Since we learned that Microsoft intends to permanently shut down their original Xbox Live servers in April, my friend and I have made several attempts to play the cooperative mode of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory with moderate success. The only mission we’ve successfully completed was the first mission (Panama) after the training mission. Every mission after Panama ended with a disconnection either midway through the mission, or just when we were reaching its end. We became frustrated, but we were too busy having fun and reminiscing to become permanently infuriated over it. The cooperative mode is still one of the more entertaining experiences in online gaming, and Chaos Theory was one of the first to really make the mode about true cooperation and teamwork.
I then tried playing the single-player mode on my Xbox 360, but the surprisingly sluggish performance influenced me to pull my original Xbox console, properly stored in its box, out of my closet. After connecting it and popping the disc into the tray, I remembered why this is one of my favorite games of all time.
Not that I didn’t forget such an important feeling. The last time I played the game was some time after its release in March of 2005. This means that at the end of March, Chaos Theory will be five years old. When I completed the last task of the last mission and saw my success rating as being 100%, my first thought was how incredibly well the game held up five years later. The atmosphere, the ambience of each location, and how the game plays put a big smile on my face and a thousand-yard stare in my eyes. Hell, I’m even trying to get my hands on Amon Tobin’s soundtrack. What I also remember loving is how the game allows me to carry out the tasks thrown at me my way and I wouldn’t be penalized for it. Despite tons of reloading save files, where half-hour missions might really take me two hours, I did my damnedest not to make any kind of contact with the enemy, simply knocking them out cold if I had little to no options left. That’s how I played Chaos Theory: in and out, like I was never there.
Some time between 2006 and now, I learned something that is still a bit baffling to this day: the original team, Ubisoft Montreal, did not work on the Xbox 360 version of the next episode: Double Agent. Instead, they worked on the game for the original Xbox console. The Shanghai team, who worked on Pandora Tomorrow, the series’ second episode, developed Double Agent for the Xbox 360. While taking into consideration that I felt Shanghai’s Double Agent was a good (no more, no less) experience, I absolutely had to play Montreal’s Double Agent, met with such acclaim from fans across the board and supposedly superior to Shanghai’s game, which brings us to this past Tuesday when my copy of Double Agent arrived in the mail from Amazon.
I am revisiting a franchise that found its way into a bit of a bind. By 2005, the Splinter Cell franchise was at the top of its game and with the then upcoming release of Microsoft’s successor to the Xbox, its fans wanted to see how the people of Ubisoft were going to handle the future of the series with a new wave of game consoles on its way. In 2006, the next installment, Double Agent, was released for all popular consoles at that time, including the new Xbox 360.
I don’t remember Double Agent having a huge impact on the series, but that was nearly four years ago, so I could very well be very wrong. In the summer of 2007, I watched the E3 presentation of Splinter Cell: Conviction, awaiting its release that fall. It didn’t happen that year, with whatever issues in need of working out, and I’d be able to play it in the following spring. 2008 came and went, and still nothing. The series seemed to be in trouble and dipped below the radar until the last E3, when folks all over watched a video of the new and improved Conviction where hero Sam Fisher sneaks around offices in Washington, D.C. in a kind of atmosphere that’s right out of a graphic novel. Like James Bond, Sam Fisher will return.
So far, Double Agent has been a mixed experience: the missions are classic Splinter Cell, even slightly improved over Chaos Theory, but I have been coming across a few glitches that have kind of hindered my progress.
Next up: More Double Agent, and a look at the Splinter Cell: Conviction novel.