After development on the original Splinter Cell finished, there was no time for Sam Fisher to don a pair of loafers and smoking jacket and gently slip into an alcohol-induced coma. No easy life for our Sam - he was sent straight back into the field to be put through his paces by Ubisoft France for Pandora Tomorrow. And if that wasn't enough, he was also limbering up for his third outing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - courtesy of a 200-strong team at Ubisoft Montreal.
As the title suggests, this particular outing for Sam Fisher revolves around the idea that small things can have a big impact, and the game has a much more of an up close and personal approach. This will see players drowning in the stench of sweat and Hai Karate as Sam gets closer to his enemies than ever before.
"With Chaos Theory we wanted to push the concept of stealth," explains Mathieu Ferland, the game's producer. "The most important part is the tension and power you feel when you're close to danger. You have to make a tough decision as to whether you stay hidden in the dark or come out into the light to perform a specific action. This is what we've tried to build the game around."
Now Sam has never been much of a man for procrastination, but this new approach to the gameplay gives him a lot more split-second options when faced with either the front or back of a nearby enemy. Thanks to Sam's newly acquired and much-asked-for knife, he can now do a lot more interrogating than ever before. In fact, the developers reckon there'll be about four times the need for interrogations than in previous games.
You've also got the option of knocking your enemy out, or if you're not feeling charitable, then there are quick and deadly knife actions that will do the trick. Other moves demonstrated by the team include lowering yourself down on a rope, kicking doors open LAPD-style, and using your new laser device to disable electric equipment for short periods of time. Sam also has multiplayer specific moves as well (see 'It Takes Two Baby...', right ).
"Chaos Theory is in many ways a game about choices," claims creative director Clint Hocking. "You have the choice to pick a door lock or kick it down, execute a lethal or non-lethal move, disable a light or shoot it out. We had to get the balance right between power and tension. Getting closer and closer makes you feel powerful, but at the same time more and more apprehensive."
Despite the fact that the developers admit that approximately 80 per cent of players will take the easiest route through the game, the team have tried to make Chaos Theory a more linear experience, building on what Pandora Tomorrow established. The game will have multiple paths to choose from and different ways of carrying out your objectives, of which there are five different types.
Primary and secondary objectives are obvious (although if you don't complete the secondary objectives they'll be bumped up to primary ones in the next mission); collectable objectives may involve things like finding all the documents or taking out all of the cameras. You'll only have fallback objectives when the shit really hits the fan, and bonus ones are scenarios that the developer has put in where Sam has to make a few decisions of his own. But I won't spoil the surprise.
As he wrote the script, Hocking is keen to press the fact that Chaos Theory has an in-depth storyline, but as it's a Clancy franchise, you can guess it's not really going to involve singing furniture or dancing pink bunnies. The story is what can loosely be described as a military/geo-political thriller, and what will interest franchise fans is that it brings back characters from the previous games, such as the computer programmer Abrahim Zherkezhi, Admiral Omoto and your old friend and ally Douglas Shetland.