Review by FieldNinja

Reviewed: 04/10/04

Horribly overrated single player

I loved the original Splinter Cell to bits, having played it through on every difficulty, playing it again to see if i could totally stealth all the missions etc. I consider it one of the best ninja games ever done, so obviously i was very excited about a sequel. Now that it's here, it's tempting to call it more of an expansion pack than a true sequel: Almost all the content, sound and animations are recycled from the first game. There are a few standout changes, such as alterations to the control scheme and some slightly higher resolution models, but it's really just more of the same.
Normally i'd be happy for this, but the fact of the matter is Pandora tomorrow's production is of considerably lower quality than the original. I'll do it the old fashioned step by step way then shall i?

Just to get this out of the way, Pandora tomorrow looks fantastic. It's got the look and sensibility of the original, plus some gorgeous new features, most evident in the multiplayer mode. For single player, PT takes us to far more exotic locales than the first game, and it's fun playing through maps just to see where they'll take you next. The animations are for the most part identical to those of the original game, sometimes to poor effect. Fisher's model for instance has been given a few more polys and a fancy new spiky hairdo that for some reason had me take him less seriously. In the first game he was strictly portrayed as all business, all the time. In PT he has the look of the kids in Hackers, i'm not BSing. Regardless, personal iffiness aside, there's no denying that PT looks fantastic.

This is where UbiSoft has truly dropped the ball this time. Almost all the voice actors other than Michael Ironside have been replaced, and for the most part the voice work isn't just bad, it's lazy. Ironside delivers his lines with the same deadpan seriousness he does so well, and Fisher sounds like you would expect him to. The others however, oh where to start. First and foremost, i wasn't aware that all East Timor rebels spoke fluent unaccented English, but hey, i may be wrong. What i REALLY didn't understand tho, is that these same guys apparently have family across the globe, all with the same voices and the same unaccented english! Wow the wonders of modern education eh? There is NO attempt at localization here, and it really hurts suspension of disbelief. I believe whoever directed the recording was of the Ed Wood variety; One take, no more. There are lines where people drawl words or pronounce them wrong, and after the first couple of time, the charm really wears off fast.
The music is also rather annoying this time around, with weird jungly breakbeaty things sounding straight out of a car commercial. Overall, the sound hurts PT's single player campaign, big time.

It's splinter cell, again. However, there are certain issues that once again hurt suspension of disbelief: A ton of typos, mismatches between subtitles and spoken dialogue, ridiculous lack of information (They send you to infiltrate an american embassy and they don't have a floorplan for you?). PT has issues keeping up it's realism because it's constantly marred by lazy production values.

This is of course where it's all at, and i'm pleased to say that as far as ''Splinter cell, but more of it'' goes, this is a worthy expansion indeed. The levels are well laid out, there is a clearer sense of direction to the missions, and there are fewer bouts of repeated trial and error. The game is, again, about environmental puzzles and stealth tactics, often without lethal weapons, and it's still exhilarating to pull through an impossible situation with nothing but the environment to help you. The big problem PT has is inconsistencies and repeated cases of QA laziness syndrome. It is VERY hard to take the story seriously when it's being delivered through terrible dialogue with typos like ''I cna't see you'', with the kind of mindless voice acting you can only class as ''phoned in''. There are enough inconsistencies and needless plotholes to make the single player campaign ALL about the gameplay, effectively reducing it to a storyless puzzle game for the gamer with a love for storylines (the complexity of which have always been a strong feature in the Tom Clancy line of games). A final nail in the immersion coffin is the total omission of datasticks. There are probably less than 8 of them to be found, and you barely touch computers at all unless it's required by the mission. Splinter Cell made a world to explore, Pandora tomorrow places you in a labyrinth and waits for you to find the cheese.

If there was a reason for a hardcore splinter cell fan to get PT it would be the multiplayer. Strikingly innovative, highly polished, and some of the best fun you can possibly have with 3 friends. The gameplay is just as slow and deliberate as the single player game, if not more so due to the added risk, and after you've snuck up on your first ARGUS merc, you'll finally realise just how wooden and idiotic the single player AIs are. For the stealth gamer, this is as good as multiplayer gets. Almost worth the price of the whole game alone. Only bummer is the lack of easy communication features for those without a microphone headset. The game is about close cooperation, and audio chitchat is almost a total must have, as there is no ''chat tree'' along the lines of what you might find in counterstrike or tribes. I'm hoping this will be added in a future patch, because stopping to type out long sentences can easily be the death of you.

I have no idea how this game has garnered such amazing reviews; It is in no way as good as or superior to its daddy in any other aspect than the Multiplayer, which is just mindbogglingly great. Judged as a straight single player game, i'm deeply disappointed, but the multiplayer segment is everything i could ever hope for.

My tip for you: If you want multiplayer SC, get it now. If you want more single player, you're better off waiting for the real sequel.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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