Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Go To

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (or Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory) is a Stealth-Based Game and the third entry in the Splinter Cell series, released on Sixth Generation consoles and PC in 2005.

From Peru to Panama, New York, Japan, North Korea and South Korea, it's up to Sam Fisher to stop a network of Private Military Contractors that weaponized an algorithm and intends to use it to trigger an international conflict starting with East Asia.

This entry added considerably to the gameplay, most notably with a host of optional secondary objectives in any given mission, but also with a more open-ended environment; new moves like the "inverted neck-break" and effective hand-to-hand combat moves to knock enemies out in case an enemy bumps into Sam; several neat new gadgets; a sound meter in addition to your light meter; a reworked graphics engine; noticeably more believable enemy AI; and a statistical breakdown of how you performed in a mission, giving added incentive to achieve perfect stealth and minimal casualties. To this day, Chaos Theory is widely considered to have been the high point of the Splinter Cell series.

Followed by Splinter Cell: Double Agent on home consoles and PC, and Splinter Cell: Essentials on PlayStation Portable.

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Notably the first game in the series to replace the man-sized vents you could crouch-walk through with more reasonably-sized ones that can only be traversed via crawling.
  • Alternate History: It's safe to say that no open conflict has erupted between the Koreas in the 2000s and up to this day, Seoul has not been invaded and so on.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The villainous plan. Shetland plans on taking down the US government with a somewhat anarchic manner, which involves starting a third World War between nuclear superpowers, and hoping what comes out on the other side is better.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Dvorak. Infinite state machines can't exist in reality and making a "weaponized algorithm" more complex implies adding something, which would make the footprint bigger (you want your malware as small and unnoticeable as possible).
  • Attack Drone: The North Korean Army deploys a large number of flying drones armed with machine guns in the streets of Seoul once war breaks out. They can only be destroyed with a non-stealth loadout (only Sam's mounted shotgun or sniper attachments can take them out).
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Shetland survives a fistfight with Fisher long enough for a Hannibal Lecture and Mexican Standoff.
  • Balkan Bastard: Milos Nowak, AKA Milan Nedich, a suspected war criminal from the Bosnian conflict known as the Barber of Bosnia, who allegedly scalped some of his prisoners.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Douglas Shetland and Admiral Toshiro Otomo, including the entire ISDF organization.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Players who can speak Japanese will probably predict that the Red Nishin Gang (read: Red Herring) isn't actually the brains behind everything.
    • Also, in the PC version, there is an option to have enemies speak in their native language. So, when you're in Peru and Panama, bad guys will speak in Spanish, if you're in Seoul or North Korea, they'll speak Korean, if you're in Tokyo or Hokkaido, they'll speak Japanese, so on and so forth.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The Displace International elite mercenaries you face near the end of the game's penultimate mission are the most dangerous enemies you will encounter. They are equipped with thermal vision goggles that allow them to see Fisher in total darkness, they are highly alert and will respond to even the slightest noise, and their near-inhuman reflexes and accuracy means that they can kill Fisher a split-second after spotting him.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the fourth level (the Penthouse), a living room area with a couple of guards contains a television. On the screen is... the title screen cutscene loop for Chaos Theory, with the soundtrack of the Paris cryogenic lab mission from Pandora Tomorrow. If the guards had ever come off shift and played the thing, they might have had quite the shock.
  • Brick Joke: In a late mission from Pandora Tomorrow, Sam talks to an undercover CIA agent who talks about a "Stanley Nakariakov", with both him and CIA liaison Brunton treating this character's existence like it's a matter of national security. Halfway through the second mission of this game, Sam finds forged transit ledgers for crates full of guns, claiming they're shipments of coconuts and sugarcane from Nakariakov, with Grim almost offhandedly mentioning that Nakariakov isn't even a real person - it's a codename Philippine drug dealers use to indicate arms shipments, keeping the authorities off their backs by sending them to chase for an imaginary Russian.
  • But Thou Must!: A teeny-tiny one. There is one enemy at the very end of the first level who must be knocked out or killed before you can call for extraction to end the level (though this is justified as Sam could not safely board a helicopter with an enemy guard right beside him). The rest of the game allows you to invokedsneak by absolutely everyone without a whole lot of trouble. Except in That One Level (the bathhouse), and even that can be done. Your reward is basically a Bragging Rights Reward, but you'll feel warm and fuzzy inside.
    • At the end of the second level, it's impossible to non-lethally take out Hugo Lacerda after interrogating him; no matter which button you press, it will result in Sam killing him. The same thing goes with Milan Nedich in the sixth mission. To make up for it, these two don't actually count against 100% stealth like any other kill would.
  • Call-Back: The algorithm was conceived by Philip Masse, who was involved in the Georgian crisis in the first game and got killed by Sam. Grim even directly mentions Nikoladze's use of it to create a "glass dagger" (starting with large units that, when attacked, splinter into several smaller and smaller units with the algorithm's help, making them harder and harder to fully root out) to contrast it with what Shetland has done with it (using it to split up a mission into several separate tasks and then hand those out to individuals, who independently swarm a target location and complete the mission without ever knowing the full plan).
  • Captain Obvious: When Sam has to upload eight forged emails.
    Lambert: That's half of the forged mails, Sam. 4 more to go.
    Sam: Thanks. I've always found it hard to count past 3.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Averted. Fisher can turn off or even shoot out the monitors and still access its computer with his OPSAT. Moreover, remote hacks with the OPSAT require locating the actual computer tower rather than the monitor.
  • Continuity Nod: Several interrogations and conversations overheard between guards make reference to missions from the first game:
    • One mercenary you can interrogate in the Bathhouse level mentions that thermal vision won't help in seeing through the steam in the actual baths, since steam is hot, unlike fog in someplace like an abattoir - that being the setting of the third-to-last mission of the original.
    • Near the start of the Kokubo Sosho level, you can overhear a conversation between two guards who talk about how the post has to be the cushiest job they could hope for, one of them saying that trying to break into the Kokubo Sosho would be like trying to break into the CIA headquarters in America, which is exactly what Fisher did about halfway through the first game.
  • Cutting the Knot: Lockpicking on doors can be skipped at the expense of being louder by just breaking the lock with the knife. This can make it very tempting to not bother to learn how to lockpick, but lockpicking is still necessary during the bank mission to crack the safe.
  • Darker and Edgier: Previous installments were rated T, this is the first Splinter Cell game to be rated M.
  • Developer's Foresight: If a mission reaches Alarm Stage 4 (Full Alert) not only will the maps get more barricaded but all of the radio chatter will be shorter and to the point.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • The ISDF commandos are... disappointing. The ones in the Bathhouse wear night-vision goggles, but that just means that it's a little easier for them to spot you if you move rapidly near them. They still can't see you in normal darkness even if they have a perfect line-of-sight, as long as you move slowly and/or are more than a dozen or so feet away from them. The ones in the Kokubo Sosho wear gas-masks instead, but that just means the gas from diversion cameras won't work on them, and there are routes to bypass them completely.
    • Big Bad Shetland's personal bodyguards, on the other hand, have thermal vision goggles and are the only enemies in the entire series who can see you perfectly even in pitch darkness.
  • Epic Fail: According to an email you can find during the mission to a North Korean missile battery, one of the men stationed there managed to order 5.56mm NATO ammunition, a Western cartridge that they don't use in any of their weapons, something the soldier writing the email points out, also noting that he didn't even think was possible to order 5.56note .
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The game ends like this.
    Fisher: How about that raise?
    Lambert: They're cutting us back; you'll have to settle for a vacation. (Everyone laughs)
    Fisher: Yeah, right.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Douglas Shetland goes from Sam's old friend and a supporting ally in the previous game to the Big Bad.
  • Flat "What": A random interrogation in Hokkaido will lead to the following exchange:
    Guard: I knew it, I KNEW there were ninjas here!
    Sam: What.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Lampshaded early into the first mission. Sam's used to the bad guys using AKs, and has at such had a lot of them fired at him in his time, so he can immediately tell just from the firing noise that something's off when small-time Peruvian guerillas turn out to be carrying enhanced versions of the AUG; a side-objective for this and the next mission is to scan and then tag crates of weapons to find out where exactly they're getting advanced hardware from.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Shetland gives one to Sam. He explains it's all because America is sick and dying, and a start-over is necessary. One done through international nuclear war to be exact.
  • Hope Spot: During the Battery level, Sam finds hard evidence that the North Koreans did not launch the missile that sank the Walsh, information that could help prevent a war. Then North Korea commits to war anyway, forcing you to quickly stop another missile before it can sink the Ronald Reagan.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Sam's SC-20K can mount a less-lethal munitions launcher, a foregrip, a semiautomatic shotgun, or a 20 millimeter rifle barrel for sniping.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: A plot point in the first mission is that small-time Peruvian guerillas who only ended up kidnapping and ransoming anyone of real importance through sheer dumb luck are not the kind of people who should realistically have access to the guns they're shown using.
  • Knight Templar: Douglas Shetland, whose goal is to trigger a war between the United States and North Korea to "fix America".
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The game has no main theme playing in the main menu unlike the previous ones. Instead, it randomly plays the "Exploration" themes of the missions.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Lambert warns Sam that the boat he's sneaking aboard has an alarm system:
    Sam: Don't tell me... three alarms and the mission's over?note 
    Lambert: Of course not, this is no video game, Fisher.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the first two installments, one can make a case for this regarding this game. The music is much more upbeat, Sam's snarky humor is at its peak, the enemy dialogue has a lot more humor in it (especially when they are talking to each other, or some funny Easter Egg interrogations), the missions all have much more vibrant, colourful and lively locales, Lambert's witty dialogue is at its best, and the overall tone of the game is quite a bit less dour. Which is not to say the plot itself fits, though - the first level features Morgenholt's torture, the Seoul mission gives you a Sadistic Choice and of course Shetland is one of the primary villains, and all the while you're trying to avert World War III.
  • Master of None: Redding's Recommendation loadouts are supposed to give a balance of ammo and gadgets, but in practice end up leaving the player with too few of either to be of any real use, forcing the player who takes his recommendation to rely on knocking guards out manually or avoiding them entirely.
  • Motive Rant: Sam is given one by Doug Shetland at the end of the Bathhouse mission.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In Seoul level, there is no background music, just silence. This gives the level an eerie feel, combined with the imagery of war going on everywhere (fires, AAA tracer fire, fog, etc.).
  • Optional Stealth: Despite being a stealth game, Chaos Theory allows the player to just run through the game if they want, going so far as to let players choose an "assault" loadout that gives them extra ammunition and grenades and more lethal gadgets instead of stealth tools.
  • Painting the Medium: Done cleverly as a form of Self-Deprecation, as it is the first in the series that does not trigger a game over after at most three alerts, during the opening of the second level:
    Lambert: Fisher, we just pulled up Celestinia's dry-dock report for the Maria Narcissa. They have a newly-installed central alarm system.
    Sam: Don't tell me - three alarms and the mission's over?
    Lambert: Of course not! This is no video game, Fisher.
  • Phrase Catcher: Absolutely everyone - Panamanian bank security officers, American PMCs guarding an apartment, and Japanese ISDF soldiers - can and will react to catching a glimpse of Sam then discovering nothing when they investigate with "Nothing here but ghosts and shadows".
  • Race Against the Clock: Third Echelon is in one to stop the crisis after the North Korean battery's missiles are fired, and, more directly, Sam has to defuse several bombs before they blow up in the climax of the Japanese Bathhouse level.
  • Wham Episode: The Battery level is chock full of Whams right from the beginning, where a North Korean anti-ship missile is launched at the USS Clarence E. Walsh, and an information-warfare attack cripples its defenses and leaves it a sitting duck to be sunk by that missile. Sam infiltrates the battery that the missile came from to learn whether it was an intentional act of war or Dvorak was used to autonomously launch by a third party. Right as Sam checks the launcher and confirms the Dvorak fingerprint, Grim states that she can't trace the origin of the launch signal any farther than South Korea's capital, opening the real possibility that they are trying to manipulate America into war... and then North Korea commits, leaving you to abort another missile before you can finish up here, and sending you off to a war-torn Seoul for your next mission.
  • You Have Failed Me: In the Battery level, a North Korean colonel shoots one of his own men after the soldier failed to ascertain what happened when a missile launched itself at a U.S. ship.
    • One North Korean officer in the Seoul Co-Op mission does the same as well.