Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the third title in the Splinter Cell series of games published by Ubisoft in 2005. The most notable difference in this iteration was a new cooperative multiplayer mode. Though very popular it was plagued by numerous bugs when it first came out, making it very difficult to finish a multiplayer level. The game came out on all platforms. Only the Nintendo GameCube and N-Gage versions were unable to include the "adversary" mode, where mercs and spies would be against each other.
The graphics in Chaos Theory feature a number of improvements, including the addition of normal mapping, HDR lighting, and parallax mapping. The game also features a number of major changes and improvements to the series' basic gameplay. Chaos Theory is also the first game in the Splinter Cell series to use ragdoll physics.
Chaos Theory features refined stealth mechanics. In addition to the standard light bar, the game also features an aural monitor that measures the noise that Sam makes, along with the ambient noise of the environment. It is important for Sam to make less noise than his surroundings; otherwise, the enemy guards will hear him.
The AI detection has been altered as well. In former titles, after Sam would leave a certain area, the game would do a sweep of the previous area for all unconscious or dead bodies in a well-lit spot. If any were found, an alarm would be triggered. In Chaos Theory, the bodies have to be discovered by a patrolling guard or security camera in order to trigger an alarm.
Being spotted by enemies will still trigger alarms, and alarms will still cause enemies to become more alert and combat-ready (such as causing them to wear ballistic vests and helmets). However, triggering too many alarms will no longer cause the game to end automatically. Even killing civilians or friendly soldiers won't cause Fisher to fail the mission, although doing so will cause Fisher to be seriously chastised by his superior, and cost him significantly in his mission score as well as canceling certain mission objectives, such as tapping phone lines and locating covert listening devices.
Chaos Theory adds a combat knife to Sam's close-quarters combat abilities. Sam can use the knife in multiple ways, such as threatening an enemy during an interrogation, or killing an enemy in close-quarters combat. Also, it no longer matters what direction Sam attacks from when using melee attacks, nor does it matter if enemies are aware of his presence, as opposed to earlier entries in the series where he had to attack from behind and the enemy could not be alerted to him in order to take them down in one hit. He also has the option of using lethal or non-lethal force when ending an interrogation, and with his close range attacks. As an expansion on Sam's ability to shoot while hanging upside down (introduced in Pandora Tomorrow), he can choke down or break the neck of enemies below him. He also has the ability to pull people over railings while hanging off a ledge and throw bodies off of cliffs or over railings, even onto other guards. However, the ability to shoot around corners has been removed, although this is balanced by being able to switch the side of Sam's body the gun is on while in a firing position. The ability to quickly switch from one cover to another nearby cover, introduced by Pandora Tomorrow, has been removed as well.
Fisher is now able to choose from one of three different equipment "kits." There is Redding's recommended kit, an assault kit, and stealth kit. Redding's Recommendation gives Sam an even balance between ammunition and non-lethal weaponry. Assault provides more ammunition at the expense of non-lethal weapons while the Stealth kit contains more non-lethal weaponry at the expense of brute force, lethal weaponry, and spare magazines. On missions where an objective is to cause no fatalities, the player is unable to choose the Assault option.
The 5-7 SC Pistol returns with a new feature: the OCP (Optically Channeled Potentiator). When fired at certain electronics, the OCP can disable them for a limited time. Fisher can disable lights, security cameras, and more. If the device cannot be disabled, it will temporarily malfunction instead, such as causing the blue screen of death when attacking computer towers. When Fisher successfully disables the electronic device he aimed at, a green light appears on the pistol; if he misses, a red light appears. In both cases, Fisher must wait a period of time for the OCP to recharge and become ready for use again.
The SC-20K returns with a multitude of new attachments, such as a foregrip that reduces recoil and increases accuracy, a launcher that fires non-lethal weaponry, an undermount shotgun attachment for close quarters firing, and a prototype 20mm sniper attachment for long-range combat. The SC-20K now uses a reflex sight that zooms to 1.5x magnification, while the sniper scope allows from 1.5x to 3.5x magnification.
A large variety of non-lethal weaponry can be fired from the SC-20K launcher, such as the Sticky Camera, the Sticky Shocker, the Airfoil Round, and Gas Grenade. The Sticky Camera will reveal an image of the area in which it was shot. In addition, it can make a clicking sound which will attract enemies, and also emit a CS gas that will render unconscious any enemies in the immediate area. In contrast to former titles Sam can now use multiple cameras at the same time. He can switch back to any Sticky Camera that has not been destroyed by using the CS gas attack or due to enemy fire. The Sticky Shocker will shock and incapacitate its target when fired. If shot into a body of water, the shocker will incapacitate all targets in the water. The Airfoil Round is a hollow metal ring that will knock out the target. It is still possible for an unconscious enemy to die if shot, dropped from a considerable height or dropped into water, no matter how shallow.
Fisher also has multiple types of grenades. There is the Gas Grenade, which emits a cloud of CS gas that knocks enemies unconscious, the Smoke Grenade, which provides Fisher with a cloud of smoke to hide in, the flashbang, which will temporarily blind and deafen any enemy near it, and the Fragmentation Grenade, which will kill any enemy within its blast radius, and send objects flying in all directions.
Enemy artificial intelligence (AI) has been improved, with enemies taking cover, leaning around corners, and using squad-based tactics. As in Pandora Tomorrow, enemies will also react to changes in the environment; if a light switch is turned off, an enemy may become concerned, more so if the light is shot out. However, this behavior has been enhanced so that enemies may even become so frightened and start firing wildly into shadows, or throw a flare onto the ground next to them, making it difficult to sneak up on them. They will also open fire on Fisher if they walk into him, or if he is seen in the light. They will fire a large number of rounds at his last known location, so if detected, the player is advised to reposition themselves and attempt to sneak past or eliminate the enemy.
Sam Fisher sees action again in 2007 when the abduction of a high profile computer programmer is somehow connected to an information war between North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan. An old mission also comes back to haunt Sam...
The plot of Chaos Theory sees a return to the original Splinter Cell's theme of information warfare, with Sam Fisher on the trail of the Masse Kernels used by former Georgian President Kombayn Nikoladze to attack America's infrastructure.
The game takes place in East Asia, during the Summer of 2007. Tensions are running high between China, South Korea, North Korea, and Japan, due to Japan's formation of an Information Self Defense Force (I-SDF) (an event mentioned in a news report in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow). Considering this to be a violation of Article 9 of the Post-World War II Constitution, Chinese and North Korean forces establish a blockade in the Yellow Sea against Japanese shipping. Because Japan and the I-SDF are allies of the United States and Third Echelon, the United States Navy dispatches its most advanced warship, the USS Clarence E. Walsh, to the Yellow Sea. The U.S. hopes this show of strength will get China and North Korea to back down.
Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated incident, Sam Fisher is dispatched to locate Bruce Morgenholt, a computer programmer who worked on deciphering Phillip Masse's algorithms as part of "Project Watson". He was captured by a Peruvian separatist group called "The People's Voice", led by Hugo Lacerda. Masse, whom Sam assassinated in the original Splinter Cell, was a genius far ahead of his time, and the algorithms he used to launch his attacks on America have been extensively studied by the United Nations. The resulting Masse Kernels are being touted as the superweapon of the 21st century. Sam is tasked with making sure they do not fall into the wrong hands.
Sam arrives too late to prevent Morgenholt's death from electroshock torture. He is also unsuccessful in stopping the release of the Masse Kernels. Sam is told to go on board the Maria Narcissa to assassinate Hugo Lacerda and track the weapon deliveries so they can find out who they are dealing with. After completing the mission, and following up a lead in a Panamanian bank, unknown parties use the algorithms to black out Japan and the Eastern Seaboard, including New York City. Japan has previously suffered similar attacks that crashed its economy, and Admiral Otomo of the I-SDF contacts Third Echelon and warns them that North Korea and China are likely responsible. Meanwhile, following a lead discovered in Panama, Sam travels to New York to investigate Abrahim Zherkhezi, a man who worked with Morgenholt on Project Watson. He finds that Displace International, a private military corporation owned by his old friend Douglas Shetland, is protecting him. He breaks into the Displace offices and learns of Milan Nedich, a Bosnian war criminal. Fisher finds that Nedich secretly relocated Zherkhezi to Hokkaido.
Sam travels to Hokkaido and meets with Shetland, who claims that Nedich is clean. Regardless, Fisher infiltrates the hideout that Zherkezi is being held in. There, Sam kills Nedich, and witnesses Shetland murdering Zherkezi with a katana. Shetland escapes and goes underground.
Meanwhile, the American show of force backfires when the USS Walsh is sunk by a North Korean anti-ship missile on July 4, initiating a war between North Korea and South Korea/United States. Since North Korea claims the missile was launched unintentionally, Sam is sent to the Korean Peninsula, including the South Korean capital city of Seoul, to determine if North Korea is truly responsible for sinking the USS Walsh, or if the Masse Kernels are involved. (Note that the sinking of the Walsh and the U.S.-North Korea war is the plot for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube versions of Ghost Recon 2.)
Sam eventually learns that the entire war has been orchestrated by Displace International. Displace used the Masse Kernels gained from Zherkhezi to hijack North Korea's missile systems and sink the Walsh, in order to draw the U.S. into a war from which Shetland could profit through their status as a leading American PMC. Ultimately, Third Echelon sends him to spy on a meeting between Shetland and Shetland's unknown accomplices, who turn out to be the I-SDF. At the meeting, the I-SDF betray Shetland, and a firefight subsequently breaks out between Shetland's soldiers and I-SDF assault troops. Amidst the chaos, Sam pursues Shetland to the roof, where, after a tense Mexican standoff in which Shetland tests their friendship over the security of the U.S., Sam kills Shetland.
Even after Shetland's death, one loose end remains. Admiral Otomo of the I-SDF has acquired a copy of the Masse Kernels from Shetland, and attempts to return Japan to Imperial rule by blackmailing the Japanese government officials and senior JSDF officers. He threatens to use the algorithms to launch a North Korean missile against a Japanese city. Because North Korea would be supported by China, and Japan would be backed by the U.S, the incident would spark World War III. Although Otomo's loyalist I-SDF soldiers manage to fight off the JGSDF commandos sent to stop him, Sam infiltrates the I-SDF's lowest levels and manages to put an end to Otomo's plans. Otomo attempts to commit seppuku, but Sam 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 Far East.
Two N.S.A. operatives start off the campaign with basic training, introducing the players to the game-play elements of the cooperative play. Uncharacteristically, they are given similar weapons as Sam Fisher, boosting them to lethal status. After passing training, the operatives are sent to Panama, tying up the loose ends and clues that Sam Fisher picked up from Hugo Lacerda. The operatives interrogate the Vice President of the bank and sifted through all available records to find out that other than aiding Hugo Lacerda, the bank had aided North Korea in smuggling nuclear and chemical weapons through Panama. A name, Jong-Pom-Chu appears in the records. Shortly after completing the mission, Lambert promotes the operatives into "Splinter Cells-in-Training".
The action then picks up in a war-torn South Korea, with the operatives trying to locate Jong-Pom-Chu. The operatives were tasked to destroy any anti-air vehicles and look for the Korean scientist. Unfortunately he was moved during the mission, and Sam Fisher needed to interrogate a North Korean Special Forces soldier to find out where. The operatives dismiss the idea that he is another Splinter Cell, as they believe they are the first. The trainees eventually evacuate Jong in a truck.
The operatives were then sent to a chemical missile bunker in North Korea, sometime after the end of the single-player campaign. The operatives were tasked to investigate what type of weapons development Jong was involved with. The operatives then later found out that the North Koreans were developing viral weapons, using monkeys as the guinea pigs. Lambert ultimately gives the order to create an anti-virus and retrieve a viral sample from a warhead. The operatives managed to exfiltrate by boat.
The operatives were then placed in New York City, tasked to disarming bombs in the train systems planted by rogue North Korean personnel attempting to recover a virus stashed in a locker. With help from Jong, the operatives recover the virus and manage to thwart the investigating North Korean soldiers.
The operatives are sent on a return trip back to North Korea, this time investigating a nuclear power plant. The operatives were tasked to finding out who helped Kim, the leading North Korean officer behind the weapons fiasco.
The operatives' final mission ends up at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, putting a stop to a now-desperate Kim's plan to blow up the building before an important meeting takes place. The operatives kill Kim and disarm the bomb the North Korean agents planted.
Like its predecessor Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory includes a competitive multiplayer component. Chaos Theory expands its multiplayer by including cooperative play allowing for two agents to play through a unique 7 mission story mode which parallels the single player campaign. It is playable via system link, or over Xbox Live.
The cooperative campaign follows the story of two Splinter Cells in training, merely known as Agent One and Agent Two. Their training is interrupted when a world crisis occurs that requires the Shadownet division of N.S.A. to deploy additional resources, even including agents not fully trained. The missions become a trial by fire for the two new agents.
In Splinter Cell Chaos Theory VS mode, two additional game play modes have been added to the game. New game modes include disk hunt, which consists of spies grabbing disks placed throughout the level, then returning the disks to their extraction point. The other game mode is death match, which consists of killing players on the opposite team-spies or mercenaries.
The gameplay is built on the same design as the single player campaign. It introduces new techniques for the two-player gameplay, such as one spy kneeling down to give the second spy a boost over a wall.
Though players can operate alone, the level design is such that it encourages teamwork. For example, there may be a switch down a long shaft that will unlock a door. One player will stand atop the shaft and extend a rope down the length of it while the second player will descend the shaft, hit the switch, and then return up the rope.
The cooperative campaign was popular enough that Ubisoft developed two additional levels for download for the PC and Xbox versions. The Nuclear Plant and UN Headquarters missions are meant to end the story for the cooperative component.
The popular (Shadownet) Spy vs. (ARGUS) Mercenary game mode returns from Pandora Tomorrow with many improvements. These include new gadgets for both teams, cooperative moves for the spy team, and improved close quarters combat for the mercenaries.
Spies are armed with non-lethal weaponry so they rely on stealth, skill, and gadgets. Spies can only kill mercenaries by breaking their necks, dropping on them (depending on how much health the mercenary has left), and hanging from a ledge and pulling him down. The spies' gadgets also do not affect other spies (except the shock gun, which stuns anyone it hits).
Mercenaries are the heavily-armed enemies of the SHADOWNET spies. They deal in tracking and lethal techniques. They are more limited in terms of where they can go. For example, they can't climb poles, fences, or even rails. In addition to their equipment, mercenaries are physically tough and pack quite a punch with melee attacks. Standing still and pressing the attack button will spin the merc around, knocking down anyone around him.
The Limited edition for Chaos Theory includes 3 bonus soundtrack remix music from Amon Tobin, the making of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, development information about the AI, levels, and animation, a spy guide, the concept art, and a Penny Arcade spy training manual
Chaos Theory has enjoyed critical acclaim with an average score of 94% on Game Rankings, a MobyRank of 94, and rating of 94 at Metacritic. Due to the fact that this game depicts a war between North and South Korea, it was banned in South Korea until 2006.
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