NEWS - Tuesday, July 13, 2004

New Details On Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Back at E3 in May, while witnessing Splinter Cell 3 Producer Mathieu Ferland demonstrate the game, we noticed something unexpected. As Ferland moved main character Sam Fisher down a hallway, he heard a noise and quickly turned the character around to find a hiding place. In doing so, Fisher tripped over his own feet due to the sudden, jerky movement made by Ferland. We pointed this out to see if it was a bug the developers were aware of, only to find out this inconsistency happened because the team was in the middle of making sure Fisher's feet would accurately stick to the ground. According to Ferland, "What we're trying to do with the technology is trying to have the feet stick on the ground at all times, instead of having them sliding [when you move]...there's still some development to do, but it's starting to be pretty good." Hearing this, we started to realize that one of the keys to Splinter Cell 3 will be attention to detail. Based on the E3 theater presentations, most attendees came away knowing that Fisher will have a knife, that each mission will have optional objectives, that there will be loads of new up-close kill animations, that the enemy AI will be more realistic so the game will focus less on trial and error, and that the new two-player co-op campaign looks incredibly fun. Overall, it sounds like more than enough to justify a sequel to us. But what about the less obvious details? We were curious about many of the less significant new features, so we took our questions to Ferland to find out what else is new in Splinter Cell 3. Like, for instance, how Fisher can now aim ambidextrously. Whereas previous Splinter Cell games zoomed-in over his right shoulder when players pulled out their guns to aim (so his body would fill up the left side of the screen), now players can choose to flip their position. By clicking in the left analog stick (on PS2 and Xbox, at least), the camera will hover over Fisher's left shoulder instead, allowing players to creep around corners safely whether entering from the left or right side. When you are peering around those corners, Ferland and his team are making sure your aiming will be more accurate as well. Though uncommon, there were a few complaints from players directed at previous Splinter Cell games that the players would aim at a certain object, fire a shot, and not make the precise contact they expected to. "We've been modifying that," Ferland says, "because it's so frustrating to aim at a light bulb and miss it." In the same spirit of giving players more aiming precision, it will also be possible to open doors gradually, ala Rainbow Six 3. According to Ferland, It provides more flexibility in where you want to enter. In the original 'stealth open' [maneuver], sometimes you wanted to see a bit farther." Now you can peek through as slowly as you desire, or even slam the door open if there happens to be a guard on the other side. Should a door be locked electronically, a new electrostatic secondary fire function on the pistol will allow players to disable it to get through. This will also cause cameras, computers, radios, and televisions to malfunction, which may be a way to alert guards in addition to allowing you to get to areas otherwise closed off. While different from the weapons in previous games, it is sort of a cross between the camera jammer and the mercenary tazer from Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow's multiplayer mode, though it will not be effective against enemies -- it's strictly for machines. Another element carried over from Pandora Tomorrow's multiplayer is that when you change your weapons, the game doesn't stop. Instead of a screen-filling menu that lets you take your time in selecting a weapon, the game now continues while a small menu shows up in the middle of the screen. Ferland says, "We might tweak it up, but the main idea is to not freeze the game anymore [like the multiplayer of Pandora Tomorrow]." There are certainly other small details we have yet to uncover -- in the graphics alone, there are probably four or five unique topics we could discuss -- but as the game is not yet complete, there are a few info. nuggets we'll have to go without for now. Rest assured we'll be back with loads of coverage on the game leading up to its release at the end of the year, including the second part of our interview tomorrow.


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