We survived the first Splinter Cell with nerves intact, but only just. Sure, you can be special ops tough-guy Sam Fisher on screen, but inside your guts quiver like Rik Waller's chins.
Getting through it all, however, taught us how to use stealth with confidence. Now, the thought of sneaking around in the dark no longer makes us whine like puppies. Instead, you could say CVG is well psyched for all the heart-stopping stealth you can deliver. In fact, you can just call us Sam.
Stepping back into Fisher's boots feels terrific. Fully aware of our talents, as mapped out by the original game, and looking forward mastering some more, there has been so much promised for this sequel. Games cursed by hype rarely survive the high expectations. Here, though, slick new presentation, enhanced sound, improved AI, and a kick-ass multiplayer mode (a game in itself, we assure you), makes it truly worthy.
You're Paid To Be Invisible
Heck, this is tense. See, a Splinter Cell by definition is a battle-hardened soldier who undertakes life-threatening, politically sensitive situations. Nobody except the government knows that guys like Sam Fisher exist, and if a Splinter Cell is captured or killed, the government denies all knowledge of them. A Splinter Cell works alone; watches his own back. There's no covering fire, or buddies to take bullets on his behalf. "You're paid to be invisible," as Sam is often reminded.
When first presenting such a razor's edge experience, Ubisoft's solution was to keep things on rails. It prevented folks from getting lost and, by keeping things tight, created tension. In Splinter Cell 1, there was only one right way. Usually it was three strikes and you're out in terms of raising alarm. For some people this proved a bit much, and they went blubbing to mum... (or the Ubisoft forums) to complain. In response, Pandora Tomorrow changes the approach a little.
He Went Dat Away
Routes through an area are no longer limited to one. While the game still confines you to a 'corridor' approach (so you don't stray too far from the action, diffusing tension), Sam now has alternative routes. If you take a shortcut, whether it's rappelling down a wall or sneaking beneath walkways, you could also miss ammo or medical supplies. On the other hand, taking the scenic route keeps you in danger longer.
Pandora Tomorrow also develops the idea of pathways created using shadow. Shoot out lights and dark pathways form, only this time you need to be far more creative about choosing your routes. If you pop this bulb will it let you get close enough to take down that guard, or should you conserve your ammo for later?
Must've Been A Cat
Missions are dead tight too: you could be King Careful and still get spotted more than a leopard with clap. As with the first game, certain cock-ups (depending on the mission) meant game over instantly. But now, where Supervisor Irving Lambert used to also allow three lesser mishaps before aborting the mission, Sam is far more at the mercy of improved enemy AI.
There are three increasing stages of alarm. Firstly, the enemy goes to a higher level of alert - they know of a possible intruder and are on the look-out. Next, if Sam confirms his presence by causing more ructions, enemies prepare for certain confrontation by donning flak jackets and actively looking for Sam. The final stage of alert heaps on the pressure - enemies slap on Kevlar helmets and are committed to hunting Sam down. It's almost impossible to take 'em down (even with a sniper shot) with their heads so well protected. Body-shots just bring them running your way!