When trying to find someone to blame for why games nowadays that are jumping on board the online gaming train are not heading to the GC or simply appearing in dilute versions, the only real perpetrator is Nintendo themselves. We all know they believe online gaming is not profitable enough and the games industry is not ready for it, but the number of users of online games and the amount of developers using online gaming features suggest differently. And surely this isn't a case of Nintendo being the only ones who are right, it isn't doing GameCube owners any favors that is for sure. And here is where Pandora Tomorrow fits in.
After the first bout of moving through the darkness, stealth fans everywhere were hooked for more, and it only took one more global crisis to send you back into Sam's black spandex. This time round trouble in the middle East, lead by an extremist named Sadano and in cahoots with an Ex-CIA operative, has caused Sam Fisher to sent in to stop a plot involving small pox called Pandora Tomorrow today. As the story goes on the plot and mission objectives tend to fail even with, a news update that gives you a glimpse of what your last mission did to the world, after each level. Thankfully the plot doesn't need to be rock solid and the gameplay does hold its own.
Not as graphically pleasing as the X-Box or PC version, with less smoother character models scenery, and light effects, that are not quite as fine, the game itself does look good. Although toned down, the vast rooms you creep through are all detailed with great depth, and have excellent lighting effects. Although at times you find yourself in another blank room, more often than not you see a beautifully crafted level, from dense jungle forests to submarines, to government embassies, the variety is quite great, and all look impressive. Sam himself looks very detailed, more so than before, as do his various enemies, which thankfully do look different from each other on occasion, which is a refreshing change from the lazy route of reproducing the same enemies over and over.
When stealth is involved you do find yourself at times sitting waiting for the right moment to move, and this means more often than not listening to the enemies talk about unrelated matters. The voice acting isn't bad, but it is Lambert and the CIA operatives in your ear piece who you wish would shut up and let you get on with it more than the people your meant to kill which annoy. Sam Fisher still remains the games character with the most dry cool and rough voice imaginable, but sadly the cool voices end there. Most of the time sound will be a key factor, guards will hear guns shots and lights smashing, as well as loud foot steps, but somehow they fail to hear grenade explosions. And when out of ammo, resorting to the Frag Grenades should be the end of your stealth mission, but strangely enough no one raises an alarm when a huge explosion takes place. Reality sort of end there.
The gameplay is still pretty much the same from Sam's first outing, A is your action button required to pick up ammo, open doors and hack into computers, B is used to aim your weapon and R fire it, the D-Pad is used to change between visions; night and thermal, the L-trigger to zoom in on your SC-20K on a half press, on a full press it fires one of many projectiles , X is used to crouch, something you will be doing a lot, Z to whistle and bring enemies to you and Y to jump and grab onto ledges. Despite having less buttons than an X-Box controller, the game has been ported over well, with only changing weapons being a problem on the small D-Pad. At times when trying to change a weapon you will change your vision first and vice versa, which can be a problem as being blind in a dark environment defies the object of the game.
Once again you will have to blow out lights to keep yourself in the darkness, which you can keep track of by the darkness bar in the corner, simple enough if the bar reaches the lighter side, you are in clear view. Unfortunately one small problem that crops up every now and then is the fact some lights you fire at refuse to break, and you must reposition yourself before you can break the bulb. An annoying factor that crops up more than once. As usual raising an alarm means game over in some missions, but in others where you can kill at free, and stealth becomes a less needed option, one alarm means guards begin to wear Flak Jackets, head shots only, a second means flak jackets and helmet, neck shots or face shots, and a third is game over. The alarm does reset at certain points, but it is often a safer bet to remain undetected. Sadly Pandora Tomorrow is much more focused on using weapons or the non lethal attacks, which are courtesy of the R trigger. You still have an optic cable to look through doors, using the A-button, to scout the area out before going in, the ability to grab guards and interrogate them, also through the A-button, the chance to re-programme turrets to fire on everyone or turn off, use human shields and of course hide human bodies in the shadows, mainly as if you don't it is Game Over and Lambert won't hesitate to tell you so. All of these become quite key in play, but sadly, the impressive moves Sam pulls off, such as the split between two buildings are almost non existent. There are many times were you climb on poles that are vertical and horizontal, and will always be sticking to walls and peeking outwards, but the only real maneuvers you do are the new half split move, where you reside on one leg in a small gap between two walls above the ground, and the new SWAT turn, where you quickly spin to get behind another wall close by. And then of course you can hang from a pipe and fire on guards below as well and rappel along walls and the like. However these are about all there is, which is a shame after the large amount of them in the first one.
The weapons in Sam's arsenal range from his trust pistol, his SC-20K rifle that comes complete with alternate shots, like a sticky shocker to electrocute those in your way, diversion cameras and smoke grenades, a laser microphone, flash bangs and frag grenades. Your lock pick is also present to help you open those locked doors, which works by rotating your joy stick till it rumbles and then pushing the stick forward at the point it rumbled. It seems a little odd at first but is picked up with ease. The stealth gameplay is still very good and playable, hiding in the darkness and waiting to strike on unsuspecting guards is still very fun, which makes it a good game on its own. Although at times you are detected for unknown reasons, such as behind wall and suddenly a guard gasps and asks "What was that?", when you haven't moved an inch. However these situations are few and one small fault.
A new addition to this game though is how animals must be taken into contact as well, such as creeping through the grass and making sure not to upset the birds nestled there, or killing off dogs early for they will clearly give away your presence by annoyingly barking. Thermo-vision must also be used to spot mines hidden in the grass to avoid death, which sort of compromises a mission. Although the game supposedly boasts 32 missions, there are actually only 8 which are broken up into check points and save points. These are really quite short sections and disrupt the gameplay a fair bit. The gameplay spoken of is still very much trail and error, the first time you encounter a section it takes a while to formulate the best strategy to over come it. However the levels are very linear in design and at times there is only one way to tackle a section, or the following either the stealth way, the way in which you kill everyone or the way in which you fail. At times the game does feel a little too dilute and restricting, but nonetheless the challenge is there, just less so than its predecessor.
Pandora Tomorrow is a good game, but Ubi Soft's choice to only give GC users one extra jungle level, which I have to say is nothing, merely walking through some foliage to reach the next check point and a GBA-GC connectivity option that allows Sam to map out rooms and control turrets. Never could this make up for the lack of online capability, and then the fact the GC version took months to hit stores after the PS2, PC and X-Box versions, and only came as watered down version of the game, you begin to wonder how long it took to strip the game down to size. Really this version should only be bought by those without a PC or one of the other consoles, as good as it is, it is weak compared to the other versions.
The first game introduced us to the greatness of stealth play, more in-depth than that found in Metal Gear Solid and this is not exception. Although there are less good athletic moments, the crouching in darkness and taking out guards one by on gameplay is still as fun as ever.
Pandora Tomorrow does look very impressive and still has all the great lighting effects, level detail as well as character detail that made the Splinter Cell series famous. And although it is not quite as good as the X-Box version it does do its job well.
The various chatter you hear is good at adding depth to the game as are all the animal calls and other sounds you might hear, but the fact CIA people constantly tell you something you already know to remind you of your mission it begins to get a little annoying.
The single player game is good enough, but the fact you can find an online version on every other version except here means you just feel hard done when the game is over and regret not having a rival console. It will last a while, but nothing can excuse the loss of multiplayer features.
I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone on GameCube, mainly as there is a better version on the PC, X-Box and PS2, and you shouldn't have to shell out the same amount for a worse game. If you would never use the online gaming option then maybe this is for you, but for everyone else, get it on another version. One bright aspect is how Ubi Soft is not setting a trend, Midway have recently announced that they are taking out the online mode in Mortal Kombat to make way for some GC exclusive multiplayer to cater for the GCs lack of online capability. Which is more than Ubi Soft did, with not saying anything till the last moment.