Killing machine has a game to die for
It may be that I am getting older and meaner, but these days I find I either love a game or hate it.
Tom Clancy's latest Splinter Cell instalment, Chaos Theory, published by Ubisoft for the Xbox game console, fits firmly into the first category. What is likely to be the last mission for black operative Sam Fisher is the best to date. The intensity in the package is enough to keep any gamer's adrenalin and heart rate at dangerously elevated levels. Quite simply: chaos rules.
The game's single player mode puts you through your paces with 10 incredibly challenging missions. You call the shots: stealth or assault. Hide in the shadows and avoid contact with the aggressively intelligent mercenaries. Fulfilling primary, secondary and opportunity objectives will get you closest to the 100 per cent mission rating. But you will not be able to, for example, hang upside down from an overhead pipe and snap some terrorist's neck. Why? Because your rating drops for every enemy you kill.
But being an overachiever isn't everything, and your in-game avatar is probably the finest killing machine ever coded. Fisher has an impressive arsenal of weapons, and with each there are non-lethal (left trigger) and lethal (right trigger) options. While he has a pistol with a silencer and an assault rifle with launcher options, he is as adept at killing with his combat knife as he is with his bare hands.
Gathering information is key to the game. Sneaking up on mercenaries, picking locks and hacking security systems are also crucial. All take patience and skill, especially if enemies are patrolling the area of operation.
As in previous Splinter Cell editions, Fisher has an array of sight-enhancing features. Night and thermal vision are essential for navigating the campaign, and there is the new EMF (electro-motive force) vision, which causes computers to light up your HUD (heads-up display). All types of vision are available when Sam has a weapon equipped or when looking through his binoculars.
In the co-op mode, four additional missions to play with a partner on Xbox live are available. The Xbox headsets provide excellent opportunities for teamwork, but be aware that the artificial intelligence enemies can also hear you talking and will respond with deadly force. Internet message boards are already highlighting the possibility of downloadable scenarios that would keep the fun alive for a long time.
The last mode is versus, in which mission-determined maps pit spies against mercenaries. But Chaos Theory has had the heart to retain the good old deathmatch. Perfect for four players. Would be better with 16.
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Pros: Ability to save anywhere. Some players deride this, but if you save close to an important event you can try it over and over to come up with interesting alternatives - or even the elusively perfect solution to any mission
Cons: None. This is a game to die for. It plays well, and looks and sounds great