With the release of “Splinter Cell” in late 2002,
Ubisoft launched the premier third-person adventure franchise. The
game followed the exploits of National Security Alliance
counter-terrorist operative Sam Fisher, who thwarted the plans of
an evil dictator, all the while showing James Bond what style
really meant. Now, Fisher and his sardonic wit have returned in the
sequel, “Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.”

In what comes as no surprise, “Pandora” calls upon
Fisher once again to save the world from a nefarious tyrant in an
all-too-familiar plot. The story line is not so compelling as to
keep players glued to their controllers, but the suspense and the
action of the gameplay make up for any such shortcoming. It is not
the predictable storyline that has made the series so successful,
but rather the careful balance between stealth and combat.

What makes the “Splinter Cell” franchise unique is
the number of covert techniques the player has at his disposal. One
could, and is often required to, sneak through levels undetected to
complete the mission objective. The game may be simple in the
geographic layout of the levels, but in terms of the ways in which
one can navigate these levels, “Pandora” is anything
but linear.

Much of the fun of “Splinter Cell” is derived from
trying to solve the puzzle of how to get past various guards
without being detected. Of course, the game offers plenty of shoot
’em up action to satiate the most rabid action/adventure
junkie. But the true aficionado will not be satisfied with merely
beating the level, but beating it in a creative manner.

The graphics of the game are excellent, but at times Ubisoft
seems to have tried to do too much. Complicated textures and
animations can put a strain on the system causing graphical
glitches. For example, Fisher’s shadow can become very
pixilated at points where the light sources are difficult to
process. Otherwise, “Pandora” presents the player with
a wonderful visual and auditory experience that heightens the
suspense of the game. Music helps set the mood throughout the game.
If a guard sees you, the music changes; if a firefight breaks out,
it alters again.

It would be impossible to talk about “Pandora”
without mentioning the revolutionary multiplayer component the game
offers. A special bonus to help players get started with Xbox Live
— Micorsoft’s online gaming network — Ubisoft has
included a free limited subscription to the service with each copy
of “Pandora.”

The multiplayer game offers two different modes: first-person
for playing as mercenaries and third-person for spies. Each team is
presented with different objectives, equipment and restrictions,
offering two unique modes of play. No game has so seamlessly
intertwined two different modes of play into one thrilling
multiplayer experience.

“Pandora” will be long remembered not only as a game
that continued a strong franchise, but one that revolutionized
online gaming.

Videogame Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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