Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Preview
P1000, 128MB RAM, 2.5GB HDD, GF3, ATI Radeon 8500 or higher
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 23, 04 (released)
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Splinter Cell was one of those titles that literarily changed our views on gaming when we first tested it on the Xbox back in November 2002. To my recollection, the game had some of the most impressive visual effects at the time: first-rate lighting, demonstrated via convincing effects such as fire, sunbeams penetrating subtly through the blinds, swanky-looking explosions, and of course the soft and natural shadows which were an integral element of gameplay. That wasn't the half of it though. Thanks to its many nifty gameplay novelties Splinter Cell developed into quite a prominent 3rd person sneaker. Now the world is keen to see what the guys at Ubi Soft have done with the game's follow-up, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (in development for all platforms). In addition to building upon the superb elements of the single-player mode, Ubi also unveiled that this time the game will include online multiplayer support!
Hm, plenty of shadows to hide in.
Waiting for the sunrise.
Making a significant progress over the original, Ubi Soft means to present players with a slightly more intricate storyline, in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. As you know our hero Sam is a hard-working employee of the NSA, an organization which sends him on perilous errands across the globe. You'll be entangled into a somewhat different tale, which centers on additional characters and events. The NSA has many other operatives active in its service, so this time around the plot also follows other characters working on the field besides the badass Sam Fisher - an aspect obviously streamlined to correspond with the game's multiplayer mode. Presently, that's all the info Ubi is prepared to share with us, but you should expect more details in the coming months.
One of the first things I'm sure most of you will be rather happy about is that Pandora Tomorrow stays true to the 3rd person perspective from the original. Gamers used to slick character movement and impressive acrobatics, can perform everything our hero was able to pull off in the previous game. Admirably, before adding a bunch of new-fangled moves to the game, the developers optimized some of Sam's classic skills and abilities. The famous split-jump is a bit different now, allowing you to shift the character's weight to his left or right leg - this will help Sam to climb even a bit higher and gain access to certain areas more easily. Our nimble hero gets a set of brand new moves to go along with his standard repertoire. For one thing, he's now able to employ an effective "SWAT" maneuver via which he passes through open doorways more stealthily. With this he can step from shadow to shadow a lot more swiftly than before, which in turn improves his chances to strike at unwary foes. Recent showcasing of the game unveiled a train level where Sam exploited a range of spiffy additional maneuvers. In this particular section he could climb out of windows, shimmy below and underneath passenger cars, and so on. There's not much confirmation yet as to whether we'll be able to utilize these moves in other segments of the game, but they do come as a rather welcomed innovation nonetheless. The advantage is that, while performing some of these moves, the camera will automatically shift to a different angle, adding a smidgeon of suspense to the whole atmosphere. In these situations, however, there will be plenty of spots where players may require a bit more freedom in terms of camera movement. Thankfully, the developers have thought of this, so you will be able to handle the camera to some extent. On top of that, some interesting features were added to the gameplay for players equipped with joysticks and gamepads. Namely, every time you character approaches an active mine, force-feedback will be activated automatically as a warning.
If you thought Pandora Tomorrow will be an easy effort, you can guess again. Before heading off into action, players are required to use their noddle more than once. There are numerous things to consider in order to achieve your goal silently and promptly... as anyone would expect from a NSA operative. You'll need to estimate just how much time is needed to pass through certain areas undetected, weighing out all the important developments as they arise. This usually denotes avoiding flashlights, security cameras, enemy AI patterns, etc. Although the development team at Ubi admits to have toned down the game's difficulty for the average gaming crowd, the AI has seen some improvements over the original Splinter Cell. Opponents become increasingly cautious as soon as they see any clues as to potential intruders. Things like loud noises, bodies lying on the ground, usually tip 'em off very quickly. If you persist on alerting opponents too often, they will rush off to equip themselves with additional armor and firepower; hence, you'll be obliged to contemplate your moves carefully so as not to arouse too much suspicion.
The gameplay itself should be well-balanced between the use of the character's physical abilities and various items and weapons available in his inventory. Thanks to Sam's newly improved gadgets and weapons, players will be able to locate enemy positions more effectively. The familiar FN7 pistol received a cool new laser targeting system, which makes it easier for you to pinpoint individual foes in the nearby area. The enhanced AI, on the other hand, can detect the laser beam, challenging players to ponder which way they should be aiming. Luckily, there will also be a few ways around the challenging AI. Using the fiber optic camera grants you a clear enough gander at certain areas without exposing your whereabouts to the enemy. Basically, all these features should leave enough room for improvising and tactics.
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