Buy 'SPLINTER CELL CHAOS THEORY': NDS
Chances are good that you've heard of Tom Clancy. While many of` us have known him for quite some time as a best-selling author, there are probably quite a few gamers out there who only know him from his video game titles such as Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. There's certainly a good reason for that. For several years now, Tom Clancy has distinguished himself not only as an excellent writer but also as a producer of fantastic action and stealth-oriented shooters. The franchise that has really started becoming his most popular has been the Splinter Cell series of games, starring the ultra-cool Sam Fisher. With popularity comes the natural desire to expand the series to new consoles, and so comes the Nintendo DS version of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the latest title in the franchise.
The Splinter Cell series has always been focused more on stealth than on gun-blazing action. Sam is tasked with getting in, completing a task, and getting out without being detected and leaving behind as little carnage as possible. The fun centers on the fact that although Sam is supposed to be quiet and non-lethal, he can still kick some major tail should the need arise. You'll certainly find yourself in those situations where you'll want to take someone out quickly instead of plotting a route around them, wasting valuable time. The plot in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory revolves around this stealthy form of gameplay.
Right off the bat, you can either choose to engage in the training missions or jump straight into the missions or multiplayer mode. It's advisable to at least take a look at the training missions, to get the hang of the control methods used on the Nintendo DS. Every single button is utilized, as well as the touch screen. It's definitely not the most convenient of control schemes, since clicking through several options on the touch screen and pressing one or more of the buttons in quick succession is nearly impossible to pull off with any sort of accuracy and speed. All of the control options present in the console versions of the game make an appearance in the Nintendo DS version, which is not necessarily a good thing. It might have been advisable to limit the features available in the game for the sake of making the game easier to play, but it's nice that they at least made an effort.
Sam certainly has a ton of options to avoid and dispose of his enemies. You can sneak up behind them to grab them and slit their throat or knock them out. You can interrogate them for vital information to proceed through the level. The touch screen is used for gameplay elements such as entering codes on the keypad or picking locks. You also have to hit the touch screen to change weapons and change view modes, as well as manipulate the camera. It gets tedious to constantly try and move the camera around, maneuver Sam around the room, switch weapons, grab the enemy, and perform all the other actions, each requiring a different button press or a touch on the touch screen. There's a lot of different gadgets that Sam can make use of, and a lot of different ways to enter a room, whether it be stealthily or with guns blazing. You can also peek under the door using the tiny camera just like the console version, which is a cool feature.
Seeing the game in action is a huge letdown. The framerate is a disappointing, stuttering mess at times, effectively taking you out of the action. The models are blocky, and Sam looks like a random thug instead of a stealthy agent. The textures are also bland and uninteresting. Environments are cramped and the camera is a hassle to negotiate since you have to use the touch screen to move it around. The levels are kept intentionally dark to force you to use the night vision and infrared vision viewing options. Unfortunately, every time you activate one of these modes, the framerate drops substantially. It's almost impossible to play when you're viewing the action through one of the special vision goggles, but it's almost a necessity to use them. It's a catch-22 situation that you unfortunately can't avoid.
The game has an average soundtrack that tries to live up to the quality of the ones found on the console versions, but due to hardware limitations, just can't. Sound effects such as weapons fire and bodies hitting the floor sound a bit too digitized for my taste. The effects are compressed to the point where you can barely understand what they're supposed to be. The music is all right, but the sound effects are certainly below par. There are no awesome voiceovers to be found in this handheld version of the game either. Once again, one of the best parts of the console versions has been completely stripped down to meet the system requirements of the Nintendo DS, and the game is not any better because of it.
The single player mode will last long enough that you won't feel that you got ripped off, but the way you'll end up replaying many of the levels because of the cramped level design and lack of a save anywhere feature. You'll often find yourself stepping into the line of sight of an enemy or a camera, taking major heat, and getting killed. Then you have to replay the level up to that point to try again. There is a map that tells you where the cameras and enemies are located in your current room, but it's next to useless. It's hard to tell where the cameras are looking, and you have no way of knowing which way the enemies are facing, which leads to most of the problems you'll have navigating the levels.
The multiplayer mode adds some more fun to the experience. You can play cooperatively with a friend through the missions, which can be a lot of fun. You and your teammate both operate from the same point of view as the single player mode, so it's easy to sneak up on enemies and let each other know where to move and what to do next. The versus mode, on the other hand, is a complete mess. It's nowhere near as polished as the console versions of the game, and lacks all the fun. It's pretty bad that one of the best aspects of the console version of the game is totally lacking in excitement.
Overall, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on the Nintendo DS is a mediocre experience at best. There's a lengthy single player mode that has a lot to offer, but doesn't do anything particularly well. The controls are tedious and the graphics are slow and blocky; the sound is all right but nothing to get really excited about. The multiplayer modes can extend the life a little bit, but you'll be frustrated with the versus mode in a matter of minutes. If you're a patient gamer who has never played the console versions of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, you might have a better time with this title than someone who knows all the ins and outs of the PS2 and Xbox versions. Everyone else will wonder why they didn't just stick with their big screen version.
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