Review by DouglasFett
"Ubisoft's own Pandora's box"
Oh man. How to begin here folks.
I recognize that this review is years and years late, but as a hardcore fan of the Splinter Cell series since the beginning, I have to give credit where credit is due. So let's set the stage here. The first Splinter Cell game, which indeed redefined stealth action for this generation, was a purely amazing game. Did it have its flaws? Certainly. But was it at least playable, ultimately leaving a positive, lasting impression on gamers? Yes. Naturally, gamers wanted more. Even the idea of a sequel was hinted at in the first game's 'behind the scenes' interview with Sam Fisher.
Two years later, Ubisoft makes good on the rumours, and delivers Pandora Tomorrow. A new setting (ooh Sam Fisher sneaking around the jungles, fun fun fun) for the single player and an all new multi-player were the big catches here. Not to mention that the overall look and feel of the first game was recycled here, so fans could easily jump right in. But there were problems.
1. Sound + Graphics 6/10: The game's aesthetics were a carry over from the first game, so there are no complaints there. But to completely nitpick, there were little bits and pieces that just seemed out of place with the series. Sam's spiked hair looked completely out of character for a 50-something year old ex-Navy S.E.A.L. The voice actor for Lambert was replaced, so the friendly relations between Sam and Irving seemed different. The cutscenes were impressive enough, but the character's mouths did not move in synch with their voices. The HUD and game menus also seemed a bit off from the first game. Which isn't fair, sure, but whatever. Lastly, this is about the time when Ubisoft seemingly forgot how to write memorable scripts for NPCs. The AI guards in many levels are a bunch of dummies, who are either drunk or have nothing important to say except random bits of "blah, blah, blah." Sadly, these terrible scripts later infected the Rainbow Six series, and continues to infect the latest Splinter Cell game as well (Assassin's Creed II and AC: B are notoriously spared, fortunately). However this wasn't even where it began to get bad.
2. Story: It is what it is. Indonesian terrorists, backstabbing, and Sam saving the world.
3. Gameplay: Let's take a look here, shall we?
- Stealth: The same stealth techniques from the first game were used again, which is no complaint at all. Even a few new flashy moves were added (S.W.A.T. turn, half-split jump, and the ability to shoot while hanging from a pole), in addition to some new gadgets (chaff and flash grenades). The F2000 still has all its gadgets, along with its sniping ability. The largest drawback is the complete and utter uselessness of the FiveSeven. While the pistol was unremarkable in the first game, it at least did not GIVE AWAY YOUR POSITION. Here's the thing. Ubisoft added a laser sight to the pistol. To increase accuracy and know exactly where you are going to hit an enemy (namely, headshots), one can flip on the laser sight. What happens? Not only does an enemy guard SEE the laser and is immediately alerted to your presence, but the laser sight loops around like a bunny rabbit hopped up on H.
Well, ok. Its not that crazy. But the laser sight still loops back and forth, so to land a headshot one has to wait for the laser to loop onto an enemy's head before firing. In all fairness, throughout the series, excluding the last three games, although in CT and DA there are some moments where the FiveSeven is utterly useless, and one may as well switch to the F2000 to kill, create a diversion, or just plain escape.
It should also be said the same "trial and error" gameplay is present here in PT, however, it seems much more...merciless? Aggravating? Even the stealth gameplay from Double Agent is more enjoyable than that which is in this title. While I'm here, I should also mention that the game is relatively short. Eight levels. While the first game had only nine, every single level was damn fun to play. Speaking of which, Ubisoft pulled a fast one on us. On the back of the game box, there is a caption that mentions "17 levels." Which deserves a double take. Those French Canadians did not mean 17 levels in PT, but the 8 levels in PT and the 9 in the first game COMBINED. Very sneaky Ubisoft, very sneaky.
So, after the player is done with the utterly short (yet incredibly aggravating) single player, what is there to do? Here it comes, yes, yes, there it is, MULTI PLAYER.
- Ubisoft sells Sam Fisher's soul to the masses (err, my bad, multi-player) : It can be fair to say that the first Splinter Cell game garnered a cult following, which became hooked to the intense, patience-teaching stealth gameplay. Ubisoft, however, was not content to leave the Splinter Cell series as a purely single-player experience. The advent of Xbox Live and the PSN meant it was time to take their new series and show it off to the masses of action-craving FPS fans, who could care less for the stealth gameplay the series was known for.
It was a bright, cold day in March [April?] 2004 as I entered the large building, where every room was filled with TVs, Xboxs, and nerds a plenty, playing everything from Soul Calibur to 007: Agent Under Fire. I myself, typical loner that I am, found myself an unused TV and started up THE game of 2003 (Knights of the Old Republic). As I took Canderous, Revan, and Carth up against some unsuspecting Sand People, who had nothing better do than to harass the locals, I looked over and saw a big group of gamers standing around a TV, shouting like a bunch of hooligans. "Halo?" I thought dryly to myself. Nothing new of course, but for the hell of it, I saved my game and walked over.
Nope. Not Halo. Although one player's screen was from a first-person perspective, the other's was third person. And the character looked strangely familiar. Like a certain NSA Agent from one of my favorite games. The two players were killing each other of course, and after a little investigation I find its the new Splinter Cell game I had been hearing so much about. I'm instantly disenfranchised, having found my beloved series being sold out to the masses of gamers that don't appreciate a good stealth game like Splinter Cell.
Suffice to say, the single-player experience was sacrificed in lieu of multi-player. Yah, sure, TONS of people got into the MP. It was a big thing. But the point is, Ubisoft sold out. Big time.
But, what's done is done. PT set a precedent for the rest of the SC series; multi-player would become a staple. Fortunately, the single player would be revived and continually reworked in later titles (not they ever stood a chance to the first Splinter Cell), and the MP co-op/versus would be continually renewed, until Ubisoft finally got it right with Splinter Cell Conviction. Is there any point to buy Pandora Tomorrow, to see what you missed? No. PT was a weird and utter disappointment, a "holding action" between a genius game and a series that went sadly downhill.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/11
Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (US, 03/23/04)
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