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April 13, 2004 > Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

Platform: Xbox

Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow is the follow up to 2002's stealth/espionage smash hit, Splinter Cell. Tapped from the virtual gold mine of Tom Clancy fiction, Splinter Cell had everything necessary to create the ultimate strategy game. Taking some tips from earlier titles such as Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter, Splinter Cell focuses more on strategy, stealth, and avoidance than direct action. Combine this gameplay style with realistic lighting, fluid character animations, a host of hi-tech weapons and an intriguing plot and the result is the best stealth title ever created.

In Pandora Tomorrow, players once again assume control of Sam Fisher, an agent of a black operations organization of the U.S. government known as Third Echelon. Sam alone posses the right to spy, steal, destroy, and assassinate to ensure that American freedoms are protected. Players of the original will find the single player campaign in Pandora Tomorrow incredibly reminiscent of the first Splinter Cell. The graphics, which are gorgeous, aren't a huge leap from those of the first title. Fortunately, the first title is still one of the best looking games ever created for a home console system, which, suffice it to say, doesn't leave much room for improvement. However, this time around it seems instead that the development team is much more comfortable with the engine, which opens the game up for some visually impressive scripted events.

As far as gameplay goes, Sam still has all of his abilities from the first title including wall hugging, rappelling, chokeholds, sniping, and the split jump, allowing Sam to suspend himself high above the floor of a hallway by doing the splits in mid air. Added abilities include the half split jump, which allows Sam to suspend himself in narrower passages, and the swat turn, allowing Sam to cross open and guarded doorways silently, without being spotted. Sam's trademark green goggles return, complete with night and infrared vision modes. Sam's trusty SC-20k rifle is once again put to good use with all your favorite espionage gadgets including gas-releasing sticky cameras, concussion rounds and flash bang grenades. The single player gameplay is almost a carbon copy of the original game, which works just fine but wouldn't be enough to carry the game all the way on its own. The real improvement comes in the form of the multiplayer mode.

Pandora Tomorrow has succeeded in accomplishing something that, until now, has never been attempted - stealth multiplayer gameplay. For the unfamiliar, this may not seem like much of a bonus, but it is a huge achievement for the stealth genre. As opposed to being pitted against predictable and rather stupid enemy artificial intelligence, players now must outwit other human beings. The way it works is that every match is composed of two opposing teams. The first team is the Shadownet Squad. This squad is composed of spies that operate much like Sam does in the single player campaign. Using the abilities from the campaign, the spies must either steal or sabotage certain objectives throughout the game's many huge and intricate levels.

Utilizing the game's powerful lighting capability, the Shadownet agents can stalk the shadows in pursuit of the opposing squad, the Argus Corporation Mercenaries. Unlike the spies, the mercenaries operate like a standard first person shooter, which means that players observe the action through the eyes of the character. The mercenaries operate in the light, and have the primary goal of hunting down and eliminating the spies before they can complete their objective. The two sides are equally balanced, each with the gadgets and abilities necessary to counteract those of the opposing team. The hyper-realistic environments, lighting and intricate detection systems open the game up for some truly intense on or offline multiplayer gameplay.

Simply said, there is no other game currently on the market that is capable of delivering the caliber of stealth gameplay that is present in Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. Much like Halo before it, if you have an Xbox, you must own this game.

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