Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Hands-On

We travel to Cannes, and bring you our hands-on impressions of Gameloft's upcoming Chaos Theory port.

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CANNES, FRANCE, 3GSM -- North America may be stuck in the midst of a gloomy winter, but on the southern shores of France, summer has arrived--the Summer of Sam, to be exact. Sam Fisher, secret agent extraordinaire, is primed for his third adventure on mobile, dubbed Chaos Theory, and he has made his playable debut at Gameloft's 3GSM booth. The game delivers much the same stealth action found in the previous two chapters, this time in a state-of-the-art aesthetic package that features some interesting new gameplay conceits for Sam to cope with.

Chaos Theory begins on location at a Peruvian guerrilla base ensconced in a lighthouse. You and Sam get a quick tutorial that will reintroduce you to Splinter Cell's facile controls, as well as a few of Sam's newfound abilities, like rapidly moving through a level using zip lines. Also, Sam has a few new tricks up his sleeve for dealing with sentries: For example, you can now grab onto a guard's foot and throw him off a ledge when hanging underneath him from a ladder or pipe. The game also urges you to try nabbing and "eliminating" guards from the safety of a shadowy doorway. The addition of a noise meter makes the stealth dynamic a little more complicated, forcing you to duckwalk up to guards to avoid alerting them. Not everything's new, though. About midway through the level, you find your trusty silenced pistol, which you can still aim using the laser sight for precision work. Unfortunately, we didn't encounter some of Chaos Theory's most exciting new gameplay elements, like remote-control drones, in the short time we had to play the game.

Up until Chaos Theory, the level designs in the mobile Splinter Cells have been fairly linear in construction. This time, Gameloft has opened things up a bit: You're going to be asked to explore levels a little more thoroughly to find computer terminals and switches, as well as backtrack to previously inaccessible areas. You'll also have to deal with some cunning environmental traps. For instance, we hacked a computer terminal to open up a door three screens back, but doing so released a tide of rising water that threatened to drown Sam if we tarried too long. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory represents another presentational refinement to the canon; the game looks every bit like it belongs in early 2005. The game has many more frames of character animation, Sam and his opponents are noticeably larger and more detailed, and the background graphics are much, much sharper than the last time out, at least on the Motorola V620 we previewed the game on.

From what we've seen, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory already bears all of the characteristic hallmarks of a Gameloft platformer: excellent graphics, fun gameplay, and an authentic use of an Ubisoft license. The game is on the verge of its European release, with an American debut to follow at the end of March. We'll have more details as they become available.

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