Review: Don't let your cell phone ring when you're sneaking up on a target. It would end badly.
The N-Gage edition of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory not only launched simultaneously with some of the big boys, but it also captures the formula and details found in its console counterparts. This port (of sorts) isn't a carbon copy, but it does create the illusion of the series in a slimmed-down format. Sam Fischer still performs the same move set and travels to familiar locations. So, as some one who has played previous Splinter Cell titles, I never felt like it departed from the franchise. This is unlike the first 2D Splinter Cell title that was successful, but played it safe. Chaos Theory takes on the 3D challenge and, in the process, takes a top spot on N-Gage's must-own list.
Chaos Theory uses the 3D engine from Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm, another Gameloft-developed N-Gage title under the Tom Clancy label. Two aspects of the game's visual presentation stand out: the textures and the lighting. You'll want to scan rooms to pinpoint enemies, but also to take in the finer details found in each environment. For example, you'll notice that rooms don't simply contain walls with one color and texture, but rather walls made up of individual bricks. On top of that, floors and ceilings weren't neglected, either. You'll travel overtop of actual wooden floorboards and find a roof over your head while inside and not some open-air ceiling glitch like some games out there. Outside environments are also really stunning and it's also very impressive that both the night vision and the thermal vision goggles work so well here.
The Splinter Cell series has always used lighting effects as a key element, and the N-Gage, well, has not. However, Gameloft shows us that the system can support some dynamic lighting effects, as Sam Fischer sneaks through a variety of light and dark environments. The best part is that while the atmosphere remains murky, it's not difficult to navigate due to the shadows. We've all played console games in which developers think that dark hues mean certain parts of levels should be pitch black and confusing. I'd imagine that line of thought would worsen on a system like the N-Gage, and yet Gameloft balances everything out quite nicely so that doesn't occur.
As Sam Fischer lurks in shadow and briefly shows up in visible light to grab an enemy from behind, players are treated to a choke-hold animation that's exactly like the one found in console versions. In fact, almost all of the trademark moves made it into this game for some authentic Splinter Cell gameplay. You'll press your back against walls, shimmy across ledges, climb hand-over-hand on horizontal pipes, grab onto zip lines and perform split jumps and drop attacks in close corridors. There's also some lock-picking and security keypad action. Since in-game keypads require players to enter numerical codes, N-Gage finally has an advantage over all other systems. It's fairly easy to execute the other moves, too, given the system's spread-out scheme, and camera operation is surprisingly intuitive.
The game opens with (you guessed it) a training level. So, the controls are like cake once you're finished and ready for the field. Locations span from New York to North Korea in the single-player game. The multiplayer mode includes special co-op missions that allow two players to infiltrate together via Bluetooth. One player works as a Shadownet Assault agent while the other acts as a Shadownet Hacker. The other mode in multiplayer is versus, which allows up to four people to participate in some Spies vs. Mercenaries action. Spies have to hack computers while Mercenaries do everything to make sure the spies don't succeed in their mission. Sadly, N-Gage Arena isn't used for co-op or versus gameplay. Instead, it's possible to view the top 10 scores for each mission and download the players' replay to help improve your own performance. Since this is a quality game and because multiplayer would've been a blast if it was supported by Arena, you may be motivated enough open the Yellow Pages and begin making random calls to see if anyone in your area owns an N-Gage and this game.
Multiplayer support over N-Gage Arena can be classified as a ?want? that I can't expect the game to contain given the fact that there's so much packed into it already. However, I wouldn't put quality sound into the same ?want? category; it's more of a ?need.? The visual presentation may have been elaborate, but that doesn't fully extend to the audio. The background music is redundant at times and the dialogue is all text. A little bit of speech might have actually helped the forgettable storyline.