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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

Written by Ara Ajizian on 8/17/2004 for PS2  

Pandora Tomorrow takes place in the near future, in a world that looks surprisingly possible, considering where we are right now. The United States has decided to set up shop in East Timor, once part of Indonesia, but now a sovereign democracy that shares its land mass with its former ruler. The location provides a solid attack point into both North Korea, and the area with the densest Muslim population in Asia. Needless to say, the locals aren’t thrilled.

Guerilla leader Suhadi Sadono, financed by corrupt factions of the Indonesian government is at the heart of the resistance. Fisher’s job in a nutshell is to bring Sadono’s group down. One of the things I liked most about this game was that it doesn’t constantly ram the plot down your throat. There are short news snippets played in between missions that show you how the story is unfolding. If you read my Syphon Filter The Omega Strain review, you know how I feel about inflated plotlines. Pandora Tomorrow mixes the perfect amount of story into the game, since the game itself is fun enough on its own.

The missions take place in locations throughout the world, and each setting is recreated with remarkable detail. You really feel what it’s like to walk the empty streets of Jerusalem, creeping through the shadows, and avoiding the watchful eye of the police presence. The mission on the train is breathtaking, complete with Sam dodging passing trains while hanging from the side of the one he’s trying to infiltrate. From the jungles of Indonesia to LAX, the visuals of this game are top-notch.

Of course, the name of the game with Splinter Cell is stealth. There are few moments in the game where all hell is breaking loose, but it is always bubbling under the surface, ready to break out if Sam so much as steps under a desk light. There’s a handy stealth meter that lets you know Sam’s visual status in real time, and this also helps when hiding the bodies of your enemies, a necessity if you’re going to go undetected.

In many missions, fatalities are out of the question, so you must instead rely on either sneaking up behind an enemy and knocking him out, or using one of Sam’s various stun weapons attached to his SC-20K rifle. The assortment of various weapons and gadgets is impressive, and each one is integral at some point in the game, whether it’s tapping into a cell-phone call with the laser microphone, or disrupting surveillance cameras with the aptly named camera jammer. All of the various gadgets take some skill to operate as well—picking a lock isn’t as simple as choosing the lock pick and pressing X. Sensitive movements of the analog sticks are necessary for such a task, or for disarming land mines.

One of the most important items Sam possesses are his night vision/thermal goggles. While some games cast the night vision screen in that annoying green tint, Pandora Tomorrow opts for a much brighter, easier to see black and white display. A quick switch to thermal lets Sam not only see enemies more easily, but potential hazards like land mines and booby traps. The gameplay of Pandora Tomorrow is excellent, requiring the player to not only master Fisher’s weapons and gadgets, but various physical elements as well. Whether it’s rappelling down the side of a cliff, or hanging upside down by his legs from a zip line while sniping bad guys, Sam’s moves will make your jaw drop. The game controls extremely well, though some of the moves take a little practice to get down under pressure.

By changing restrictions from mission to mission, Pandora Tomorrow forces the player to adjust strategies, creating a gaming experience that is constantly changing. Some missions disallow fatalities, while others require that you go unseen. This puts you in the position of either utilizing the stun weapons, or hiding in the shadows until an enemy is close enough that you can grab him and knock him out. It is a must to hide every body in the shadows, as this can trigger an alarm and effectively end the mission. While these restrictions do add to the game’s overall depth, I had the most fun when Sam was permitted to use any means available to achieve his objective.

Yet another reason Pandora Tomorrow towers above the competition is its addictive multiplayer mode. There are three different game modes—Neutralization, Extraction, and Sabotage. The two teams—Shadownet and Argus Corporation, work against each other. Shadownet’s objectives involve infiltrating the Argus Corporation and either stealing or neutralizing viral agents, depending on which mode you choose. If you’re on the Shadownet team, you’ll have to work with your teammates and remain unseen. As a member of the Argus team, your job is to hunt down the Shadownet team and kill all its members. As I said before, the multiplayer on this game is really addictive, and if you get bored with the single player mode, or lose interest in playing once you’ve beaten the game, the multiplayer will keep you coming back.

If you want to get into comparing Pandora Tomorrow to its PC or XBox counterparts, you’re sure to see many differences, especially with the graphics and the nuances of the stealth operations. However, I don’t have an XBox, there’s no way in hell my Pentium III could handle the PC version. I’m sure I’m not alone. If you have the specs to run Pandora Tomorrow on your PC, or have an XBox, then obviously you’d be better off purchasing the game on one of those platforms. If you’re like me, and the PS2 is your only game system, you will still be amazed by the graphics, gameplay, and overall amount of fun you’ll have playing Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow. To put it simply, this game belongs in your collection.
Sam Fisher is back in this visually stunning sequel to Splinter Cell. In a market saturated with first-person shooters, the Splinter Cell series has achieved a level of sophistication and addictive fun that few other titles come close to. From the numerous gadgets and weapons at Fisher’s disposal, to the carefully plotted missions, Pandora Tomorrow will have you hooked. The story is streamlined and believable, and delivered effectively through faux news broadcasts. The only downfall for the PS2 version is the frequent loading/saving points, but if PS2 is the only platform you have, you won’t even be bothered.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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