Reviewed: 07/06/04

Totally uninspired; a tribute to capitalism

Splinter Cell: Pandora's tomorrow is the direct result of what happens when you force a bunch of people to make a sequel to a game just to make more money. I really enjoyed the original Splinter Cell; it was fresh and unique, and the levels were well thought out. Too bad the sequel is just the same thing, only worse.

It's not hard to imagine in this capitalist "do whatever it takes to make more profit" world, that certain business executives thought it was a bright idea to force game developers to make another Splinter Cell because "it's your job, and if you don't we'll fire you". Under these circumstances, Splinter Cell: Pandora's tomorrow was born.

I say this because after playing about four or five levels, I just got sick of the whole tedious pattern of repeating the same actions over and over again. You do nothing in this game but listen to seemingly random orders from your superior, and clearing out any guards that come in your way in a "stealthy" manner. The story is even worse than the original, and there seems to be no logical pattern to the locales you visit. You start off in Timor, then you go to Paris, then Jerusalem... and you're like "why am I doing this?"... and the only REAL answer to this is "so I can have fun clearing out more guards". Problem is, after you clear about 20 or so, it stops becoming fun, and then you realize there's no motivation to play the rest of the game.

This gameplay remains virtually unchanged from the original. It's more like an expansion pack than a new game. Fisher looks exactly the same, guards looks exactly the same, your night vision and thermal goggles look exactly the same. Even the way the guards BEHAVE is virtually identical.
If your noise+visibility+distance exceeds a preset level, the guard gets suspicious and starts searching for you. If it exceeds an even higher level, the guard sounds the alarm and start shooting at you (and that's when you hit the quick load button). If you shoot a guard while another guard is nearby, the other guard will immediately sound the alarm (and that's when you hit the quick load button). If you manage to grab a guard from behind, nobody within earshot seems to notice. Your weapons are still the same, a silenced pistol, and a scoped SC2K with a load of miscellaneous tools. It's really the same old deal, rehashed one more time to fatten the pockets of the capitalist executives.

Fisher does have one significant new move in his arsenal, and that's whistling to get the guards to deviate from their scripted patrol routes. Hooray.

Like the original, you are basically treated like a horse with blinders throughout each level... meaning while the environment seems vast and expansive, at any given point there is only one route you can take. Every other seemingly available route is always blocked by some obstacle... eg. unscalable fences, fire, large crates, etc. etc. Sometimes you'll get stuck in one area because you don't notice that one carefully placed pipe in the corner - this was a huge problem in the original and it still exists in the sequel.

Unlike the original, there are a a few bugs here and there. At one time, when I got stuck in a particular area, all the objectives on my OPSAT just disappeared. A quickload restored them. Another time, a guard would walk a certain path, and then when he hit a certain spot, he would simply sound the alarm. If I tried to eliminate him or grab him from behind before he reached that spot, for some inexplicable reason the game would just end ("you were detected" flashes across the screen, and yet after 5 reloads and careful scanning I don't see anyone else within a kilometer of me). These kind of "mysteries" occur quite frequently in this game, which suggests that it was rushed under a harsh deadline.

For the PC version, even the way the files are distributed is messy. The directory structure seems to be totally unchanged from the dev phase. There are two separate directories for single player and multiplayer, and a cheesy "intro" executable to tie both in into a graphical menu. It's fairly annoying after ending a single player session to briefly see the windows desktop, only to immediately be thrown back into the "intro" executable, and then having to quit again. I'll bet anything that the whole game development team probably worked plenty of sleepless nights before the unreasonable deadline. Stock prices matter more than game quality nowadays anyhow.

If you're a real gamer who treats games as an art form rather than cheap profit-making entertainment, stay away from Pandora's tomorrow, because it's just that: Zero Inspiration, One Hundred Percent Profit.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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