Review by johnathanblade

"THE WATER IS BETTER THAN THE XBOX VERSION'S...that's something"

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE SINGLE PLAYER PORTION OF SPLINTER CELL PANDORA TOMORROW. I haven't played the multiplayer game. I've read that it is superb however. Take that for what it is worth.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is a game with too much title, fortunately it is game enough to justify this title. It only meets these standards when taken as a whole though. The single player alone is very strong, but perhaps not quite as strong as the first Splinter Cell. It's a shorter, easier game. As in the first the story is interesting, but not quite that important. It's too real-life. There is little false entertainment drama added. It makes the story cool and mature, but mildly uninteresting. Sam's only motivation is doing his job.

If you have never played a Splinter Cell game what you have is GAMEPLAY that is rather close to what I imagine a Metal Gear Solid puzzle game would be like. You play as Sam Fisher, a covert operative for the National Security Agency. You have to figure out, usually by trial and error, the best way to make it from one end of a sub level to another without being spotted. There are sub-missions along the way, but they are usually just a thin mask on the “get through the level without being spotted” theme. I am definitely not saying that the theme isn't done well. It is done well and it is frustratingly fun. With saves and check points, no area of the game is more than seven or eight minutes long. With constant dying/setting off to many alarms seven minutes becomes hours for some areas.

Splinter Cell's shtick is the lighting. It uses a highly advanced lighting engine to give the game some depth. “Shadows are your friend” is the name of the game. If you stay out of the light you can literally be crouching 6 inches in front of an enemy and not be detected. About half of the light sources in the game are destructible and consequently you can create your own safe zones by shooting out the lights. This time around the PS2 version also has believable moving lighting. Sound plays a factor, but if you remain in the crouching position for most of the game, then you should be fine as far as making noise. If you do have to attract an enemy you have a nifty new whistle function. If you whistle and an enemy is in range he'll come looking for you.

The enemies can be taken out in a number of ways. You have two different guns, a pistol and a rifle. The pistol is useful for shooting around corners, shooting while using a human shield, shooting while hanging from a line and shooting to conserve ammo for you useful gun. Half of those options are ones that you will never use. You rifle is by far the more functional gun for the kind of work that you are doing. It can be used for sniping. For shooting enemies this is the function that you will be using the most. The rifle has several useful subfunctions also. It can be used to fire off nonlethal subduing weapons, or surveillance cameras. You have other equipment at you disposal. You can pick locks, jam security cameras, throw grenades, throw other objects to create distractions, blow open jammed locks and some other nifty functions. You have some very cool visual aids at your disposal. You have binoculars that can be used in concert with you other vision functions, the starlight scope, and the thermal vision.

In addition to being able to use the items Sam has a pretty broad range of personal functionality. He still has all of his old tricks from the first game. He can do the split jump (jumping up in a narrow walkway and holding up you body in the full split position Van Damme style.) Now he can go from a split position to another jump to reach high ledges. Sam can do a horizontal or vertical roll. These are both useful as a quick way to pass an enemy's line of sight without being spotted. Sam can climb most things that look climbable. He can hang from a line and shoot, a move that you will never use. He can jump. He can elbow somebody unconscious from behind. Spot on control facilitates all of these moves.

GRAPHICALLY this is an excellent example of a PS2 game. Sam Fisher's Character model is very detailed, and the lighting is even better than it was in the first game. The soft cloth physics are more highly developed this time around also. The overall screen resolution is less than the original PS2 version. The level are bigger, with much more detail and better effects this time around though. One has only to enter the jungle level for the first time and see the water and interact with the light dappled, moving foliage to realize that this is indeed a fine example of the PS2 being pushed to its limits. All manner of negative comparisons have been made to the Xbox version. Yes, the Xbox version does look better. As always, it has a sharper, cleaner display. The lighting effects for the Xbox are more complex, with more light sources and more gradation, and more polygons here and there. With that said, the Xbox has the same randomly missing shadows as the PS2 version. The PS2 version also has vastly superior water effects. The PS2's water displays multiple interactive pseudo 3D(specular highlighted) ripples on top of semitransparent water. The Xbox version has flat white textures that do very simple patterns and are not self interactive. Overall it's just a little thing, but it does show that the PS2 still has some “umff” in it.

Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow is a decent sequel to a great game. It does improve upon the concept, but only minutely. It is fun, but short. It's a game definitely worth a rental for the single player game. If you are going to buy one(for the single player though, go for the first one. There is more game in there. I'm giving the game an 8 to factor in the Multiplayer aspect. Without it SC:PT gets a 7.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/08/04


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