Blast From The Past
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was a masterpiece of the original Tom Clancy classic
For me it’s always been Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory that’s managed to capture the very best parts of Ubisoft’s iconic Splinter Cell series as it improved on elements that needed reworking, and kept itself wrapped up in deep state political drama with that same careful diet of tension-breaking humour.
While the 2002 original still holds up today, and 2004’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow improved the formula, it was Chaos Theory in 2005 that seemed to really find Sam Fisher’s full groove. There was a bad guy out there and Fisher, Lambert and Grim are on the case to solve who’s really behind all this escalation in the Asia Pacific. All the crazier down-the-rabbit-hole conspiracies of the latter Splinter Cells haven’t started tearing out the foundations just yet.
”Lambert… Now that I’m holding fifty million bucks… I think we need to talk about that raise again.”
We’re given an objective, we’re told to try and be as quiet as possible, there’s plenty of lights to shoot out, guards to eavesdrop on, ledges to hang from, and all the usual bag of tricks for Fisher to lure in his next victim. You’re like the spider trying to attract the fly, only these flies usually pack automatic weapons, grenades and can call their buddies – yet the odds still aren’t in their favour. How could they be? I can split jump and shoot air-foils!
It’s all the tension of creeping about in the shadows and figuring out which guard you can pick off silently as you whittle down the patrols and sentries. There’s something oddly satisfying about incapacitating a whole enemy lair in Splinter Cell, even when you don’t have to. It’s like you’re not appreciating all the trouble Ubisoft went into designing the levels if you don’t, and then there are all the overheard conversations you’ll miss and computers to snoop on for emails and the occasional hack. Missions tended to have optional objectives too that would help give more backstory and make it feel like you’re really Third Echelon’s most badass burglar.
”Yeah, you must be a ninja. How else could you sneak up and grab me like that?”
It’s the little things in Splinter Cell games like how in a later level there’s a conversation about why the floorboards in a Japanese house make a distinct noise. They talk about how these ‘nightingale floors’ were made to alert guards to ninjas sneaking around centuries past. Fisher is somewhat ninja-like himself, so not only is this a way to warn you of how difficult it can be to sneak around but… what happens if you grab the guard just talking about it? He freaks out – he thinks you’re a ninja and won’t let Fisher get a word in. It was these little moments that always gave it that extra charm.
Chaos Theory also had a good variety of environments to deal with as you worked to uncover the conspiracy that’s driving the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and North Korea towards open conflict. Initially it’s the tried-and-true sneaking about a facility and dimming the lights, but later the stakes increase and you have to work through the war-ravaged streets of Seoul, Korea to help quickly end a major conflict from escalating even further. There are also plenty of twists and turns as you come to realise who’s ultimately responsible and the stakes at play. It’s Sam Fisher at his finest, with Lambert and Grim chatting his ear off.
Where to get Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory today?
This is super easy – no lock picking into Ubisoft headquarters, subduing security guards and planting server backdoors necessary. You can get Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory from Ubisoft through their Uplay store, or through Steam for £8.59. Usually these get heavily discounted in any sale events, but they’re also part of the Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Elite Echelon Edition and the more expensive Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Collection.