Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell : Chaos Theory (2005), Ubisoft, Xbox

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As “an overgrown adolescent who thinks himself clever”, I’ve got my fair share of opinions. One of those is that if you throw shade at somebody you’ve never met because they didn’t like your favourite game, well golly, you might want to look in the mirror and reassess a few things. Another is that you should occasionally go outside. And my most important obnoxious opinion is that Splinter Cell : Chaos Theory is one the of the very best games ever made, anywhere, ever. Even though it didn’t come out on the Saturn.

Story

Japan have formed the ISDF (Information Self Defense Force), causing friction between them and their neighbouring nations. As a result, America interferes! Hooray! Jack Bauer-esque shenanigans ensue through the eyes of Sam Fisher, and to be brutally honest, the majority of the story will likely go whistling past your ears as you skip through the dialogue to get to the next fun, sneaky bit. It’s a very well crafted story that doesn’t do well if I over-explain it, but it requires a lot of your attention; so bring your NATO alphabet.

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Mate, this guy is gettin’ grabbed like you don’t even know.

Presentation

Still looks as tasty now as it did back in 2005. SCCT is a very dark game, both in tone and presentation, so the fact that this much detail has gone into the character models and environments is a testament to the care that Ubisoft put into it’s creation (My personal favourite is the look of sheer fright on a guards face as your grab him for interrogation). Being able to play though the game in grainy night vision adds a level of realism and grit to the proceedings, as well as proving a damn near vital tool for subterfuge.

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Few games make you feel like something to be feared.

Gameplay

Just utterly sublime. The whole point of Games Revisited is that we see if games can still hang today; and the sad truth is that many don’t. Be it through frame rate issues, other games improving on the formula, or simply the fact that we were feeble minded children; some games just don’t have the magic they once did. In the ten years since SCCT, I would venture to say that there simply has not been a better stealth game. And if there is, please tell me what it is, as I would sincerely love to play it.

   Even future Splinter Cell games couldn’t keep up with SCCT, and there’s a simple reason : freedom. In Double Agent, you’re hampered by the introduction of daylight missions. In Conviction, you’re bogged down with the games insistance that you kill everyone in sight. In Blacklist, you’re not exactly bogged down, because it’s far too simple and linear. Chaos Theory hits the sweet spot of presenting you with a sandbox : you can choose whether or not to go in all guns blazing, or to sneak in so that nobody ever even knows you were there. Not only this, but there’s a myriad of entry and exit points to each level, and interrogating guards can provide you with valuable information such as passcodes to make your travels even smoother.

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The only problem here is trying to stifle your giggles when people walk under you.

   The gadgets are a joy as well – the sticky camera sticks to the wall, allowing you to attract a guards attention before you use the camera to hit them with knockout gas (if you don’t do this whilst quoting “hold still while I gas you!”, you’re doing it wrong). The sticky shocker does what it says on the tin – it sticks to guards and shocks them into unconsciousness. The airfoil round is a mean sumbitch, knocking guards clean out from a distance. Heck, you even have an EMP device on your pistol, allowing you to temporarily dim the lights so you can proceed unseen. Pardon my whiteness here, but THAT IS GANGSTER. Being able to auto-save at any point means you’ll be retrying levels until you’ve reached apparition-like levels of stealth, and it’s a whole heap of fun. Add to this an absolutely stonking local co-op mode, and you’ve got replay value for…well, about ten years now.

Verdict

I had a pretty good idea I’d be heaping praise on SCCT after replaying it, but my word, I had no idea it would hold up this well. Still as fresh as a daisy, and dense with ideas that make most modern games look shoddy and underdeveloped. Take a bow, Ubisoft – and absolutely essential masterpiece of gaming.

Pros: FREEDOOOOOOOOM! FREEDOOOOOOOOM! Still looks the business, still plays the business, Sam Fisher’s gruff Daddy voice, the co-op is a blast, superb gadgets, really satisfying sense of accomplishment, great challenge, lengthy single player campaign.

Cons: Occasionally inscrutable story, the sketchy pro-America right-wingness of it all. Meh, just skip the dialogue.

94%

Back In The Day

SC:CT was released in 2005 to a rapturous reception from all those who even so much as caught a whiff of it (94% Metacritic rating), and was so successful it has been ported to the DS and 3DS, as well as remastered in HD for a PS3 collection. Ubisoft wept, for there were no more worlds left to conquer.

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