Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, GC, PS2
Publisher
UbiSoft
Developer
UbiSoft
Genre
Stealth Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Drug Reference, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Solid stealth gameplay
• Lots of minor improvements
• Awesome multiplayer
• Great graphics

The Bad

• Why does everyone speak English?
• Some trial-and-error portions

 
Grade
A

I don't care what anyone thinks - any game where the main character is voiced by Michael Ironside is already fun just by his gruff commentary alone. Throw in a sharply realized and realistic stealth gameplay that's been fine-tuned since the first game came out and add on a great online/multiplayer experience and you have what may prove to be one of the best games of the year.

If you've played the original Splinter Cell, the gameplay behind Pandora Tomorrow will be pretty familiar. Except with a few revisions, the core gameplay is pretty much the same as the last game. But, upon closer inspection, you can really tell that UbiSoft listened to their fans and the reviews when addressing changes to the gameplay and control. At its heart, Pandora Tomorrow is all about sneaking into a location and completing objectives along the way, including freeing hostages and retrieving information to further the game along. During missions, don't be surprised to find your objectives change as events occur. While you could feasibly run and gun your way through the game, it's doubtful you'd survive too long. To counter this, though, you can hide in the shadows and sneak up on enemies, often taking them hostage from behind or just shooting them with you guns when no one else is looking.

If you're seen or heard, guards will try to attack you and often go for backup. There are alarm switches scattered throughout each stage and if you alert guards or civilians and they set the alarm off, expect to have to deal with an elevated presence of enemies. This time around though, having an alarm go off won't cost you an automatic failure as a three stage system of alarms is used. If you keep in the shadows and out of sight after setting off the alarms, eventually it will go back down, sometimes at pre-scripted locations. This allows for more goof-ups without the errors being fatal. Also, when you kill enemies, you can pick up and hide their bodies, but this time around, your light meter (the gauge that tells you how hidden you are in the shadows) will also flash to inform you when you've hidden the body well enough to avoid detection. This addition alone will save most players the frustration of unwanted failures.

While the interface may have seen some slight revision, the control scheme has remained relatively the same. Sam moves with a tandem of the Left and Right sticks, one controlling his movement and the other the camera. Hitting the B Button will put you in a crouch, which is essential for moving quietly around the guards and sneaking up on them. The A Button serves as an all-purpose action button, allowing Sam to open doors, use computers and pick up items found in the locales. Now, Sam can also use his Optical Fiber Wire when by doors by just selecting the option with the A Button, instead of having to equip it and use it as before. This makes using it quicker and much easier. Sam also has the ability to jump, climb up ladders and pipes and even shimmy along ledges. Also available is the ability to hang from a pipe and brandish your weapon to shoot enemies from your vantage point. Sam's split wall jump is improved to allow for shooting your weapon from your position and even to jump higher up to grab ledges one might think were out of reach. Also altered, probably by request, is the ability to open doors while you're lugging bodies around.

As before, Sam comes with plenty of gadgets to augment his guns. Many of the old standbys turn back up, including grenades, diversional cameras, air foil rounds and mines. You also can use infrared and night vision and there's even the option to use the binoculars that are a part of Sam's visor with just the click of a button. Using infrared and night vision become essential tools in finding mines and tripwires as you move through the game.

For those who found the first game hellishly hard, you'll be pleased to find that the checkpoints are spread out more generously, so as to cut down on the amount of trial-and-error moments. Yes, there will be the occasional scenario you may have to try a few times because of the multiple options before you, but rarely is the game so brutally unforgiving that you want to toss your controller. Pandora Tomorrow rewards thinking for yourself and finding solutions in your environment, be they as simple as just shooting out a couple lights to sneak past guards you're not allowed to kill.

By now, if you're thinking to yourself "Well, this sounds just like more of the same," then you're probably going to want to check out the multiplayer mode, which can be played by system link or on Xbox Live. Instead of just tossing together some of the "same-old" online shoot-fests, players are given Mercenaries vs. Spies, where up to four players choose sides in a variety of objective modes, including Extraction, Neutralization and Sabotage. Here the spies, who view the game in third person, must sneak towards their objectives, while the mercenaries, who see the game in first person, must try and stop the spies. To keep things fair, both groups have some excellent set of gadgets and excellent players will find themselves completely addicted to the multiplayer experience along. To be honest, the execution of the voice communication, including eavesdropping and talking into the ear of captured mercenaries, makes the game all the more thrilling.

Visually, Pandora Tomorrow follows right in line with the standards set by the original game. The game features large, finely detailed locations that feel as real as a video game can. With some fine lighting effects, the game has a dynamic world of shadow and light. Character models all have a great level of detail and Sam's animations are silky smooth. Some of the NPCs may not feature the same level of quality animation or detail, but they still look quite excellent. While there are a lot of interior locations, this title features more exterior locales, which do wonders to break up things as these organic exteriors likewise share a great level of detail, light and shadow. Any issues one might have with the graphics are merely nitpicking as the whole package just looks sharp.

Audiowise, the game picks up where the original left off - finely crafted music that sets a great tone; sound effects that draw from real life and draw the player into the gameworld; and some excellent voice acting by the main characters of the game. As the voice of Sam, Michael Ironside delivers an outstanding performance that's full of wonderful comments. On the other hand, the NPCs, while decent in their own right, pale in comparison. Probably the one thing that irked me was that everyone managed to speak some pretty good English, no matter what their nationality was. I would have liked to see some voicework done in other languages with the option to view subtitles. But still, that's merely a small gripe and one that doesn't do any real harm to the game.

To be honest - you already know if you want the new Splinter Cell. You know what to expect from the game and since the original did so many things right, there really wasn't much more, outside of minor alterations, that could be done to the core gameplay. Pandora Tomorrow gives you more missions and a great online experience to keep Splinter Cell fans happy for some time to come.

- - Vane

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