Review by El Greco
"Arguably one of the best stealth games ever made."
Sam Fisher has returned to the stealth-action front with a new title that greatly expands upon the preceding title. Sam has new moves, new enemies, new weapons, and a new whole new mission to tackle in this game. There is also a brand new multiplayer mode that will pit you head-to-head against human opponents and provide the game with some much needed replay value. Read on to find out more.
The name of the game refers to the leader of a terrorist cell and his plot to threaten the world with a biological agent known as Pandora Tomorrow. As Same Fisher you are to track him and his comrades across the globe to eliminate him and the threat. You'll be sneaking on speeding trains through the countryside of France and climbing up beams to sneaking through a military encampment in Indonesia. You'll be forced to decide on the best routes, actions, how to distract the enemy or how to utilize your surroundings to your advantage. There is usually more than one way to do things in this game so you'll always have options open. There are a total of 8 levels in the game and each takes a while to complete so this game could take you up to 12 hours to complete depending on your skill level.
The gameplay system is essentially the same as in the previous game, not that it's a bad thing. While sneaking through the game's levels you will have a huge array of moves to choose from. You can still use the basic moves from the old game such as grabbing the enemy, knocking him out, the split jump, shuffling along pipes on the ceilings and so on. In this game you have a few new moves, not quite a huge addition but there are some welcome changes and additions. The SWAT turn will help you get past openings and doorways quickly and silently, rather than sneaking past them and risking making too much noise or alerting the enemy in some other fashion. The second main addition is the wall jump. This allows you to run up to a wall, kick off of it and flip backwards a few feet to the ground. Also, note that your character can also use the wall jump to gain altitude and grab onto ledges that would otherwise be out of reach.
The game still focuses on stealth above all else. This means that you will need to be careful about where your enemies are looking, how much noise you are creating, potential distractions, alarms, security cameras, trip mines, spot lights, and basically anything else that could betray your presence. Like in the previous games, you need to avoid leaving traces of your infiltration. That means that you have to keep bodies out of sight, in dark corners. You also need to be aware of how many alarms you have set off. A few missions in this game will allow you to set off the alarm three times before you fail the mission. This provides some room for error but still leaves in that challenge of being required to sneak through undetected.
That being said, some parts of this game will wind up being trial and error and nothing else. If you stumble into a trap or fall into an enemy's line of sight you will often need to reload and try again. Rinse and repeat until you get the job done. This detracts from the fun of the game when you are reloading certain parts over and over to get past. The levels are also very heavily scripted and linear so don't be expecting to find a away around or another way to do things. Most of the time there is only one route and one (possibly two) way to get through unscathed. This linearity and scripting take away from the replay value of the game. Most players will play through once and then move on to the multiplayer portion of the game. Coincidentally, that is where this review is headed.
The biggest addition of this game is perhaps the new multiplayer mode. It is very remotely tied in to the main story of Pandora Tomorrow. The multiplayer revolves around a group of spies, Shadownet, trying to infiltrate government compounds, factories, and warehouses, to retrieve and destroy biological weapons or certain key pieces of technology. Some game modes will have you simply neutralizing the objectives while some will have you retrieving them from their holding places and bringing them back to the rally point. They all provide for a hugely enjoyable experience and a fair variety of combinations of maps and modes to play.
The Shadownet spies are equipped with an arsenal of gadgets to neutralize and distract their enemy. Their main weapon is a sort of electrical shocker gun that fires out bolts of electrical currents. When it hits an enemy it will temporarily neutralize them, providing for a chance to knock them unconscious or kill them, depending upon what kind of mood the spy is in. The gun can also disable enemy sensors, cameras, and all of their other gadgets.
The spies can select from and use: smoke grenades, flash-bang grenades, spy bullets that can track an enemy and monitor his communications, sticky cameras that can disable an enemy by releasing a toxic gas cloud, chaff grenades, and sound emitters that will trip sensors and alarms in other rooms.
Who are the spies competing against in multiplayer? That is the Argus Corp. Argus is a band of mercenaries that have been hired by the government to hold the warehouses, factories, and compounds secure, at all costs. You will have the task of trying to prevent the spies from capturing or neutralizing the objectives. To help you with this task you are equipped with a machine gun and your choice of four gadgets. Those can be trip or proximity mines, sensors, frag grenades, and even a taser.
Although seemingly unbalanced the spies and mercenaries do fare well against each other. This is a rather amazing feat considering what each side has at their disposal. Perhaps the only down side to the multiplayer is the fact that there is a limit of four players, two people on each team. That does provide for a good amount of necessary teamwork but it keeps the intensity down since most games are 2 versus 2.
One of the best touches of the multiplayer is that once a spy has a mercenary in his grasp he can whisper a taunt to the mercenary before he snaps his neck and sends him crumbling to the floor. Communications are provided manly through player-supplied headsets. This allows players to communicate with each other quickly and efficiently without having to resort to the game's text-based messaging. If you do not have a headset or a microphone then you're out of luck.
The main problem with online play is that it is quite unpopular despite being incredibly fun. At any given time there will be no more than 120 people on the game's servers. This makes finding a good server rather hard. Once you find one though, you'll be having the time of your life.
The graphics in this game are astounding in all the maps and all the modes. In some maps there will be slanting light rays coming through the windows, chopping the darkness up. This makes for some cool shadow effects as you are running (or sneaking) by. All the character models look great from all angles, they are sharp, detailed, and look even better when they are in motion. The new animations are well executed and there are only a few very minor hiccups in the graphics. Those are so far and few in-between that they really aren't worth a mention.
The sound in Pandora Tomorrow is great, all the weapons, footsteps, and sound effects play out well and sound realistic. My only major problem with the sound is that the voice acting for some of the characters sound absolutely horrid. This mostly pertains to the foreigners among the enemies. Their accents sound way off and the acting itself just sounds fake. Other than that the voice acting in the game is top-notch. Sam Fisher still has his tough, rumbling voice and the supporting characters have voices that fit their characters well.
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow delivers. Whether it is in the tough, exciting, and tactical single player or in the unique experience provided by the multiplayer this game is a blast. There are some issues with the voice acting, a few minor graphics glitches, and the single player is very linear and scripted but the game, overall, provides the player with a great kick in the pants that will satisfy him for a long time.
Final Score: 9
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/09/04
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