Splinter Cell 3d for the Nintendo 3DS is a port of 2005’s critically acclaimed Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.  The story is the same, the levels are all here, but the gameplay is merely a reflection of the original in a dirty pond.  With some 3D effects.  for $40.

You are Sam Fisher, a Black Operative for the ‘Third Echelon’ division of the NSA – all very under the radar top secret stuff.  You are tasked with finding out why a rag tag bunch of revolutionaries in Peru stole top secret computer algorithms.  Naturally the even is connected to North Korea and China, and the story unfolds through news reels and cut scenes throughout the  game.  The story itself is fairly decent although minimal, this isn’t Metal Gear, and at least it isn’t so convoluted.

Due to the one man nature of the mission, Fisher’s success depends on stealth as opposed to run and gun tactics found in most shooters.  To avoid detection you stick to the shadows and either shoot unwitting grunts in the head with your silenced pistol or get up close and personal to interrogate, knock them out, or kill them in close combat.  The latter two are easy enough due to simply running up to an enemy and pressing one of the triggers.  The former can be a pain in the rear -for both parties involved – as you must use a contextual button on the touch screen when you are behind the enemy.  I found myself often nearly touching the grunt with no grab command coming up on the screen.  It can be frustrating to say the least.

Other aspects of the controls are fairly well done considering the lack of a second analog stick.  The circular pad moves Fisher while the face buttons are used for camera control.  The touch screen gives you access to switching weapons, looking at the map, and turning on the all in one enchanted vision goggles.  For a first person shooter the touch screen would have been more ideal for camera aiming, but given that this is a slower paced stealth game the face buttons usually work.

The iconic green glowing vision goggles are back although gone are the different vision modes found in the previous versions of the game.  Instead what we have is a generic white and gray vision mode that highlights anything of importance white.  On one hand it streamlines the gameplay consolidating them all in one function for ease of use.  On the other hand it’s fairly bland and boring. If playing in an area of low ambient light you shouldn’t need them anyways.

The level design is perhaps one of the worst aspects of the game; detailed continuous levels found in the original Xbox and PC versions of the game are replaced by broken up into sections of usually bland ones on the 3DS.  Some fare better than others though the very first in particular, is quite hideous and dull.  The original’s levels felt like real places as opposed to corridors that simply connect level segments.  You get from point A to point B while taking out enemy NPCs of dubious  A.I which aren’t an inquisitive bunch, and will stick to limited paths in the levels. With all of that being said, there is a good amount of content in the game, with about 10 levels filled with both primary and secondary objectives.

The problem of level design is exacerbated by the graphical presentation as a whole.  Ubisoft seemingly rushed the game out of the door with tacked on 3D visuals and a very low framerate.  The game isn’t very detailed and considering the simple level design it’s hard to understand why the framerate is in the 20s most of the time.  The controls may themselves be decent, but when the game begins to chug during shootouts, you will have a hard time aiming.  The 3D effect is quite good, especially in some of the later levels that have a bit more detail, just don’t expect to see it if playing in an environment with too much ambient light.

With the 3D turned on Fisher stands in the foreground  while the levels and enemies remain in the backround. Objects such as rails and boxes sometimes pop out though it can be difficult to see depending on the level.   Ubisoft also included on screen hints in white and red letters – similarly to what they did in Splinter Cell Conviction – that pop out in 3D mode.  It’s pretty neat, just not very useful for actual gameplay.

The audio is pretty much ripped from the previous versions albeit with some of the dialogue omitted. The soundtrack is fairly minimal, kicking in at certain times of action such as shootouts.  Michael Ironside provides some good voice overs for Fisher with some great deadpan humor on the side.

Chaos Theory on the Xbox and PC was known for it’s robust multiplayer component.  Both the coop and versus modes are completely absent from the 3DS version, and probably for good reason: the 3DS version is simply too slow for any kind of multi-player to be enjoyable.

If you’ve played Chaos Theory before on the PC or Xbox then this version will probably disappoint you.  Then again if you are a die hard splinter cell fan then…. you probably should still stay away unless you want to see your beloved spy  in a ‘shadow’ of his former glory.  If you absolutely need something to play on the 3DS and you can find this in the bargain bin then it may be worth it so long as your expectations aren’t too high. It can be fun at times, but the shortcomings can’t justify spending more than $20 for some so so stealth action on the go.  Hopefully Metal Gear Solid 3 will do more justice to stealth games on the 3DS when it’s released.



Pros:

– Port of a classic stealth action game.

– Plenty of single player content

– Good implementation of 3D

Cons:

– Hit or miss graphics.

– Low frame rate + slow controls

– No multi-player of any kind.

Score : 6.5/10


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