I love yah, Tomorrow. Review

Joe Dodson
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Info

genre

  • N/A

players

  • N/A

Publisher

  • Ubi Soft
  • Ubisoft

Developer

  • Ubisoft

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now

Platform

  • GameCube
  • PC
  • PS2
  • Xbox

rating

I love yah, Tomorrow.

As the elevator slowly descends, the wanly smiling double-agent stares you down

with liquid green eyes. For a moment, yours meet hers. Suddenly, her lips pull

back into an odd sneer, the spell is broken and a voice shouts ‘Kill her! Kill

her now!’ As your gun appears in your hand, her eyes lock on to you and with

an angry flash convey her grasp of the situation. Too late – lights out.

No matter how you look at it, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow for

the Xbox is a lady and a tiger of a game. Strikingly beautiful technologically

as well as aesthetically, the follow-up to 2002’s

stealth monster
picks up right where its predecessor left off. Unfortunately

for agent Sam Fisher, though, his days as Splinter Cell‘s

only boy-toy are over. No longer satisfied with just a single-player campaign, Pandora Tomorrow is

all about the multi-play, and by god, so am I. This is more than simply one of

the best games for the Xbox – it’s one of the best games out there, period.

The

single-player campaign begins with the violent assault of a U.S. Embassy in

East Timor, a small nation in the Indonesian island chain, and takes you

all over the world

searching for the meaning behind the words ‘Pandora Tomorrow,’ as well as their author, Sadono. In a storyline that is eerily applicable to current events, one wonders if between the lines in the news can be discerned the secret wars of real Sam Fishers. Regardless of its ties to reality, Pandora

Tomorrow
is plenty believable.

Sam’s abilities haven’t changed much since his last adventure. He can creep, walk, run, roll, jump, climb, hang, SWAT turn (a fancy move that takes him stealthily past doorways), creep along walls, shoot his gun standing, crouching, hanging, around corners, upside down and over enemy shoulders, as well as carry bodies, snipe, whistle(!), elbow slam, pick-locks, and, I think, bake a cake.

He’s also got all the nifty gadgets from before. Using his optic cable or sticky cam (which can enter both heat and night vision modes), he can case an area for passive defenses such as motion detectors and cameras as well as check out the lighting/guard situations. The only new gadget in the single-player campaign is the camera jammer, and it’s sadly the most useless gadget in Sam’s arsenal. When pointed at a camera, the jammer has the ability to suck the battery power out of it. But I always just shoot the damn things.

When combined with his physical capabilities, Sam’s options represent a practically inexhaustible source of new methods and strategies. Sam is constantly in puzzling situations, but is never distracted by the banality of hunting for keys or solving ridiculous mini-games. It’s just the best stealth gameplay on the planet.

The rules of engagement change scene by scene and level by level. While Sam is

occasionally allowed to act with extreme prejudice, his missions are frequently

defined by restrictions such as ‘No Mortalities’ and ‘No Sightings.’ Such

restrictions change the methods available, and as a result create a dynamic play

experience. For example, if fatalities are out of the question, Sam can still

knock people out as well as shoot them with non-lethal ammo. The non-lethal

stuff is usually in pretty short supply, meaning most personnel will have to

be dispatched manually.

That’s easier said than done thanks to Pandora Tomorrow‘s overall difficulty. Hiding bodies this time around is actually more unforgiving than it was last time. On a ‘No Sightings’ mission, if you don’t hide a body in room A and move to room B, you’re dead, period.

Generally speaking, the AI has improved since the last game. Enemies occasionally work together as squads and sweep rooms. If you fire from a shadow and an enemy sees the muzzle blast, he’ll get you, and enemies call for help if they see fallen comrades. This leads to usually one or two enemies rallying to help, and they’re enemies that are actually in the level; they don’t magically spawn in.

Thanks

to AI teamwork and increased sensitivity, sneaking up on a bad guy and snapping

his neck is not as easy as it sounds. Shooting

enemies is often a better option; most enemies can take a lot of rounds to the

extremities, a few to the torso, or one to the dome. It’s usually easier to just

go for the kill, but using the ring foils and sticky darts, you can take guys

down without lethal force nicely, too. Sam is a very clever killer.

The single-player aspect of this game is very similar to the original Splinter

Cell
, which is mostly a very good thing. Still, that means the game

is very linear and you can still only save during checkpoints. In turn,

it follows a certain trial-and-error formula. Some will find this frustrating,

though I think the game would be too easy with a ‘save anywhere’ function.

The original GR review of Splinter Cell mentioned two specific

flaws – limited replay value and no extra reward for skillful playing. Pandora

Tomorrow
‘s innovative multiplayer mode resolves both these issues with

aplomb.

Here you can assume the role of a stealthy Shadownet spy or a heavily

armed Argus Corp. mercenary. There are three different mission types: Neutralization,

Extraction, and Sabotage and each is a slightly different variation on a theme.

The mercenaries are protecting viral weaponry, and the spies are either attempting

to neutralize (basically touch), sabotage (set a modem that destroys agents

in a certain amount of time), or steal the viral agents. The mercs have only

one job – protect the viruses and kill the spies.

When you log into Xbox Live! you can enter a Quickgame, an Optimatch (matches

you with people close to your experience level), create a game, or view the

rankings. There are also decent tutorials for each side offline, as well as

empty versions of each map (with only passive defenses such as cameras and

lasers) for you to explore.

Up to four players are allowed in any one game. This made me a little nervous,

but it’s now pretty clear that this move is the key to the game’s multiplayer success. With a four player max, most games run extremely smoothly and the maps are typically small, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost in a deserted area. Plus, everyone on each side can enjoy HUD indicators that will guide them to the objectives if they want to.

Amazingly, just about every possible combination of people can be entertaining

within this limit. One on one makes for an awesome game of cat and mouse, 2

on 1 can work depending on the skill level of the single, and 3 on 1 can be

extremely challenging if the single is a spy who knows his stuff.

The spies and mercs have drastically different play styles and abilities. The spies look like Sam, but rely exclusively on gadgets and hand-to-hand combat to get things done. Each spy has a rechargeable rifle that shoots only sticky-shocker rounds, heat and night vision modes, and may choose four of six gadgets to bring into combat. During the fight, you can press L3 to bring up a menu that shows each gadget with a face button next to it. Pressing X will equip gadget X, and so on.

Also, any grenade-like gadgets equipped in the X and Y slots can be used in a

hurry by simply pressing the L or R buttons. This is huge, because the gas

grenades rock. Not only do they cover your escape, but they asphyxiate the

Mercs. And from the mercenary end, the effects are truly debilitating. The

screen elongates and contorts, your point of view gets tossed about, and your

movement speed dives. Spies can also jump on mercs to neutralize them; in an

awesome touch, right before you break his neck, you can talk smack into his

ear via the Xbox Live! headset. “In dreams I walk with you.” Snap.

Mercs can talk plenty of smack in their own way, as their weaponry is…verbose, to say the least. Mercs play from a first-person perspective and have a powerful machine gun with an impressively agile targeting reticule. Mercs also get mines (laser and proximity), flares, grenades, a tazer (great last resort), a torch-light that provides a brightly lit window into all the dark places in Pandora‘s multi-player world and sweet, sweet view modes.

Magnetic field vision is essential – when spies are scoping down an area they

frequently use night vision, and if you use your scope or binoculars in conjunction

with this view mode, you can see the electricity in their night vision goggles

and snipe ’em. Motion vision is also handy. In this view mode, all stationary things are rendered in slightly different shades of red. Anything moving quickly is captured in a box of full color, regardless of the lighting, which looks really cool. It’s also highly effective against spies who try to run to get where they’re going.

The

multiplayer experience as a whole is just a total blast, a smart, exciting game

of hunt or be hunted. It takes an already excellent game and makes it simply

unrivaled. Unfortunately, there is one serious design flaw in the multi-player

controls for both sides. During intense action or combat you can accidentally

press L3, which takes you right to the gadget select screen. This is usually

fatal, especially if you’re a Merc, because instead of aiming, you highlight

gadgets. With practice and presence of mind this tendency can be overcome,

but it’s

still a potential buzz killer.

Speaking of killer, Pandora Tomorrow looks amazing. The layering of lighting effects is simply beautiful, taken to gorgeous levels by way of the brilliant use of shadowing. Sam Fisher himself looks terrific and photo-realistic, though there’s this little light on his back that causes some distortion when he’s in the shadows. Regardless, the environments, animations and overall look are top notch, actually a step up from the exquisite original.

Equal amounts of care and love went into Pandora‘s music, effects

and voice-work. The sound effects are crisp, spot-on, and diverse. The voice

acting is also done well, especially the bits that take place between Sam and

his superior, Colonel Lambert. Given the fact that the plot unfolds almost entirely

through these dialogues, less than spot-on voice acting would have ruined the

drama and weakened the game. Lucky for us, it’s great.

From its fantastic delivery to its tense gameplay to its innovative multiplayer, Splinter

Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
is an absolute femme-fatale of a game. Stunning,

smart, and deadly, Pandora Tomorrow one-ups its forbear while

granting one of the most provocative multiplayer experiences ever to hit the

console scene. Don’t

wait until tomorrow to pick it up.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

5
Rating