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Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Score: 9.6 / 10
I’ll be honest. I’m not a big fan of the
dark. In fact, I try to leave a crack through my blinds at night so a
shred of light can get in, just so I don't wet the sheets in case of any
strange noises. Because of this Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow brought
me back to the world of darkness I dread.
You see, the game relies on shadows for safety and staying in the light
results in vulnerability. This conundrum was a hard obstacle to digest
although I can say now, after playing Pandora Tomorrow, it was well
worth wetting every sheet.
The year is 2006, two years after the events in the original Splinter
Cell, and the U.S. installs a military base in East Timor to train
forces for the fledgling democracy. Resistance soon follows and after a
terrorist attack lead by Suhadi Sadono, a guerrilla militia leader, Sam
Fisher is sent in. His job is to respond to
these attacks without anyone, except the
Pandora Tomorrow's storyline is altogether a lot better than its
predecessor for a couple of reasons. First: the story is easier to
follow with informative cutscenes and detailed cinematics. The other
reason is the technique of tying-in current world issues with the game.
The guerrilla attacks and such seem parallel
the events in Haiti. Even though this storyline was planned out well
before those events, it’s nice to see some connection with our world and
the Splinter Cell world.
Pandora Tomorrow puts the same stealth equation from the original to
work with only a few new gameplay features and graphical enhancements.
As far as Sam Fishers agility and personal development, you won’t notice
many new moves beyond the modified split jump and SWAT turn.
In terms of gadgets and items there are plenty of new toys for Sam to
play with. The addition of new grenades, laser aiming, and other tweaks,
such as the inclusion of binoculars, makes scoping out situations a lot
easier than before. Still remaining are the stealth tactics. Some
missions may authorize you to kill anyone you come in contact with while
others might restrict any casualties. When the latter is the case it
makes it a requirement to use your other gadgets to get through the
level. The use of airfoil rounds, sticky cameras, and gas grenades
The single-player campaign has mostly been overshadowed by Pandora
Tomorrow's excellent multiplayer, although not much has changed since
the first game. The level design and atmosphere feel the same as well as
the AI is still a bit shaky. The original's AI wasn't the smartest but
it still gave many gamers a hard challenge. Pandora Tomorrow's AI has
been tightened up to extreme lengths. Everybody that you neutralize must
be hidden and every sound you make will be heard. Even some of the
earlier missions will frustrate new gamers to the series because of the
strict AI and unforgiving reactions. My only advice for novice Splinter
Cell fans is to walk through every area slowly and with both eyes open.
Pandora Tomorrow's graphics are awesome -- once you play through Pandora
Tomorrow the first game looks like a cartoon in comparison. Not to say
that those graphics were bad, it's just that the graphics now are much
better. The lighting and shadowing effects have been refined. In
addition, the detail on the whole has been revamped. Rust on cars can be
seen, cigarettes will stay lit and smoking in real-time, and character
faces can be identified easily.
Most games don't overdo every single aspect in every single department
but then again: this is Ubi Soft we're talking about. Pandora Tomorrow
is the first console video game to feature Dolby 7.1 surround sound. In
other words make sure you play this game in broad daylight or you might
stain you khakis (much like I do... all the time). Every step, every
"WHACK! Thud," and every moth are heard in ways never before heard.
Those of us who can’t afford such amenities as a Dolby 7.1 system
shouldn’t feel left out though. The stellar voice acting from Michael
Ironside (Starship Troopers, Total Recall) and Dennis Haysbert (Major
League, 24) bring to life the cinematic appeal of Pandora Tomorrow.
The most impressive feature this time around isn't Pandora Tomorrow's
lighting and shading effects or it’s near perfect gameplay. It’s the
playability over Xbox Live. Rather than keeping the traditional online
style of two teams going at it with the same weapons and equipment, Ubi
Soft changed everything – right down to the perspectives of both sides.
One team, the Spies, play in the 3rd person perspective while the other,
Argus Mercenaries, play in the 1st person perspective. The Spies have
more visibility on their part (like the first-player section offers) and
are altogether more agile, athletic, and masters of hand-to-hand combat.
The Mercenaries are powerfully armed, although with less range of sight,
and capable of setting numerous traps and mines in order to capture or
kill a Spy. The Mercenaries are always given the same objectives and
singular role: find the spies and kill them. The Spies, on the other
hand, have a lot more barriers to get through in order to reach each
objective. Games are played in one of three different modes: Sabotage
(Place a modem near the objective and sit next to it until the countdown
is finished), Extraction (Take a ND133 tube to an extraction point
without getting caught or killed), and finally Neutralization
(Neutralize the ND133 canisters within the time given). All of these
modes are a lot of fun online and create one of the best "cat and mouse"
settings I've ever encountered and is possibly the best example of the
Live service in terms of showing its potential.
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is not an ordinary game. Sure it's
released early in the year and some bugs and glitches have been sighted
in the multiplayer, but this might be a Game of the Year candidate come
December. The near perfect sound, graphics, and gameplay are more than
enough to keep you latched on to this title for a long time. And with
multiple ways of beating certain missions, it wouldn’t hurt to go back
and play the whole thing all over again (for it isn't that long to begin