It was a long day. Four presentations in the morning and several hands-on gaming sessions in the afternoon. Yes, by the end of one cold Tuesday spent in Ubisoft's Montreal studio, we were all Splinter Cell'd out. We'd seen enough of the spectacular stealth sequel Chaos Theory to know that the French publisher has another imminent hit on its hands. All that was left to do now was return to our hotel rooms and scribble out our lingering latest impressions. Well, okay, after we'd had a big slap-up meal and a few pints of lemonade shandy first...
Hey good lookin'...Chaos in single player
During the presentation, the Ubisoft team was keen to highlight some major new advances in the series. Specifically for the PS2 version was the advent of new graphical techniques, such as the self-penned 'geotexturing', which creates some pretty phenomenal detailed 3D worlds. Add in the distortion of light (steamy air, glazed windows) plus some staggering water effects, and the PS2 development team was already confidently hailing it "the best looking game" on the format.
But Chaos Theory is far more than just snazzy graphics. Elsewhere across the board, Mr. Fisher gets new tricks to play with. He can attack with his knee, he can slice with his knife, he can hang over pipes, pull up adversaries and throttle them mid-air.
There is also a more entertaining range of spy gadgetry opening up new strategies. OCP guns, like the one featured in the underrated Mission Impossible: Operation Surma, enables you to disable electronic devices and security systems. Quietly disposing of lurking guards is also more achievable thanks to gas grenades and the sticky shockers, while monitoring their positions can be accomplished by launching sticky cameras onto nearby walls.
Choose your own adventure...
However, the biggest progression appeared to be the widening of the 'multipaths'. More than ever, there now appears to be a number of routes and tactics that can be followed and employed in reaching your goal. Take the cargo ship level for example. From what we saw and played, there were several different routes leading to your destination - crawling through air vents, climbing up to the top deck, entering the first available door.
Even then, the way you evade suspicion opens up new avenues. Do you defeat guards on a top ledge by hanging over a railing, sliding across and then pulling over into the darkness below? Do you create a diversion by shooting out lights and raising the guards' stress levels? Or do you cower in the darkness and noisily execute them with your sniper rifle attachment?
The choice is always yours, and the introduction of a 'save anywhere' feature means that you can work one strategy, and if that fails, you can explore other methods. Chaos Theory is the most open Splinter Cell yet. And it's still pretty damned challenging too.
Just the two of us... Co-op mode
You can't put a good partnership down. Batman and Robin, Hoddle and Waddle, and, um, Cannon and Ball - a list of duos, that let's face it, would probably have been less effective on their lonesome. Taking heed of such facts, Ubisoft has implemented an entirely separate co-operative story into its stealth-'em up favourite (using system link (not PS2) or split-screen). Here, you'll get to enjoy something very similar to the single-player game, but well, with a mate. And that means a lot of teamplay. A lot of covering each other's backs. A lot of two-man manoeuvres. And a lot of screaming X-rated profanity down your headset.