot down in real time Anyway, after that, there is an excellent player choice moment Fisher needs to reach the downed plane to call in an airstrike on that location, however, the two pilots of the plane are injured and will be killed by the airstrike Lambert promptly tells Fisher that his mission is more important than saving the two pilots, but, if you like, you can ignore this and carry each pilot to safety You don’t get anything for this other than personal satisfaction of course, and even though you don’t have to take them far, it isn’t that easy You have to move slowly past a zone with a flickering light and a tank with its turret aimed directly at you Even after saving just one pilot, Lambert tries to tell you that’s good enough and to get on your way The pilot rescue reminds me a bit of the key decision you make in Pandora Tomorrow, however, I believe this one is a lot better As you may remember, in Pandora Tomorrow, a woman called Dahlia Tal helps Fisher navigate the streets of Jerusalem, however, just as you’re about to leave her behind, Lambert pops up in your ear telling you to kill her There are consequences to whether you do or not; mainly, if you let her live, she will try to kill you at the end of the level The pilot rescue doesn’t have notable consequences, but in every other way, I preferred it

First of all, saving the pilots requires you to go out of your way; it takes effort Killing Dahlia took no effort at all and it was presented as an instinctive choice Saving these pilots isn’t that easy I also think saving people who, in the grand scheme of what’s going on, are technically insignificant, is inherently more interesting than killing a potential baddie that you know little about Finally, Fisher has all the information here He knows what is at stake and it can therefore be a conscious decision Does he want to go out of his way to save two people for absolutely no reward? As Lambert points out, Fisher’s work is confidential No one will ever know if he risks his life to be even more of a hero The one part of this map I didn’t really like was the active warzone and relative lack of choice compared to other maps The war being fought on the ground limits where you can go, and it was once again tricky to know when you were about to be lit up by some nearby explosion The final map is decent, although I do think it shows a few signs of being rushed and, when combined with events of the story, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate climax With a few tweaks, you could probably swap the Bathhouse level with this one and have a stronger ending There are good parts though At one point, you come up against enemies with non-lethal rounds and they are tricky, but not impossible to get passed There’s a good chance you’ll get spotted and if you do, you’ll quickly be knocked out and wake up handcuffed to a chair Of course, with Fisher’s lockpicking skills, the handcuffs don’t last long and he quickly gets his gear back, but I liked the dynamic and missable mission design There’s also a nice bit near the end when you can sneak underneath a bunch of enemies who are waiting for you at the end of the corridor and move past to the final boss without being spotted This is easy and obvious, but I enjoyed it nonetheless This section, and the map as a whole, seemed to be missing a bit of interaction from your team For example, after placing the bomb on the server, you’re not given any instruction on blowing it up Usually someone pops up and says “well done Fisher, now go blow it up.” That kind of thing This might sound like a minor point, but in order to set up the ambush at the end of the corridor, the game needs you to blow up the device at this very specific spot at the top of the stairs and it can be quite easy to miss One minor criticism is that while the game as a whole has successfully eliminated most trial and error, I did think the turret that appeared from the ceiling on this map was a little sneaky Perhaps there was a way to know this would happen though On balance, there are about 4 excellent maps, 5 good ones, and maybe one that’s a little dull That’s not too shabby at all Tying all these maps together is a solid story centering around the creation of the new Japanese Information Self-Defense Force, the I-SDF, and apparent aggression from North Korea which threatens to bring the US into a war between North and South Korea Plus, there’s a bit of good old fashioned betrayal in there too Ubisoft Montreal clearly had more money to spend on the story this time around There are now cutscenes between every mission and before each mission you get a lengthy briefing from Lambert, Grimsdottir, Redding, and occasionally a fourth person, usually with a terrible regional accent These briefings really cement the notion that Fisher is part of a team and provide a hell of a lot more context for why Fisher is in each location and what he needs to do than the previous games The news broadcasts are still present, however, they now tie into events of the game in a more direct way, making the story far easier to follow Fisher and Grimsdottir have a great relationship this time, with a kind of mentor/mentee thing going on There’s a repeated joke about how old Fisher is, at least compared to Grimsdottir, and, as someone who is closer to 40 than 30, I’m definitely the target market for this kind of banter These conversations, and all the interrogations, give Fisher a chance to show his funny side which is necessary considering the otherwise dark tone of events While the writing is generally solid, I didn’t love the fourth wall breaks and constant product placement I let one or two things pass For example, when Lambert tells Fisher that there’s no longer a three alarm and done system in place, he jokes about how “this isn’t a video game.”

That’s fine, if a bit silly, as is the comment about how crowbars are for geeky video game characters But it really gets too much later on There’s one point when you can listen in on two guards talking about how awesome the new Prince of Persia game looks, there’s a trailer for Pandora Tomorrow in there, and a bunch of Nokia ads The main story is good though It all kicks off with Japan launching a new Information Self Defense Force, which was briefly teased in Pandora Tomorrow In case you don’t know, Japan has an unusual constitution that doesn’t allow it to maintain a military that is capable of acting aggressively outside its own borders It’s military can only be used for self-defense If this sounds somewhat unusual, it’s because the US effectively wrote Japan’s constitution after World War 2 and insisted on the clause preventing the build up of an aggressive military Kind of hypocritical coming from the US, but we won’t get into that here Japan already has a Self Defense Force, the regular SDF, and the ISDF is a fictional offshoot of that China and North Korea think Japan’s new ISDF looks a hell of a lot like an aggressive military force so things become tense in the region The first few missions initially appear to be disconnected from the main story, taking place around South America, but of course, things end up linking back around to the events in Asia An information warfare attack causes mass blackouts in Japan and the East Coast of the United States and Japan thinks China and North Korea are to blame North Korean involvement looks even more likely when a North Korean missile is used to sink a US warship North Korea claims that it did not launch the missile intentionally, which Fisher is able to eventually prove, with evidence pointing to the launch order coming from South Korea instead This kickstarts a war between North and South Korea, although in reality, neither country was responsible The whole thing was orchestrated by Douglas Shetland of Displace International and in conjunction with the ISDF Displace International is a huge PMC so stands to profit immensely from any war You may remember Shetland from his brief appearance in Pandora Tomorrow He used to work with Fisher and the two were close, but he felt betrayed by the US after a friendly fire incident and formed Displace International His motivations for this war are clearly the money he can make, although he does rant about how the world needs to change and it will take drastic action to do that, plus stuff about politicians and bureaucrats and the like Fisher is reluctant to believe Shetland is responsible, however, when the evidence becomes too much to deny, Fisher confronts Shetland and the player can choose whether to execute Shetland outright or put the gun down, at which point Shetland attacks and you end up killing him anyway Given that Fisher has a personal connection to Shetland, plus we’ve seen him in a few missions already and know who he is, it feels like this should be the end of the story, but there’s still another important chapter to play out, or perhaps it’s an epilogue The ISDF wasn’t acting on the authority of the Japanese government and its leadership wants to take control of Japan Fisher tracks down the leader who attempts to commit seppuku instead of being taken alive I don’t know how I feel about this bit The use of seppuku felt cliche bordering on slightly racist at first glance, however, Otomo, the leader of the ISDF is specifically trying to take Japan back to imperial rule, so it makes sense that he would also believe in ritual methods of suicide Fisher grabs Otomo before he dies and safely extracts him by blowing out the glass which floods the room and lets them swim to the surface Like I said, I would have switched the last two chapters around and have the finale be Fisher hunting down Shetland, but the way it’s currently presented doesn’t spoil the story by any stretch None of the Splinter Cell stories so far have been spectacular, but they are solid enough espionage adventures and the extra money lavished on Chaos Theory really helped keep me engaged in events Some more build up with Shetland would have been welcome I know there was that brief bit in Pandora Tomorrow, however, betrayal always stings more when you feel the betrayal yourself as the player and aren’t just told about it We never got the chance to see Shetland as a friend, we were only told he has a past with Fisher It’s the whole show don’t tell thing Before I forget, like I did in the Pandora Tomorrow video, I do want to give a shout out to Chaos Theory’s multiplayer and co-op modes, both of which were supposedly very good I never played the multiplayer back in the day I had Chaos Theory on the PS2 and didn’t have the resources to get it online As I understand it, the PS2 version of the multiplayer was fairly limited anyway Now, before someone says it, I know it is still technically possible to play online Ubisoft shut down its servers and never included multiplayer in the PS3 remastered edition, however, there are private servers available First of all, I’m not technically proficient enough to figure all that stuff out, but even if I did, the experience would be so out of the ordinary that it wouldn’t be suitable for discussion in a video like this one I’d have to play with a very select and limited group of people and presumably they would have been playing the game for years I’m sure there would be helpful peeps out there to explain the whole thing, but regardless,

it’s just not the typical experience and therefore not one I’d want to critique here It looks fun though Ubisoft really should bring it back Speaking of which, Ubisoft should just bring back this entire franchise Look, I’m genuinely not an overly nostalgic guy Not with video games anyway I am with music, TV, and film, however, I find the act of engaging with old games usually, but not always, takes the edge off any nostalgia that might have been there Watching an old movie is easy; likewise listening to old music However, playing old games often means you need to engage with systems that are frankly outdated and have been improved and iterated on over the decades As an example, while I love the first Fallout game, I made it clear in my video that it is not an easy game to go back and play now I wouldn’t recommend it without a lot of caveats I could talk about this for hours and explain how, despite issues around monetization, modern games and sequels in particular, are nearly always better than their predecessors, especially when they are gameplay focused and not story focused, but that really is an argument for another video Also, you can’t judge old games by what they were like at the time or their impact That relies on memory, which is fallible Now, with all that in mind, I really do, hand on heart, think Chaos Theory is still a great game to play in 2020 Not only that, I fully believe a modern Splinter Cell game in the vein of Chaos Theory could work The maps would need to be bigger and there would need to be more options; something like a cross between the maps of Hitman and the variety of Dishonored could be good There would be issues It’s undeniable that Ubisoft’s games now need recurring revenue models and that’s not a great fit for Splinter Cell People also think 12-hour campaigns are not sufficient any more, so there might be pressure to reduce the price It’s also worth noting that the aforementioned Hitman and Dishonored franchises haven’t exactly set the sales charts alight, despite being great games, especially the Hitman ones So yeah, those financial reasons might explain why Ubisoft hasn’t already announced more Splinter Cell, but that certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t make a great game in this vein Mind you, if I recall correctly, it’s all downhill from here as far as the Splinter Cell series goes, but I’ll confirm that soon enough as I continue this video series And that brings us to the end of this video If you enjoyed it, please consider hitting like, sharing the video in appropriate places, and subscribing if you haven’t already For those that want to go the extra mile, I have a Patreon page where a donation of a dollar a month gets your name in the credits and a Patreon role in my discord server which is open to all, so come hang out My next video should be The Witcher 3 Obviously this is a big one and it’s going to take a lot of work, but I will do everything in my power to get it out by the end of March After that, I’ll probably go back to my isometric CRPG series, cover more Splinter Cell games, and do a few other projects I’ve had on the back burner for a while now Alright, until next time, cheers