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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow Xbox

Published by Ubisoft Entertainment
Developed by Ubisoft Entertainment
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

Splinter Cell proved to be a massive success for Xbox. The game had a limited time of exclusivity on Microsoft's console between autumn 2002 and spring 2003 and both sales of the game and console and game bundles sold like hot cakes to give the Xbox a fantastic first Christmas here in Europe. As a stealth game Splinter Cell even surpassed any game that Solid Snake had appeared in and coupled with the superb visuals that the game offered, it really was a memorable title and went on to be a well deserved best seller. Now we have the next title in Splinter Cell series, Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, and once again Sam Fisher returns to tackle terrorism.

Ridding the world of dangerous terrorists is once again your main task and the game is set in a futuristic 2006. The U.S. are intervening in political matters in the east (in the name of democracy of course) and it's causing growing tensions and resentment. This resentment has been heightened by the installation of a temporary military base on East Timor. Whilst the role of the U.S. has been met with opposition the fact that the Timorese democracy was under threat from Indonesian militias has been enough to appease the doubters. However the resentment boils over when guerilla militia leader Suhadi Sadono, in collaboration with certain factions of the Indonesian government, attack the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta taking hostages in the process. The game begins with Sam Fisher being ordered to enter the Embassy, not to rescue the hostages but to destroy certain, sensitive information before Sadono gets his hands on it.

Before playing Pandora Tomorrow it was difficult to think how the developers could have improved the Splinter Cell formula (aside from making it more deaf gamer friendly of course). However in only the first mission you'll notice all sorts of refinements that have been made. Sam can now turn a split-jump into a half-split jump and then jump again from this. In other words he can manoeuvre upwards in very tight spaces. A fancy SWAT turn can now also be performed to allow Sam to pass lit gaps such as doorways with the minimum of fuss. This time around Sam has immediate access to the binoculars to allow him to see distant enemies. You can even enable thermal vision whilst using the binoculars. A new laser sight can also be used to increase your accuracy, however the red dot is there for all to see and it can warn enemies of your presence.

Splinter Cell was difficult and Pandora Tomorrow is certainly just as difficult. Thankfully though the game will make temporary save points throughout a mission and should you fail you'll be returned to the last temporary save point. Of course the game still allows you to save your progress at various checkpoints in the same way as the original Splinter Cell did so you won't have to play through the entire mission in one sitting. It's inevitable that you'll get caught at some stage though and some levels allow you to get away with temporary warnings and if you are seen three times then it's mission over. Music alerts hearing gamers to an enemy presence as it changes whenever danger is close by. It's only a small advantage for hearing gamers but nevertheless it means that deaf gamers who can't hear the music are not forewarned of impending disaster.

Pandora Tomorrow isn't just a single player experience like Splinter Cell was. This time around the game has full support for Xbox Live as well as system link play. You can either play as part of the Shadownet Team or the ARGUS Corporation. There are three different game modes, Neutralization, Extraction and Sabotage but they are all similar in the fact that the Shadownet Team will attempt to seize the ND133s (viral containers) and the ARGUS Corporation will attempt to stop them. Playing as the part of the Shadownet Team is pretty much the same as playing the single player game as played from a first person perspective. Playing as part of the ARGUS Corporation is a first person perspective affair which is similar to Halo or Rainbow Six 3 except for the fact that the controls don't feel quite as responsive. There are tutorials for both the Shadownet Team and the ARGUS Corporation and both these tutorials are delivered exclusively via text. I haven't played too much of the multiplayer game as yet but from what I have played it seems to compliment the single player game rather nicely, which is an excellent achievement.

We don't give games individual ratings for the various elements of a game here at Deaf Gamers but if we did Pandora Tomorrow would undoubtedly get a ten out of ten for the graphics. To put it simply it looks superb and is even an improvement on the original Splinter Cell. Once again the lighting and shadows are a work of art. The night vision and the thermal vision are again wonderfully impressive but there are so many high points to praise that it's just a lot easier to say the whole thing looks incredible. Although the Xbox is far from the end of it's life as a major console, it's a certainty that it won't have many better looking games than Pandora Tomorrow. Everything from animations to the cutscenes are simply first class and a superb example of what's possible with the Xbox.

Splinter Cell wasn't completely deaf gamer friendly and whilst Pandora Tomorrow is OK for deaf gamers there are a few problems. The games cutscenes are not subtitled and whilst this is hardly a disaster, it's disappointing. Whilst interrogating someone the information that you receive is not shown in text so in effect you'll be unaware of the information you've just gained. It's not all bad news though. The communications with Lambert are shown in text and the objectives are shown in text too. A flashing envelope icon will inform you that your objectives have been updated and pushing the back button will give you access to your goals, notes, inventory and data. When you drop a body into a location that offers suitable coverage your stealth meter (which gives you feedback on how will you keeping out of the light) will flash twice to indicate that the body is well covered, which is a most welcome addition.

It was difficult to imagine how Pandora Tomorrow could possibly follow up the phenomenal Splinter Cell. However, not only has Pandora Tomorrow been just as impressive as the original Splinter Cell but it's improved on a number of things too. What we have here is without doubt the pinnacle of stealth based game play. Incidentally you might have read on other game websites that the game crashes whilst using the optimatch mode on Xbox Live. When I tried to play on Xbox Live the game ran an update and after this it all worked perfectly, which is great to see. Judging by the massive early sales of the game it's every bit as successful as Splinter Cell was and deservedly so. It's not perfect for deaf gamers but without a doubt Pandora Tomorrow is one of the finest games you can buy for the Xbox.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10
An excellent follow up to Splinter Cell and a truly superb game for the Xbox. Had it been completely deaf gamer friendly it would have earned ten out of ten. It's that good.

Deaf Gamers comment:
There are a few issues for deaf gamers but the game is still very enjoyable.