We went to an event on Friday at Microsoft and had the opportunity to play around with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. This game is so incredible that it honestly could be three separate games. In fact my guess is that we’ll see the Splinter Cell brand broken up into solo and multiplayer games and sold separately very soon. God knows the individual components are strong enough to stand on their own.
The single player campaign is exactly what you’d expect from a Splinter Cell game. You sneak up on the guy and you give him the snappy snap. The thing about Chaos Theory is that your jaw will be on the floor the entire time you play it. I’m just about through the third level now and I just cannot believe what I’m seeing. These are the sorts of graphics I expected to see in the next generation of consoles. I had no idea the Xbox was capable of this sort of thing.
Aside from the juiced up graphics, Sam has some new moves. The knife is probably the biggest addition to his arsenal. It always seemed strange to me that this super bad ass spy when confronted by an enemy head on was essentially helpless. Now you just need to pull the right trigger and Sam will perform a cool looking knife attack that will quickly resolve any unresolved terrorist issues you might be experiencing. So far I can say it makes the game a hell of a lot easier. I was never especially good at Splinter Cell to begin with so for me this means I might actually beat this one. On the other hand I can see how it might make things a little too easy for some people. If you’re looking for a real challenge I’d recommend starting out on one of the higher difficulty settings right out the gate.
The cooperative play was really the highlight of the day for me. It’s always been my opinion that the option for cooperative play is a feature sorely missing from most games. Republic Commando is a great example of a game that could have benefited from a cooperative mode. Scrap the boring capture the flag multiplayer that I’ve seen a million times and let me run through some missions with three of my buddies filling out the rest of the squad.
After completing the training level we were tasked with infiltrating a building and recovering some data, blah blah blah basic Splinter Cell stuff. But Goddman it was good. From hoisting Tycho up into an open window at the beginning of the level to lowering him down by a rope over a computer terminal it was non stop fun. I’m praying that Ubisoft supports this mode with downloadable content. Honestly what I’d love to see is new episodic content as time goes on. Mission packs of four or five levels that were themselves self contained stories would be almost too much to ask for.
We didn’t get to play as much of the adversarial mode as I would have liked. That was my favorite part of Pandora Tomorrow and Robert and I actually still play it to this day on Live. I had the chance to mess around with the new weapons for the merc and I’m really interested to see how they shake down online. You have the new shotgun which is just a monster. If you have a spy up in your face it’s pretty easy to drop him with one shot from this thing. Problem is it’s got no range. If he’s on the other side of the room working a point you have no way to pick him off. Then you have the new sub machine gun which throws out an insane number of rounds per second. You can essentially blanket a room with fire. Problem once again here is no snipe mode and limited accuracy. Honestly I’m not sure either of them offers enough to make me switch out the basic assault rifle. But like I said I’m excited to see how they get used online.
The new poison mine is something that is really going to change the way mercs defend a level. Think of it like a laser mine only when its beam is tripped it fires a dart out that poisons the spy and kills him in a matter of seconds. The tricky thing about these guys is that unlike a laser mine the opposite wall can be yards away and you’ll still be able to plant it. Imagine a poison mine at the end of a hallway with a beam that stretches it’s entire length. Once again I’m curious to see how these get used.
The biggest new addition to the merc side is the new “fuck you agro spy” maneuver. Now when the merc is standing still and he hits A he swings around a full 360% laying out any would be neck breakers. It’s an extremely powerful move. It really seems like the designers want spies to be sneaky this time around.
On the spy side I wasn’t too impressed with any of the new tools. The predator style invisible camouflage is a neat trick but during actual game play it seemed pretty worthless. Your mobility is severely limited and honestly you aren’t that hard to spot. The coolest thing for the spies was the cooperative moves. Working together with your partner often times will allow quicker access to key objectives. In some cases specific points are only reachable via these maneuvers.
The levels overall seemed bigger. On average they felt like they were about the size of River Mall if not bigger. They are also a lot more interactive. In one level the spies had to grab disks and return them to drop points. Depending on the disk they stole they might activate the sprinkler system in the building causing water to rain down and screw up your visor. Or they might deactivate all the lasers or cause steam to pour out of all the vents. The ability to manipulate the environments was a big part of the levels we saw.
I could probably talk a lot more about the game but its gold now and you’ll have it in a couple weeks. I promise it’s just as good as you hope it is.