Review by Jaisen Laviero
"Sam Fisher returns for a revamped stealth adventure that beats the first!"
Have you ever wanted to spy on someone? How about sneak through the shadows and taking people down? Ever loved hi-tech gadgets and loved the adrenaline of looking straight in the eyes someone and them not seeing you? Well, if you answered yes to these questions, I wager you'll fall in love with Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. The acclaimed sequel of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow brings to heights to stealth action, story, and enemy artificial intelligence.
2 years after solving the Georgian Information Crisis, Sam Fisher is called back by Lambert and Grimsdottir in the CIA's special forces group Third Echelon when a hostage situation breaks out at the U.S. Embassy in East Timor, ''The world's youngest democracy''. The leader of the group that attacked the embassy is Suhadi Sadono, and is accompanied by his militant group, Darah Dan Doa (DDD for short and ''Blood and Prayer'' in English). Throughout the game, you must track phone calls, record conversations, and interrogate several key enemies. But unlike the original, doing things or the lack of can change the story. With a solid story of espionage and unique characters, this category deserves a 9.
...Maybe is was just a shadow?''
If this category wasn't high, this game would have bombed. In Splinter Cell tradition, the gameplay is unique, fun, and will get your adrenaline pumping. Most of the game is in complete shadows, and this is your best defense. Even stated early on in both games, your gun is a backup for things, so much so that many missions forbid and lethal attacks. You start off with your standard silenced pistol, which is mostly only good for taking out lights, which, you guessed it, makes places darker, but alerts close guards. Everything from Part 1 is back, including your hi-tech multi-purpose ''SC-20K'', a silenced, optional automatic sniping rifle that can also shoot many gadgets, from Electrified Darts to Diversion Cameras with a sleeping gas. You can also interrogate enemies for useful information, use them as human shields in shootouts,and make them do you bidding (open doors, use retinal scanners, call off an alarm). The return of Sam's signature goggles make gameplay much more fun, in which you can have Night-Vision, which is very handy in much of the game, and Thermal Vision, good in fog and good for sniping.
The designers at Ubisoft even made the game harder. The enemy A.I. is much better than Splinter Cell, in which you could shoot a guard that is back-to-back to another guard, and the other guard wouldn't know what happened. Now, if a guard even notices the slightest of movement, he'll sound an alarm, which either scrubs the mission or makes enemies harder to kill through flak jackets and helmets. The problem with the enemy AI is that sometimes they can see you in complete darkness, or hear you when you haven't moved an inch. Sometimes, it can be very frustrating to have to start over and over again.
Sam has an arsenal of new spy skills, such as spinning SWAT turn, in which he can avoid enemies seeing him as he passes past a door. He also can now shoot from positions he used to be prone from, such as hanging from a wire and rappelling from a wall.
The levels are mostly linear, but extremely fun, sometime challenging, and several of them are original, such as the level that everyone is talking about for this game: a moving bullet train you must infiltrate.
Overall, the gameplay surpasses the greatness of the original, but a small flaw in enemy AI by making them too powerful can detract from the realism of the game.
''Why is the light making a solid beam of glitch?''
Now, don't get me wrong, the graphics are wonderful, but let me get one thing out of the way.
I play the game on a GeForce FX card, which is totally acceptable by the box standards. But every once in a while, a huge graphical glitch or discoloration makes the game annoying. You have to quicksave and quickload nearly every time this happens. Also, when near fire, the screen will go black and flicker yellow in all visions. It can be very irritating when trying to snipe enemies that are right next to the fire or trying to solve a puzzle that involves that fire that causes the major glitches. You can fix this by setting the graphics to Low Quality, but the gorgeous environments suffer.
But besides the point, the graphics are spectacular. The lighting effects that were revolutionized by Splinter Cell are improved in Pandora Tomorrow. Also, the fact that most of the game is set in the jungles of Indonesia and that the grasses and plants are so highly detailed shows great workmanship. Most of the character models are are used over and over again, but they are very highly detailed.
Your experience with this game may be different than mine, but for me, that one glitch plagued me for almost half of the game. It severely hindered the score for this category for me, but it really all depends on your video card.
''I hear footsteps!''
Another major part of this game is sound effects, and it ties in with the gameplay. That's right, just like in the original, enemies can hear you, but now better than ever. If you shoot a light while their back is turned, they can still hear it. If you move to quickly, it's like they can see you in broad daylight. A nifty little distraction that's been added this time around is the whistle button, which allows you to whistle to attract enemies to get near you so you can kill them or knock them out.
The music is as ambient as always, and if an enemy gets a hunch of some sort, the music will get tense. If they come across you, ''prepare to die'' is basically what the music is telling you. The only problem is that, just like in the predecessor, you start to rely on music too much, breaking away realism. If the music calms down, you know its safe to move again.
Overall, the sounds is much like the original, which is very good.
''Holy crap! He saw me!''
The newest addition to this game is an online multiplayer mode, which pits players against each other in two teams, SHADOWNET, spies with Sam Fisher moves, and ARGUS mercenaries, which have high firepower and a 1st person view. The goal of each team is simple: The Spies must infiltrate, while the Mercenaries must eliminate. There are three game modes, each based off of what the spies must do: Neutralization, Extraction, and Sabotage. All three modes involve ND133 containers and how you interact with them. The multiplayer is fun, flat out. The controls take some time since it changes from the main game, but it is an overall fun experience.
While SHADOWNET basically has the same moves and gear as Sam Fisher, ARGUS has some new things, such as motion detection technology. You need the Punkbuster Program to play it, however.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow is a great improvement on the original Splinter Cell. With only a few problems(which most are fixable), this game of espionage truly met the expectations of fans (or at least me). If you were a fan of the original, you should go pick it up. But if you can, pick it up for a console, because the graphical issues are solved much better in console versions. The PC version kicks major tail in its own right, however.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/18/04
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