Review by Stan60

"What is a Pandora Tomorrow like?"

A semi-sequel of sorts to Splinter Cell. It once again stars Sam Fisher as he is doing his stealth goodness to find out an enemy's plot and to also put a stop to it. How well does it compare to the first one?

You play as Sam Fisher, a spy for Third Echelon which is a division of the National Security Agency (NSA). At the start of the game, the world learns news of an attack at the US Embassy in Timor. Intelligence quickly finds out that the leader behind the attack is named Suhadi Sadono and that he and his mercenaries are ruthlessly killing all workers there along with taking some of them hostage, military or civilian. Sam is then sent in to find out what Sadono is after and what his ultimate plan is. Eventually, things take a turn for the worse...

The gameplay in Splinter Cell's singleplayer mode is basically the same as the first one, but now Sam has learned a few new moves. He has a new split jump, which lets him get even higher. He can also whistle now to attract the enemy's attention which is now assigned to the black button with quick inventory being the white button. Another new addition to the game is the alarm system. Instead of just have the basic '1 alarm or 3 alarms and your done', Ubisoft's Shanghai studio has changed it around a little bit. If you aren't sneaky enough, the alarm will go off ala the first Splinter Cell, but now the enemies get stronger per alarm. The first time it goes off, they equip flak jackets and on the second alarm they will equip helmets. The good thing is that as you go from objective to objective, the enemies will relax and reset the alarm level and remove their extra equipment. The missions have a good variety. You go from Timor to France and Israel to Indonesia. Each level also has it's own look. Some have you in a jungle, on a train, or walking around the city streets and the majority of them are more wide open than the original. Sam once again has his silenced pistol and SC-20k, which makes the game feel like an expansion pack. If you liked the first one, however, chances are you will like this one just as much, if not more.

New to the Splinter Cell world is online multiplayer. There are two teams of two (for best results anyway) of either the spies from Shadownet or the Argus mercenaries. The objective as the spy is to either sabotage, neutralize, or extract the ND133's out of the area (you learn more about these in Splinter Cell's story mode) or defending them if you are the mercenaries. The spies weapon selection is similar to Sam's. They have flashbangs, chaff grenades, and sticky cameras however it should be noted that spies do not really kill their target(s) unless they grab them from behind and snap their neck by pressing A (instead of knocking them out). They also have a Spy Bullet which lets them listen in to a mercenary conversation by pressing the white button. The spy's main gun only stuns the mercenary for a few seconds and jams up their TV screen. Mercenaries get to play with real bullets however in the form of a machine gun. They also have mines they can lay (proxy or laser), spy traps, which allows you to listen to the spies' conversations by pressing the white button, frag grenades, and a tazer. Both singleplayer and multiplayer are tied together because of the objectives and who is doing it. The servers that I have played on suffered from no lag or it had very little. You will meet some good players online and you will also meet some that like to disconnect from a Ranking game if they are losing. Overall though, the multiplayer mode is really fun and will keep you busy for a good while.

The sound effects and music are good but the voice acting is even better. All the voices fit the characters and show a good range of emotion depending on what is going on. The game also supports both Dolby Surround Sound 5.1 and 7.1, the first game to do so. The music is similar to the first Splinter Cell where it is mainly ambient until you are spotted by an enemy or set off an alarm, which then turns into techno-esque music. As for the sound effects, they are pretty similar to that of the first Splinter Cell, which is to say realistic. They have done a really good job in this department. The Xbox Communicator allows you to talk not only to your teammate, but also to speak to a mercenary when you have a hold of him from behind as a spy.

As you recall, Splinter Cell was a pretty game with very nice lighting effects. The Shanghai teamed has made the engine even better looking with even better lighting effects. The character models have been improved and now look better also. Environments throughout the game also look really well done, especially the jungle levels and the rain looks very realistic as well along with the water effects. As Sam walks, runs, or sneaks through water it will portray a realistic looking effect and just looks nice in general. The animation is fairly the same in the first (don't fix what isn't broken) but Sam's new ''SWAT Turn'' looks really nice and fits in with all his other animations. The visors look slightly better now and the nightvision will now act more realistically to ''hazards'' such as looking straight into a light bulb or having lightning flash blind you. Other neat little extras to the graphics come in the game's multiplayer mode. As a spy, you can see what vision mode a mercenary is on from the color of his visor. The mercenaries also have different visors than the spy which give them a unique difference like motion tracking which turns the screen shades of red yet if someone is running it singles them out in their natural color. They also have electromagnetic vision which gives you blue vision that lets you see electromagnetic properties of various objects (such as a spy's night/thermal vision).

You can replay the singleplayer story on harder settings and they have branching paths of sorts (don't kill this person even though Lambert says to, and so forth). The multiplayer is also very fun to play and requires teamwork to keep the spies at bay from sabotaging the ND133's or getting past the mercenaries depending on who you are playing as.

Rent or Buy?
This game is worth buying without a doubt. The single player mode is really good, as is the multi player. The game will last you about 9 hours your first time through. Playing online is fun as well where you and a partner takes turns playing as either the spies or the mercenaries. This mode will keep you busy for a good while.

Final Score
9.0(not an average)

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/31/04

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