Sam Fisher returns to the Xbox in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow with a new single player game and a revolutionary online segment. The year is 2006 and a guerilla group, supported by the Indonesian government, overruns a newly established US Embassy in East Timor. Everyone inside is either killed or taken hostage. Enter Sam, the man chosen to save as many lives as possible as well as to get as much data as he can on the guerilla group.
The Splinter Cell series continues to breakthrough technical boundaries delivering amazing looking visuals and advanced psychics systems. Everything in Pandora Tomorrow is strikingly realistic, from the details on each character’s face to the many varied environments. Whether you’re in the outskirts of a jungle in some far away place or a terrorist inhabited building on US soil, each level has a distinct feel to it. This is due in part to the lighting effects, which still amazes, making the many areas you play in feel factual.
Pandora Tomorrow is often either too loud or too quiet. Being a stealth game I can’t disapprove of very little in game music, but the lack of it makes everything else too loud. It also means that when some music finally does chime in, most often when an enemy realizes something is wrong, first thing I do is reach for the remote to turn down the volume cause it catches me by surprise. Dialogue is delivered at a semi-professional level and the mediocre story is moved along well because of it.
Pandora Tomorrow’s single player adventure consists of more of the same boring gameplay I got more then enough of in the first game. Even worse then the slow-paced “action” is the fact that the game still requires trial and error gameplay to get through each of the 17 levels. You have to take your time, move excruciatingly slow, take all necessary precautions; and even after all this you’ll need to replay the level a couple more times because everything is so unpredictable. How am I supposed to know that a certain guard will never look my way unless I attempt to climb a certain beam? Should I be aware that a guard will just happen to check the darkened corner I’m hiding in and ignore the others? While the plot is intriguing the lack of any type of character development and emotion makes the game feel so dry.
What makes Pandora Tomorrow standout from all other games to date is the highly innovative online play. Pandora Tomorrow’s online portion, developed by a different Ubisoft studio, has its max player’s limit set at four, meaning in most cases 2 verse 2 and no more then three people can be on a team. There are two sides, both very different. The spies of the Shadownet team are your group of Sam Fisher wanna-bees. They play a lot like Sam with a couple minor control-scheme adjustments. They have a cool arsenal of gadgets including smoke and chaff grenades, sticky cams, and spy bullets that enable them to listen into opponent’s conversations. The Shadownet team has no lethal weapons and grabbing an opponent from behind is the only means of killing him. Because of this, the spies need to remain unseen until the ideal moment presents itself. The other team of mercenaries, Argus, are very different from what you’ve grown used to in the first Splinter Cell, as well as Pandora Tomorrow’s single player. Instead of being in the third-person perspective, mercs are in the first. This limits their vision and awareness, but having a gun that can actually kill, and does so rather easily compensates this. Argus also has a bunch of devices such as proximity mines, flares, and laser trip wires.
There are three game modes available online. The first and most popular is “Neutralization” where the spies need to hack and decontaminate a certain number of ND133s, tubes containing viruses, in the given time. The second mode is “Extraction.” Like Neutralization spies need to reach the ND133s but instead of waiting for several seconds to hack they instantly obtain the containers they hack. Then they must return the containers to their start point within the time limit. In the final mode, Sabotage, spies must place a modem near the ND133s. This modem begins to hack the ND133 and like in Neutralization takes a given amount of time to fully hack. If during that time a merc shoots and destroys the modem the hacking will pause and resume when another modem is placed. All of these modes can also end when a team has reached its death limits.
Worth buying just for the single player Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is not. For the patient gamer who doesn’t mind dying a lot before learning the game, online is a great experience worth having. Those not willing to learn every path through every map, the many dos and don’ts, and when to attack and when to stay hidden will find themselves very irritated real fast. If your not sure try it out and see if you’re up for the commitment.
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