reviews\ Jul 12, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow - PS2 - Review

When it comes to international terrorism and shadowy government operatives ready to put a stop to their treat, nobody touches on this theme better than Ubi Soft’s Tom Clancy franchise.  When the original Splinter Cell was released, it practically changed the way we saw the stealth-action genre (we love you Solid Snake but Sam Fisher is our guy).  Of course, having been released as a Xbox game, this left the PS2 crowd wishing the game would someday be ported to their console.  Well, the good people at Ubi didn’t let us down.  With Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, an indirect sequel of sorts, the Xbox crowd once again gets the prize but us PS2 folk aren’t left out and with an online multiplayer mode that’s just too awesome for words all I can say is that it was worth the wait. 


Once again you step into the role of U.S. covert operative Sam Fisher as he called in to take control of a siege in the United States Embassy in East Timor.  It seems that the terrorist group responsible for holding Embassy hostages is lead by a dangerous militia guerilla by the name of Suhadi Sadono.  It seems that Sadono resents the United States presence in Indonesia and so, in true terrorist fashion, his threats involve a secret plot involving something that’s codenamed Pandora Tomorrow.  Being the only man capable of bringing Sadono and his crew down, Sam Fisher goes on a one-man mission.


So how well does Pandora Tomorrow on the PS2 stack up against the Xbox version?  The game still follows the same mission structure as the Xbox version . . . but with some slight alterations.  Certain missions have branching paths that differ greatly.  If you played the Xbox version you’ll notice there are areas in certain missions that didn’t have guards there or an alternate path that would inevitably lead you to your objective.  The game also offers post-mission statistics complete with a score and list things used to complete the mission (e.g. how many enemies you knocked out, killed or how many bullets you used).  But the nicest gift PS2 owners get is a new jungle mission (and it’s a really good mission to boot).


For a game that’s not quite a sequel, Pandora Tomorrow has plenty of levels and the missions are quite lengthy.  They’re also really intense - nail-biting intense.  One mission has you jumping onto a moving train as it zooms on to its destination.  Once on board, you have to sneak into an informant’s room.  This isn’t a walk in the park since the bad guys respond to everything and react much faster than the first game.  Stealth fans will feel challenged though.


Still, you can’t help but feel that this game was made with the Xbox in mind and part of it has to do with the way checkpoints are distributed throughout the mission as well as the load times.  Checkpoints take a really long time to load (even with the HDD installed) and the bad part about this is that it takes away from the flow of the game.  Thanks to the game’s difficulty, the trail-and-error gameplay might not feel as bad on the Xbox but on the PS2 they’re really frustrating.  At least the controls feel right at home and Sam Fisher’s new moves (the upside-down shooting move is brilliant!) and gadgets (instant booby trap) can be used fast and easy.


One of the things that makes Pandora Tomorrow a Must-Have is the online multiplayer mode that is downright addictive.  Played over a Broadband connection, four players in total play a unique game of cat-and-mouse over a series of maps containing specific goals (the game has three game modes: Extraction, Neutralizing Mode and Sabotage).  Players team up in pairs, pitting each another in a mission as either spies (Shadownet operatives) or well-armed mercenaries (ARGUS Corporation bad boys).  The best part about this is that the spies are played in third-person mode while the mercenaries are played in first-person shooter mode (similar to that of Rainbow Six 3).  Each group carries a nice assortment of gadgets and weapons and this keeps the action interesting and fun.  Thanks to the fast internet connection, the game flows smoothly and the use of the USB headsets makes teamwork a dream come true.  As far as multiplayer games go, this is a treat for PS2 gamers craving a great online experience.


Rarely does a game take advantage of the PS2’s graphical capabilities and that’s too bad because the system is capable of showcasing some really stunning visuals.  Much like the original Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow is a visual treat and seeing how close it comes to mimicking Xbox quality graphics brings tears of joy to my eyes.  We’re talking detailed characters and truly amazing lighting effects.  We’re talking environments that sparkle with life.  There are a few clipping issues and sometimes characters seem to be sitting on thin air instead of on the seat but these are minor blemishes on an overall beautiful face.


Adding to the gorgeous visuals is the sound and we’re not just talking about a great dramatic score.  The game places heavy emphasis on sound so Sam Fisher just can’t run across a ground filled with broken glass without alerting nearby enemies.  Fisher himself can lure bad guys to him by whistling or shooting the wall.  There environments are alive with sound and they won’t fail to amaze.  As far as the voice acting is concerned, they’re really good . . . especially Michael Ironside who once again voices Fisher.


Pandora Tomorrow on the PS2 might not be as perfect as the Xbox version but it comes really close . . . close enough that it will impress gamers that didn’t think the PS2 was capable of bringing a game like this to life.  Okay, so there might be some imperfections that are hard to ignore but they hardly come close to keeping you from enjoying this amazing title.  And with an online mode that’s just brilliant, you can’t go wrong.  This one should be in any gamers’ library.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.5
The trail-and-error gameplay might turn off gamers playing this one for the first time, but the stealth action and the use of various spy gadgets make this an amazing experience.  The missions have Sam Fisher really working overtime but it reminds us why this is the best game in its genre.


Graphics: 9.0
Breathtaking visuals on the PS2 aren’t as common as they should be but Pandora Tomorrow is able to push the system’s graphics to the maximum.  We’re talking great lighting effects and amazingly detailed characters.  There’s some clipping but it pales in comparison to the overall beauty.


Sound: 9.2
Beautiful directional sound really immerses you in the environments.  Sound plays a huge role in this game and its great to hear how detailed the sound is here.  The game also has a tense score and great voice acting.


Difficulty: Hard
Pandora Tomorrow is hard . . . very hard.  It’s yank your hair-out-of-your-head hard.  Darn those responsive and intelligent enemies.


Concept: 9.0
You have to love Ubi Soft.  Sure they released the game first on the Xbox but that’s Ok because they really know how to make it up to PS2 owners.  Like Sam Fisher’s first outing on the PS2, a new level was added and this extra mission (set in the jungle) is great.  Plus there are the cool gadgets that are ever cooler this time around.


Multiplayer: 9.5
PlayStation2 gamers no longer will feel left out of a really brilliant online multiplayer mode.  We’re talking four player spies versus mercenary action in both third- and first-person view.  Question: Why can’t I stop playing this?  Answer: Because it’s really that good.


Overall: 8.8
A few flaws aside, Pandora Tomorrow on the PS2 is pure stealth-action bliss and if you liked the original Splinter Cell you’ll love this one.  It’s beautiful visuals will blow you away and its online multiplayer alone is worth the price of admission.   Really, stealth action just doesn’t get any better than this.


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