Pandora Tomorrow Review ★★★★

To be honest, with my last two walkthroughs being Doom 3 and Half Life 2, I've been getting a bit bored with run-and-gun shooters. Enter Tom Clancy's Pandora Tomorrow, the second installment in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series, famous for its shadow-hugging unseen hero, Sam Fisher.

Pandora Tomorrow offers more than just stealth-action gameplay, however. Snipers are well at home in this game, as are Rambo-style gunners who wish to mow down their enemies. That's the great thing about the Splinter Cell series, you've got plenty of choices for how to play the game. If you're like me and are looking for an alternative to brute force solutions, Pandora Tomorrow's accommodations include a stealth meter to gauge your visibility as you crawl the shadows, night and thermal vision modes, plus a wide variety of gadgets to help you spot trouble and create diversions to clear the way of enemies.

Pandora Tomorrow's maps invariably offer pipes to climb or zip lines to whisk you to nearby rooftops, avoiding trouble altogether. When conflict seems unavoidable, a sparse supply of non-lethal weapons affords an easy out for those going for a softer touch. Some gamers even try to "ghost" Pandora Tomorrow's levels, finishing the objectives without having affected the game world otherwise. While this level of challenge is above what most would consider an entertaining level of difficulty, I will walk you through the entire Pandora Tomorrow game with no unnecessary deaths using fairly simple tactics. In fact, you can follow this walkthrough and not kill anyone until the final level -- where you are forced to be an assassin.

Changes from the original Splinter Cell title are few. Perhaps the most notable addresses the greatest cause of mail that I receive for help -- where to hide the bodies. A new flashing stealth meter now indicates where bodies may be safely hidden. This worked fairly well for me, though on occasion guards that had diverted from their normal patrols did spot some supposedly well-hidden bodies. Pandora Tomorrow lacks the thermal keycode deciphering of the original -- something I missed somewhat.

The graphics still don't support antialiasing, and the between-level cut scenes are heavily compressed. While the voice acting of Michael Ironside, reprising his role as Sam Fisher, is a second-time-home-run, the voice acting of several ancillary characters, including the CIA operative Ingrid, is just painful. Another negative is the aforementioned assassin finish, especially distasteful due to the likelihood that you'll find yourself shooting the unconscious -- eww.

Lastly, I can't help but find comparisons between the Splinter Cell series and the Deus Ex and Thief series. There are so many choices to make, and non-lethal alternatives abound throughout most of the game. Perhaps some future edition will offer a skill point system and bring the Splinter Cell series into a hybrid of stealth action and role-playing. Until then, I'll just have to enjoy the well-rounded character Ubisoft has created for us -- and continue to look away before I headshot the unconscious.

- Last Update 01/07/06