Released back in 2005, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the third game in the critically acclaimed series of stealth games. Thanks to the improved competitive online multiplayer and a brand new co-operative mode, Chaos Theory was arguably the best Splinter Cell game. Unfortunately, these features didn't make it in to the game's remake for the Nintendo 3DS, Splinter Cell 3D. And even though the 3D looks great, it doesn't make up for the fact that Splinter Cell 3D is nothing more than a watered-down port of the original.
In Splinter Cell 3D, you play as Sam Fisher: a highly trained agent working for a top-secret branch of the NSA known as Third Echelon. Set in the year 2007 (which was the "near future" at the time of the original's release), relations between Japan, China, and North Korea have broken down thanks to Japan's formation of an Information Self Defense Force. In order to prevent the breakout of World War III, Sam is deployed to the Far East, where he may be outmanned and outgunned, but he's hardly outmatched.
The lengthy single-player campaign from Chaos Theory is unchanged in Splinter Cell 3D, and that's a good thing. The story isn't anything special, but the stealth gameplay is still top-notch, and it's a fun ride from beginning to end. The only notable addition that Splinter Cell 3D offers are the 3D graphics made possible by the 3DS, which are very well done. They offer a good sense of depth to Sam's surroundings, such as when your back is against a wall, and you're peering out and looking down a long hallway. And unlike the 3D effect in some of the other 3DS launch games, the 3D in Splinter Cell is never hard on the eyes. Maybe it's because of the dark color palette, or because it's a stealthy, slow moving game, but the 3D is very easy on the eyes and always natural looking.
Although the 3D effect is great, the overall graphics in Splinter Cell 3D are pretty lackluster. The game looks noticeably worse than the Xbox original; it even looks worse than the sub-par Gamecube port. A lot of textures look bland and low res, and character models look downright ugly at times. Considering the technical specifications of the 3DS, it's disappointing that Ubisoft didn't make the game look at least as good as the original.
The controls in Splinter Cell 3D are far from perfect, and definitely take some getting used to. Sam is moved with the circle pad, which feels tight and responsive. Barely moving the circle pad will result in Sam inching his way forward, and moving it all the way will make him break out into a full-blown trot. Having absolute control over how fast Sam moves is imperative, since it is a stealth game after all. Thankfully, the circle pad performs admirably.
Unfortunately, the controls go downhill from there. The camera is controlled with the four face buttons, since there is no second circle pad, which takes some getting used to. Even after a few hours, though, camera movements can still feel jerky and stiff. The directional pad is used for actions such as jumping, which is really annoying since you have to take your thumb off the circle pad in order to do them. Contextual actions, such as opening doors, are handled with the touch screen, and shooting and knocking out enemies are handled with the shoulder buttons. Needless to say, there are a lot of controls in Splinter Cell 3D, and it's obvious that it's a game designed for a console. The controls work well enough after getting used to them, but they aren't perfect.
Noticeably absent from Splinter Cell 3D are the multiplayer modes that made the original so great. Both co-op and spies vs. mercenaries have been left out, meaning that once you're done with the single-player campaign, you've done everything there is to do. If you already beat the game on a previous console, there's not much reason to pick up Splinter Cell 3D. Ubisoft added a few new touches to the game, such as Conviction-styled mission objectives, but on the whole, the game is the exact same as it was six years ago... just with less features.
In the end, Splinter Cell 3D just feels like a lazy port. For $10, you can buy Chaos Theory on Steam and not only have a better-looking version of the game with two multiplayer modes, but a better control scheme as well. Unless you're a fanatical 3D junkie, Splinter Cell 3D is not the version of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory you should be playing.