Review by Tails 64

"A fun game with a few discreet improvements over the original"

The first Splinter Cell game was a fresh creation from Ubi Soft that dazzled those who played it on any console. Now, a sequel has been released. The PC, Playstation 2, and X-Box versions of the game have a deep and entertaining online multiplayer. However, as usual, our GameCube receives the short end of the third-party stick and does not contain such options. Is the single player's intensity enough to make this a game worth owning?

The story places you as the character Sam Fisher, an operative for the Third Echelon, with the mission to gather data of the mysterious Pandora Tomorrow and discover more about the militant Suhadi Sadono. With Lambert of the Echelon guiding Sam Fisher, he must lurk in the shadows unseen. He must be the unspoken hero who maintains peace between countries and gets facts straight from the source. If captured, the United States will claim never to have seen Sam and allow his death. The story will put Sam through many twists and turns as he discovers the line of right and wrong. The story can be directly affected by Sam's in-mission actions, so there is more to it than connecting the dots.

Every mission begins with a talk with Lambert. He will inform Fisher of his main goal, whether lethal force is permitted or not, and any other details that can affect his actions. Unlike Sam's first outing, it is made very clear who is allowed to be killed and when certain lives must be spared. If Sam is detected far too often, the mission will result in failure. Many missions will crumble if Sam is detected once, so stealth is more vital than ever before.

Whenever a security guard is in the premise, the choices of actions that can be taken as an operative begin. It is better to think twice and act once, so it is vital to pay attention to the guard's typical actions. It must also be taken into consideration that he may not be alone. Sam does not take many blows to fall, unlike the twenty shot gods found in other games. In a situation involving multiple guards, techniques must be used to separate their forces. Fisher can now whistle, rising the suspicious nature of the people in the area. Leading a helpless guard into the shadows can give Sam the perfect opportunity to knock the guard unconscious while remaining invisible to the human eye. The AI of a guard can feel rather unbalanced at times, sometimes making Sam's adventure frustrating for the player at home.

The manner of which Sam can eliminate a guard has a bounty of options as well. He can silently grab the victim from behind. Then he can either interrogate him or knock him unconscious. He may be able to use his SC-20K to eliminate adversaries from a distance. In situations involving civilians, lethal force is not an option for Fisher. In this case, other gadgets such as the Sticky Shooter can be used to stay within the freedom given. In any situation, however, the body must be hidden. If found, alarms will rise and danger the very well being of Sam's mission.

If Sam is seen, it must be remembered that there is still hope. If he can eradicate the person that saw him before using a radio alert or pulling the alarm, he can proceed safely. In the event an alarm is sounded, there is still hope for a successful mission. While most missions require Sam to never trigger an alarm, there are missions that will allow for two mistakes. Whenever the alarm stage increases, the guards will wear extra equipment to keep themselves safe. However, if Fisher remains invisible for long enough, the alarm stage will decrease.

Sam has many new techniques to help him through his dangerous missions. As mentioned, he can whistle to distract a helpless guard. Most lights can now be shot out with a quick shot of Fisher's pistol. Though the shattering glass could catch attention, total darkness would keep Sam invisible. The pistol can be drawn when Sam is hanging on a bar. He can now wall jump while in a small area between two walls to gain extra height. In order to pass a doorway, Fisher can now use the SWAT move to spin by it unseen. Though Sam will use most of his abilities, some will never see the light during any of his eight missions (which are called 32 levels on the box, but that is if each save point is considered a new level).

Though Sam has learned many new tricks, the abilities found in his first outing return. In addition to viewing the world as a normal human being, he can also see things in Thermal Vision and Night Vision. Night Vision gives Sam a black-and-white scenery to enjoy, allowing him to see anything that is usually shrouded in darkness. However, it will blur when the area is lighted. Thermal Vision will not be as useful this time around for the stealth operative. Most walls cannot be seen by Fisher when in this mode, so this will only be useful to him in certain situations. He will rappel down walls quite often, and can peek around corners while backed to a surface. He still picks locks in the same control stick-sensitive manner as before. Sam has more options of how to proceed through the areas using these skills, but his path is still linear.

Players will have little trouble controlling Sam Fisher in his latest adventure. The control layout remains largely the same as the first, which is a good thing. His new functions have been seamlessly added, but there is problem with the sniping controls. In order to start sniper mode, the lift trigger must be held down halfway. In order for Sam to hold his breath to improve his aim, it must be held down completely. This can cause mistakes in some situations, but is usually easy enough to do.

Sam Fisher's second quest is not as difficult as the first. His new ability to shoot out lights can make some situations simple, since eternal darkness in an area allows Sam to move freely. Check points are very frequent, and rare are times when Fisher will encounter more than three guards are in one area. Though this tones down the frustration, those who mastered Sam's debut may feel cheated.

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow as a whole has very little improvement over the first game. There are still situations where trial and error reign supreme and there is little replay value. Though a mission ranking as been added, it is too irrelevant to fuel a second time through. With no multiplayer, the game will last only last until the credits.

In addition to Sam's quest being a fun, if redundant, game, it is also pretty. CG Movies that progress the story are very smooth and animate well. The environments are very realistic and not at all polygonal; there will never be any confusion in finding out what an object is supposed to be. The character models are detailed, and all animation is up to snuff. However, graphical glitches can draw the player out of the intensity of Sam's quest. Textures on buildings will sometimes wiggle when Sam is walking slowly, and people will float whenever walking up stairs. More problematic, the shadows seen on-screen do not always seem to match the darkness shown on the bar in the corner. Though not perfect, the visuals will more than please the players that accompany Sam in his missions.

The sound corner of this game is a very high quality one. The sound effects are very realistic. The voice acting is perfect, but sometimes does not say the same thing as in the text box. The music captures the feel of every situation. It should also be noted that the music playing when Sam is spotted now changes every course. Ubi Soft scores again with a great audio selection in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.

Video gamers who loved Splinter Cell should get Pandora Tomorrow no matter what. However, it is the GameCube version that is the worst. With no online multiplayer, the game has much more value on any other system. Though the lack of this is annoying, the single player quest is still very satisfying with its new variety of goals and better flow. Anyone who wants to experience the true feel of stealth action should pick up Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow today.

8 Gameplay
Though there is no online play and there are not many new features, this game still captures the spirit of the original in a well-paced experience.

8 Graphics
Despite graphical glitches, everyone and everything is very detailed and animate well.

9 Sound
The music will lock the mood and the voices fit every character.

6 Lifespan
The quest is of a good length, but there is little to come back for.

Closing comment:
Though the only true improvement over the original is that it flows more smoothly, any fan of stealth, adventure, or sniping should not be caught without this game.

The Verdict: 8.1

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/05/07

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