Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 36
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 36
  3. Negative: 0 out of 36
Buy On
  1. No longer is there just one way to solve a treacherous night mission before the enemy picks up your audio signature: stealth will pay off just as well as good old-fashioned ultraviolence.
  2. Pelaaja (Finland)
    Sam Fisher, the western equivalent of Solid Snake, shines brightly in his third game as did his Japanese counterpart in his third game. As a whole, Chaos Theory is by far the best instalment in the Splinter Cell -series. The game does more than just recycle old ideas. [May 2005, p.60]
  3. 100
    And the co-op means that, like the previous two games, Chaos Theory is as close to an essential buy as we can imagine.
  4. 100
    The relaxed pace of the co-op gameplay lends itself better to a console controller, but beyond that the PC version holds up admirably to the Xbox one. It's the prettiest of the bunch.
  5. More so than any other stealth-action game, Chaos Theory really makes you feel like a spy.
  6. Computer Games Magazine
    So good, it makes the rest of the series look downright mediocre. [July 2005, p.52]
  7. Game Informer
    Writing in video games is a subject that doesn't get a lot of attention, but Chaos Theory features a simply great script. Not only is it complex and deep, it's also surprisingly funny. [Apr 2005, p.112]
  8. 96
    When combined with the excellent animations, the game feels incredibly cinematic, and on a high-end graphics card the game is stunning. Each level is a grand set piece in which players stylishly accomplish their goals.
  9. A serious improvement in any way you care to name, from gameplay to its newly, eerily realistic graphics.
  10. Splinter Cell is such a departure from the humdrum that I can’t help but get sucked into it. It’s a meaty game with a LOT of content, and all of it has a sense of realism that is unmatched.
  11. The only real gripe against the game is that the control isn’t as intuitive as it can be. There are many options in a given situation, and the game still relies on the same context-sensitive menu system, which is a bit cumbersome.
  12. Play Magazine
    In all things small and epic, from the palpable graininess of the game's predominantly poorly lit environments, to the endlessly thrilling second installment of the spies vs. mercenaries online competitions, Theory does not disappoint. [May 2005, p.44]
  13. A truly great game that all fans need to own, despite some issues in the co-op mode.
  14. Chaos Theory's fluid gameplay and intuitive control scheme firmly demonstrates to others in the genre exactly how a stealth game should play and feel.
  15. Chaos Theory has perhaps brought the series to its finest point, with improved graphics, A.I., more open-ended gameplay and a host of multiplayer additions.
  16. On the basis of single-player alone, Chaos Theory earns a high recommendation. If you can conquer Versus or find a buddy for co-op, it could be a Game of the Year contender.
  17. PC Gamer
    To say that Chaos Theory is a tension-packed ride would be a vast understatement. This is easily one of my favorite franchises, and I'm already hungry for the next installment. [May 2005, p.74]
  18. If you're a PC gamer who likes hard games and brutal competition, Chaos Theory is a must-have. Don't let it out of your sight.
  19. The presentation is also seriously top-drawer. You can see the standard of the graphics with your own eyes, but what you can't see is the triple-A voice-acting and the dirty, groove-laden soundtrack delivered by Amon Tobin. [PC Zone]
  20. Great game and with it being as challenging as it is, I can’t see this title becoming shelf material anytime soon.
  21. Yes, there are only four levels of co-op and we're tempted to tear into Ubi for not including more, but on the other hand the mere inclusion of co-op play is already a major achievement. If only the development team would be so nice as to release some level design tools.
  22. On a pure bang to buck ratio Chaos Theory comes out tops, but as we’re all too aware, there’s no accounting for taste. On the PC version, only online lag issues mar an otherwise excellent experience.
  23. Pelit (Finland)
    Offers more of the same great stealth action as the two previous instalments. This time it is smoother and even more playable than before, but the story is still virtually non-existent. The co-op mode is a great addition, it just needs more missions. [Apr. 05]
  24. 90
    Mostly a joy to look at and play. It's a shame that the PC's co-op mode is so problematic, but it's a small complaint in the grand scheme of things: the solo campaign alone is worth the price of admission, and the versus mode is delicious icing on the cake.
  25. I would have liked to see a lot more made of the morality and revolutionary talk Doug Shetland brought up in the sole scene he and Sam confront each other with, because his character was really destroyed quite fast in a way that doesn't represent what he was to the series.
  26. This is, by far, the most fun and accessible Splinter Cell title to date.
  27. A stunning game. It's not original nor it does feature innovative ideas, but it managed to push this type of gameplay to heights we've never imagined before.
  28. PC Format
    Cool, dark and calculating, Splinter Cell finally plays as stylishly as it looks. [May 2005, p.100]
  29. The weather effects are noticeably impressive in Chaos Theory, and for something so trivial, you’d be surprised just how striking they really are.
  30. Chaos Theory sometimes has a designed-by-committee feel due to its many disparate parts, and despite the game's grittier new theme and its new "Mature" rating, it's going to offer a familiar experience to Splinter Cell veterans. But even if some of the changes are marginal, this is still the most entertaining, most well-rounded game in the series yet.
  31. A mild revolution. It brings freshness to the series without making a great deal of changes. Only calculated risks where taken here.
  32. Perhaps Sam is just getting older, perfecting his skills while losing some feistiness. His games are following the same path, with increasingly sophisticated, deep gameplay but a little less flair.
  33. Edge Magazine
    Chaos Theory is the game that the original Splinter Cell was meant to deliver: a tight play experience within a trusty framework, one more of enjoyment than irritation, and a game that’s no longer exclusively for fans of repeated reloading. [Apr 2005, p.97]
  34. The bottom line for us is that it has morphed into a dumbed-down experience that is no longer anywhere near as gripping and compelling as it once was, and while the multiplayer does bail out the overall value of the package to a large extent, it can't mask the decline elsewhere.
  35. On it’s own, it’s the best stealth game on the PC by a good distance, with "Thief 3’s" lack of features trailing some way behind. But as a sequel, it’s painfully under-developed.
  36. games(TM)
    Despite the inclusion of new gadgets and stunning visuals, the series is starting to decompose; playing the same thing over and over is beginning to wear a little thin. It’s a good job the multiplayer experience continues to blossom. [Apr 2005, p.90]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 407 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 16 out of 407
  1. Sep 20, 2012
    First, straight off the bat, I'd like to say, GREATEST Splinter Cell game in the entire series. I mean, bravo, 2 thumbs up. Gameplay is veryFirst, straight off the bat, I'd like to say, GREATEST Splinter Cell game in the entire series. I mean, bravo, 2 thumbs up. Gameplay is very organized and not too tweaked around like the later games. Story line was exceptional. Running on a very good computer, this game rarely has any glitches or bugs, so, good job Ubisoft. The co-op portion is possibly the best part about Chaos Theory. If you love taking out bad guys in stealth over lan or online, this is probably the best game to do it in. Very, very fun game. I prefer it highly over Double Agent in my opinion. 10/10 Full Review »
  2. JosephP.
    Oct 27, 2009
    One of the best Splinter Cell games in the franchise. The graphics are unbelievable, the voice acting is quite good and humorous, and the One of the best Splinter Cell games in the franchise. The graphics are unbelievable, the voice acting is quite good and humorous, and the gameplay is flawless. Overall, due to the game being on Steam without having to worry about a scratched a corrupt disc, makes this game the best of all. Full Review »
  3. Feb 17, 2018
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. When this game first came out, I was in 6th grade. And almost all of my friends had Splinter Cell. They kept pressuring me to play them, yet for some reason I didn’t want to. Almost 10 years later, I decided to play them in order and now I’ve finished this game. As I type this, I’m beating myself up for being late to the party. If I see my 6th grade friends again, the first thing I’ll tell them, “I wish I played this when you told me to.”

    This is most definitely better that the first and second SC. For one thing, it’s less frustrating. No longer will the level fail if you raise the alarm 3 times (though the enemy will still wear vests and helmets). And you can melee enemies from the front easier (in the previous two, you had to creep behind). Now a lot of people will compare this to Metal Gear Solid. So how does Chaos Theory compare to the MGS game at that time (i.e. MGS3 Snake Eater)? Chaos Theory is better. And this is coming from a hardcore MGS fan. Controls are better, especially when the bullets start flying. If you want to play this game gun-blazing, you can do that (in MGS you would have to wait for the 4th game to do that). Plus, there are hidden objectives to complete and more than one ways to complete a level. While there is no reward for doing the hidden objectives, the gameplay is so fun that it’s worth a 2nd playthrough just to do them.

    As for the story, well, this is where Snake Eater blows Chaos Theory out of the water. That’s not to say the story is bad (quite the contrary). But it’s your typical Tom Clancy plot. Will you see the twist coming from a mile away? Yes. Will you still act surprised? YES. Minor spoiler though: this is set in the same year as Ghost Recon 2 so if you played that first, then you know that war has to break out on the Korean Peninsula.

    And the graphics: are phenomenal. Yes, it shows its age now, but while this game is from 2005, it looks like it’s from 2009-2010. It’s on a modified Unreal Engine 2, but it can pass for an early UE3 game. In fact, I compared this to Rainbow 6 Vegas (an UE3 game), and Chaos Theory looks just as good, if not better than, R6 Vegas (and probably 75% of UE3 games).

    As for the multiplayer, you can’t play it anymore, but there is a way to – that’s your job, however
    Full Review »