Review: Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

by Tom Ingram

I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of the second Splinter Cell game, Pandora Tomorrow. I’ve played all the other games in the series except Conviction, and enjoyed most of them. The third game, in particular, is one of the best I’ve ever played. The first is passable, but barely. I was intensely curious about the transition between the two.

At the end of Splinter Cell, a plot thread is left dangling–Phillip Masse, the mercenary computer programmer who was behind the Georgian information warfare attacks, is still at large. A throwaway comment in Chaos Theory establishes that Fisher killed Masse. I was looking forward to finding out what exactly happened to Masse in this game, but it never did happen. Pandora Tomorrow‘s plot is bizarrely incoherent. People jump from location to location, doing the strangest things for no particular reason.

The most frustrating problem is that nobody tells you anything. I’m sure that this is normal for real secret agents, but this is a video game. At one point in the game Fisher is ordered to kill a friendly Israeli agent. When he asks for an explanation later, Lambert mumbles something about Shin Bet not playing a straight game with them, and the issue is never brought up again. A mysterious organization called SHADOWNET is mentioned a single time on one loading screen. What is SHADOWNET? What are they doing? Why is this at all relevant to the game? That’s on a need to know basis, soldier. And you, apparently, don’t need to know.

Likewise, the game is shoddily put together. The voice acting is head-poundingly bad. All the usual voice actors are gone (though, thankfully, they return in Chaos Theory). Lambert is voiced by Dennis Haysbert. It works, although it takes some getting used to. Grimsdottir has temporarily changed into an annoying fifty-year-old, judging by her new voice. The new guy, DP Brunton (who disappears mysteriously after this game) sounds like a kid in elementary school. In the other games, foreign characters at least get an accent. In this one, everyone speaks like a red-blooded American except for two irrelevant civilians in the Jerusalem mission, who speak Hebrew.

The script is repetitive and poorly written. It doesn’t match the subtitles (which are very badly proofread, incidentally). Also, the script is repetetetive and poorly writen. There are some interesting bugs, such as the one where you phase through the floor or the one where shooting a terrorist freezes up the entire game. For some reason, the disk makes a lot of noise in my Wii, although that could be a problem on my end.

The gameplay is very strange. The first game had clunky, difficult controls, and the third was wonderfully smooth. This game plays like a freakish Frankensteinian mashup of the two. As in the first game, there isn’t quite as much emphasis on getting around stealthily, and there are some areas that are impossible to pass without killing anyone or shooting out lights, which feels like cheating. The game is fun, but sadly it feels more like the first game than the third.