Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Review

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is the sequel to the game that took stealth-based gameplay to the next level. In case you missed the original, Splinter Cell takes its name from the game’s protagonist Sam Fisher. Fisher is an elite covert operative who operates as a splinter cell, a single person without any official ties to any intelligence or military arm of the United States. As the elite of the elite, Fisher is outfitted with the latest in high tech gadgetry and has received extensive covert training that has given him a wide variety of stealth and attack moves. It is Fisher’s job to go where other Special Forces units can’t and to complete his missions without the enemy even knowing that he was ever there. Of course if you get caught the government will deny all knowledge of you and your mission.

Pandora Tomorrow opens in 2006 at a time when Indonesian stability is reaching a low point. The US has aligned itself with the country’s democratic government and has established a military base in Indonesia to provide them with some much needed support. This of course has drawn the ire of the rebellious factions in the country and made the US presence there one of their targets. Their first strike takes the form of an attack on the US Embassy in Jakarta which is led by the brutal militant Suhadi Sadano. Fischer is rushed to the scene to retrieve the top secret documents stored there before Sadano can get his hands on them and pass them to the enemy. You can bet that Fisher will discover that the attack is far more than an isolated assault and will need to travel the world to uncover the whole plot and the truth behind the strange code phrase “Pandora Tomorrow”. The opening movie and all cutscene and story elements in the game are really well done, mixing news bites with action sequences and briefing voiceovers masterfully to convey the story, build tension, and set your mission objectives into context with the overall storyline.

Sam Fisher likes to stick to the shadows.

Pandora Tomorrow is all about stealth. If you played the first Splinter Cell game and did not enjoy the fact that you used your gun to shoot out more lights than enemies, then you’ll feel the same about Pandora Tomorrow. If you try to go in shooting you’ll find yourself completely overwhelmed and soon to be dead or you’ll fail the mission by failing to stay undetected. Either way, it’s game over time for you. In Pandora Tomorrow you must stay out of sight and out of the lights for the majority of the game, which can be challenging at times due to the intelligence of the guards and enemies you’ll encounter. A handy onscreen light meter will help you to determine when you are lost in the darkness and when you are, as the game puts it, “lit up like a Christmas tree”.

It’s not just light that’s your enemy, but sound as well. You will make a varying degree of noise depending on how quickly you are moving, whether you are standing or are crouched, the surface on which you are walking, and a number of other factors. The last thing that you want is for a guard to hear you because they’ll come running to investigate and will probably find you no matter how well you are staying out of sight.

Remaining undetected is only half of the battle – you’ll also need to find alternate methods of getting in and out of enemy compounds and other locations as your enemies won’t exactly let you walk through the front door. For this you can draw from Fisher’s large array of special moves and tricks. You can hug the wall to stay unseen or to fit through gaps and narrow passages. You can shimmy up and down drain pipes and trellises or along ledges and rooftops. Ziplining and rappelling are also in your bag of tricks, as are SWAT turns, peeking around corners, and the very cool wall jump. You’ll also have some gadgets with you at all times from a flexible camera that you can use to peek under doors to see what lies in the next room to a far more low-tech. Fisher also carries a silenced pistol, but you won’t want to use it that often against enemies and in some cases you’ll lose the mission if you do. The pistol is really handy for taking out lights to help you stay in the dark.