Sam Fisher is back, but the question is, is he back with a bang or a whimper? When the first version graced the shelves of game shops across the land, we were still getting used to the pros and cons of a game completely based around stealth. Now 18 months later many have come and gone trying in vain to follow in its footsteps, Metal Gear Solid 3, although promised, is nowhere to be seen and it seems that Splinter Cell has upped the ante even further this time round.
As before, levels are based around stealth and little more, the first level for example sees you having to infiltrate an Indonesian embassy without killing anyone no matter how much you want to. Killing, getting spotted and being killed will result in a failed mission screen and it's this, not the actual amount of gameplay that makes the game challenging.
As before, your task is to slip in and out of the shadows, complete the tasks and get the hell out of dodge. You'll be glad to hear the new version does offer some help. Unlike before you are given the night sights, heat sights and binoculars from the start. Additionally when you approach a door rather than having to remember to get out the opti-cam to see who is on the other side it's a default choice alongside opening it without caring. All these options, rather than dumbing down gameplay, only help fix problems that some people felt were inconveniencies first time around.
Likewise since his last outing, Sam (still voiced by Michael Ironside) has been given a couple of new moves and ones that will not only get hardcore fans excited but also add to the overall sheen of the game. Our favourite is the upside down gun-toting move when clinging to a pipe with your legs and this certainly makes for interesting shooting. Likewise the SWAT move will allow you to transverse openings with the simplest of ease quickly and effective without most importantly getting spotted.
When it comes to graphics, the first version was heavily praised and rightly so, expectantly the second outing improves on the graphics even more and it is plain to see that the developers have tried to squeeze every last ounce of processing power out of the Xbox's capabilities. Lights swing throwing moving shadows, curtains sway and water ripples making the game an almost movie like experience.
But it's not just the single player version that has been modified and improved, and this time around Sam Fisher can, with the help of the Xbox Live service, go online.
Where most games offer the same-old-same-old version of the single player albeit simply with the option of more players, Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow has done something different and nicely so. A lá Counter Strike you have the choice of playing a spy or a merc. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages and your choice of character will decide your skills. As the spy you are set certain tasks which you have to complete, rather simpler again to Counter Strike and while this means that whoever is playing the merc knows that you will eventually turn up at a designated spot, giving them the run-around is still good fun. Of course there is disadvantages to the spy option, mainly that you can't blast your way out of trouble. The mercs, while heavily armed also have their drawbacks- mainly that they aren't as much fun to play.
If you've played the original title then this will still bring enough to the table to warrant more game time spent. However the game has also been designed for the newcomer as well with the first level giving you a lot more time to get used to the controls before throwing you deep into the action.
The strengths of this title are endless, the graphics, the new moves and controls, the single player storyline, and the multiplayer fun that seems to marry Rainbow Six with stealth seamlessly in the same way Aliens versus Predator did with the Marine and Alien multiplayer modes. Our only criticism would be the amount of stealth this version has over its original. This game requires a lot of patience to get through it and if you're a channel hopper of the highest level the sometimes slow pace, sitting around waiting for the right moment may get you down. For the stealth diehards though, this product will stay hot.