Review by Gizamaluke7377

"If games were jewels, Pandora Tomorrow would be a diamond"

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

When first released, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell helped to redefine the largely supported stealth-game genre. Previously, the Metal Gear Solid franchise had held this title mostly unopposed, but with the realistic technology, Clancy inspired storyline, and dynamic lighting physics, Splinter Cell gave the genre a needed reality based and real-world take on stealth. Now in 2004, we have received a sequel to this amazing game in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. Pandora Tomorrow takes the Splinter Cell legacy to the next level by providing a new single-player campaign, complete with new stealth elements and actions, and by adding an amazing LAN / Xbox Live online multiplayer gameplay option.

The single player part has been revamped, to include outside levels that provide the player with a nice change of the halls and rooms that dominated the first game, and also provide the player with more room to be creative and flexible in bypassing guards. Now your enemies will have a varying amount of traps waiting for you, from trip-wires to mines, both slow the pace of the game down, and remind you that you’re supposed to be thinking and careful, not just hiding in the shadows waiting for the prime headshot. The single player has several new added actions for the player to use in navigating the levels. The player can now whistle to distract guards and lure them to an area more suited for dispatching them. Also, the split-jump has been given an added jumping ability, to where the player can use the split-jump to reach new levels, such as second floors. The player can also use a new SWAT turn to pass over a doorway both unseen and unheard. Thankfully, ammunition seems to be more abundant, but this does not change the way the game is played, you must still lurk in the shadows, and cannot run and gun like a first person shooter.

The multiplayer option is simply one of the best things to play on Xbox Live right now. The multi-player is limited to two ARGUS Mercenaries against two ShadowNet Spies. At first glance, two vs. two multiplayer might seem pathetic and a waste of time, it is the exact opposite. The limited player number forces the stealth element by making it to where there won’t be a spy hiding in every corner, or a Mercenary behind every crate.

Multiplayer consists of three gametypes: Neutralization, Sabotage, and Extraction. In all three modes, you can succeed by eliminating all lives of both enemies, or by doing the goal of the gametype, which is consistent for the ARGUS Mercs. But changes for the Spies. In both Neutralization and Sabotage, there are several ND133s scattered throughout the map, and must be taken care of. In Neutralization, you eliminate an ND133 by being right next to it and use the “Neutralize” action by pressing the A button. In Sabotage, Spies just have to be close the ND133 and must press down on the directional pad to place a modem on the wall and the modem will slowly sabotage the ND133, rendering it useless. The modem must be close the ND133, but does not have to be directly up against it, which makes the game more difficult for the ARGUS team, but neutralizing the ND133 with a modem is a much more time intensive task than it is to directly neutralize it. In Extraction, the ND133s are still here, but instead of disabling them, the ShadowNet team must go to one of them, steal the tube, then run it all the way back to their spawn. The two teams for these game-modes go perfectly together, and are prime opponents.

Multiplayer: The Spies
The ShadowNet team is the traditional ''Sam Fisher” style of game-play, with a third-person view, plenty of fun gadgets, and the standard spy agility required for the field, such as being able to climb pipes, split-jump, being able to roll, hanging off sides of objects, zip line, and others. The spy can also grab the back of an ARGUS Mercenary, which provides for interesting gamely as the Spy can hold the white button and talk into the ear of the mercenary, then proceed to snap their neck or knock them out with an elbow blow. The spy has use of the two vision modes from single-player, the night vision and thermal vision visors. These perform just like you would expect them to, by either amplifying the light in a room, or by picking up heat sources nearby, including above and below ceiling panels. The spy has their choice of four of the six gadgets made available to the ShadowNet team, Including anything from three types of grenades, to Sound Emitters and Sticky Cameras. The chaff both temporarily knock out both the mercenary HUD and any electronic equipment they may have deployed. The flashbang obviously creates a blinding flash for any mercenary looking at the blast. The smoke create a clouding fog, and if any mercenary stays in it for a second too long, they’ll suddenly fall asleep and have a pleasant black screen to stare at for a few seconds, frantically worried about what the two spies might be accomplishing against their one opponent. The Sticky Camera provides the spies with a look at distant places, with both normal, thermal, and night vision modes, and also has the ability to shoot out a small puff of the gas found in the smoke grenade. In the spirit of interesting gameplay, UbiSoft included a Spy Bullet, which when shot at a mercenary, enables the spy to hold the white button down and patch into the mercenary communications, both allowing them to hear their entire conversations and have the mercenary appear on the spy radar for a short time. Unlike the mercenaries and the Sam from the single-player, the ShadowNet spies are outfitted with non-lethal weapons, that can both take out mines, sensors, cameras, and other detection gadgets, and can also shock an opponent mercenary for a short time.

Multiplayer: The Mercs
The ARGUS mercenary however, is a complete opposite of the ShadowNet spy in almost every way. The mercenary utilizes a first-person view, complete with radar. The mercenary rifle has the standard 3 firing options, full-auto, bust fire, and a scoped single shot, complete with 2x, 4x, and 6x magnification levels. Instead of thermal and night vision, the mercenary has Motion Tracking and ElectroMagnetic Field (EMF) visors. The Motion Tracking is exactly what you would expect it to be, while the EMF displays any sort of electronic signal, be it computer screen, laser, or spy visors. The mercenary also has a torch lamp they can use, and they also have access to a targeting laser, that once hovered over a target, friend or foe, provides a box around them, and if it does turn out to be friendly, a nice large HOLD FIRE message across the box. Like the Spy, the mercenary has access to any four of six gadgets. Their choices range from a tazer, mines (which can be switched from proximity to laser) , flares, motion sensors, and two types of grenades: fragmentation and phosphorous gas grenades, which light up any spy it hits on your EMF, and also leaves their footprints in a fine green residue. Also at their command, the mercenaries have two types of melee attacks, one that hits with the butt of the rifle, and another one that charges the enemy, knocking them down.

The new story follows the typical Tom Clancy setup in being both realistic, and in being related to modern day news. Once playing through Pandora, it is easy to see how current events have influenced the story. In the first game, a good part of the story was told through realistic mock-up news briefings, which portrayed the events going on in Sam’s world. These news stories have returned, but sadly are much smaller and mostly only contain several seconds of the news before switching over to another one, leaving much to be desired as they were much nicer in the first game. Also returning are the data-sticks that could be gathered from fallen enemies. However, much like the news segments, they are nowhere near as frequent or as detailed as they were in the first game.

Graphics, Music, and Sound
The graphics were always been a high point in the first Splinter Cell, and now look just as good. Sharp detail and beautiful lighting return here, and look fantastic. There is no draw distance fogging, so you can look as far as you want through your scope clearly, not having to guess and hope you’re hitting an enemy. Sound also helps immerse the player in the game, with its good attention paid to the brushing of leaves against the player, to the scripted in-game conversations which give the game depth and help with the story.

Final Thoughts
All put together, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is an engaging experience, sure to be an enjoyable experience for the player, and an even greater experience for the Xbox Live gamer. Crisp visuals, clear audio, the option for Downloadable Content, immersive single-player, and revolutionary multi-player all make this an easy selection to add to your Xbox collection.

Final Score: 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/02/04

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