Review by RJx

Reviewed: 04/10/04

Does Pandora Tomorrow compare to the original?

Splinter Cell was a fantastic stealth title where you took the role of Sam Fisher, an NSA electronics intelligence officer who must quietly find his way through the darkness to his objectives. The storyline was fantastic and many of us wished the game was longer and had multiplayer. Now the sequel is out. Did we get what we wanted?

+ Multiplayer is unique and fun, even with the miniscule amount of maps.
+ Storyline is pretty good despite its length.
+ More moves in your arsenal.

- The graphics are inferior to Splinter Cell 1.
- Game is significantly shorter.

A lot of people will disagree with me on this point, but for me personally, I find both Splinter Cells are fun to play multiple times, even if it is a bit repetitive. But most of the replay value lies in taking it online... single player is still good, but it's quite obvious that they focused more on multiplayer, which I think had adverse effects on the rest of the game. One major drawback are the obnoxious, blocky shadows which--at the time of this writing--either UbiSoft or ATI (whichever is responsible) refuses to fix.

Single player was hurried. It was rather short, the graphics are not even as good as they are in multiplayer, and many may feel disappointed at the end. It can be finished in about two days; three if you're slow, or a perfectionist. It's also not very difficult, which is a recurring problem from the first game. But the story is still good and sneaking around never gets old. The enemy AI is smarter, and at the same time, still dumb as a post. They can notice movement a lot easier in dimly lit areas, but at the same time, you can hold one enemy hostage and his buddy won't notice from two feet away. It's possible to evade an enemy, which will result in increased levels of security and protective gear.

As I mentioned before, there's a problem with the shadows. They look like something out of an 8-bit Tetris game. Whereas before they were nice and smooth, now they're blocky, and anti-aliasing doesn't seem to fix it. I doubt it was intentional, but I have no idea why it was shipped like this. Aside from that, and a rather annoying aura around Sam's goggles and walkie talkie, the graphics are nice and crisp. One thing that annoys me is how much better multiplayer looks than single player. In a game that relies so heavily on lighting and shadow effects, the blocks really detract from the overall experience.

Sound is good, but like the graphics, it also has its share of flaws. The voice acting by Michael Ironside and Dennis Haysbert is fantastic. They share conversations and quips which really reinforces our belief that they have been friends for a long time. However, the rest cannot be said about the guards. They have casual conversations all the time, but as soon as they suspect you, a generic and rather mono-like ''I think I see something'' can be heard, which doesn't even sound like either of the people who were talking. Ambient effects are still good. Rain can be heard falling on different textures and glass can still be heard crashing onto the floor when you shoot out a bulb.

Multiplayer is super fun, not to mention unique. You can play in a 4-player game as either a SHADOWNET spy, sent in to decontaminate several containers of a virus, or you can play as an ARGUS mercenary, whose objective is to stop the spies. Spies hide in the darkness, using speed, agility, and the darkness to complete their objective; they also play exclusively in third person. Just like in single player, there's plenty of darkness to hide in, and it's impossible for a mercenary to spot them without the use of some gadgets. This is the mercenary's objective: to kill the spies by using their sensing abilities in the form of electromagnetic detection vision, wall sensors, motion sensor vision, and enhanced hearing, which detects the location and direction of a running spy through your reticule. They've got a light on the end of their rifle, but walking around with this on all day is a bad idea. They also play exclusively in first person. Overall, it's pretty balanced, and quite fun.

If I had the option of going back in time and buying it again knowing what was in store, I still would. Multiplayer by itself is enough to carry the rushed single player. For all its flaws though, the single player isn't bad. It just feels a bit rushed, that's all. Pandora Tomorrow could have spent a few more weeks in development. But Splinter Cell 1 this ain't.

8 out of 10.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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