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LTTP Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is a Fantastic & Underrated Gem from the PlayStation 2 era (brian0057, GET ITT!!!)

Jan 11, 2019
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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is a Stealth/Political Thriller video game developed by Ubisoft Shanghai & Milan and was released on March 23rd, 2004. Pandora Tomorrow is the second game in the Splinter Cell series endorsed by writer Tom Clancy. The game follows the covert activities of Sam Fisher, an agent working for a black-ops branch of the National Security Agency (NSA) called "Third Echelon". As some of you may have read my previous LTTP of Splinter Cell back in 2019, my love of the Splinter Cell franchise began with the first installment and I was really looking forward to playing the second installment, Pandora Tomorrow, a year later to be exact. Without further ado, let’s get into my 'Late To The Party' review of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.

Gameplay (9/10)
In terms of gameplay, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is as meticulous and polished in its approach to the stealth genre as its predecessor. I already expected Pandora Tomorrow to continue where the last game left off in terms of gameplay, but I didn't expect it to stay fairly the same. With that being said, the new gadgets and incremental changes to the weaponry were welcomed, and I felt right at home with the game from the get-go. You have the usual stealth mechanics, but this time around, the use of shadows played a crucial part in how you would approach a level. The fantastic art direction and level design really brought out the best of the gameplay, but you also needed to be creative in how you’d approach enemies. This game does not hold your hand, but it respects your intelligence.
I will say this: one of the grips of the game was how difficult it was to apprehend an enemy behind their backs. I would fail to successfully take down an enemy from their back because i had to rely on the game to prompt the action tab before doing so (Splinter Cell fans would know what I mean here). Nevertheless, Pandora Tomorrow genuinely tested my stealth skills more than any game that i’ve played so far, which is a feat in itself. I’ve always enjoyed taking my time with each level and enemy i’d encounter; the subtle nuances of the gameplay start to shine as you progress into the single-player campaign. One particular level that really exhibited Pandora Tomorrow’s sublime stealth mechanics was in the last level of the game where you had to combine everything that you learned so far in the game and utilize it. In other words, every gameplay mechanic you learned in the game was tested and it was both challenging but satisfying to experience. Overall, I was happy with Ubisoft’s decision to keep things the way they were, but I would've hoped for a bit more variety with the weaponry and stealth mechanics.

Story [9.5/10]
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow exceeded my expectations when it came to the story. Unlike other politically charged stealth thrillers, in Pandora Tomorrow, Sam Fisher faces a rather smaller-scale threat which involves themes of political strife, clash of ideologies, and revolutionary uprisings taking place in East Timor. The main antagonist, Suhadi Sadono, is the culprit behind these political uprisings and what’s interesting to me is that Ubisoft Montreal was likely inspired by this character when creating Far Cry 3’s antagonist, Vaas Montenegro. Charismatic, brutal, and ultimately deluded in his own grandeur, Suhadi Sadono was a fantastic character to follow in both game and story. He wasn’t the typically generic villains you’d see in entertainment, especially when they’re foreign in nature, but rather fleshed out and had an interesting philosophy when it came to his plans. The flavor text in the form of Grimsdottir’s Reports helped me appreciate his backstory more than just relying on cutscenes, ironically ;)
What impressed me the most is how far the story would go in terms of being controversial. The fact that Pandora Tomorrow was able to tackle the issue of CIA-funded operations and Splinter Terrorist groups to undermine a country’s sovereignty is pretty bold to do in a post 9/11 world (This game was released in 2004). The uncompromising nature of the story reached its peak when Sam Fisher was assigned to examine Syrian Terrorist cells in Jerusalem, Israel. Now, for me, this was the first time i’ve ever seen a game talk about Israel and Mossad and depicted the city of Jerusalem beautifully. It was the highlight of the game and story, for me, because it’s just rare to see this in any politically-charged video game. I won’t spoil what happens in this chapter of the story, but anyone who’s a fan of the Steven Spielberg film Munich will really appreciate this chapter. A nuanced examination of a country's intelligence agencies and the difficult choices they make for the sake of their country is what I loved about this story the most. Overall, I felt that the storytelling was on point and tight enough to keep me engaged and invested in it during the entire single-player campaign.

Graphics, Level Design, Art Direction, Music & Sound Design [9.75/10]
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow really stands out the most when it comes to all aspects of its presentation. Graphically speaking, playing this game on the PlayStation 2 was a real treat for me because I never thought this port would stand a chance with the other PlayStation 2 games that came out in 2004 as well. I was also shocked at how good it looked compared to the first installment. The levels in this game were instantly memorable, ranging from the beautiful and serene oceans of East Timor, the modern yet futuristic cryogenic labs of Paris, France, to the spiritual awe of Jerusalem, Israel and sprawling nature of LAX Airport. My personal favourite levels has to be the Railway Train that takes you from Paris to Nice, France and the Military Submarine stationed in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The art direction in each level was sublime and the attention to detail really added to the overall immersion of the game. I genuinely felt as if I was exploring these niche but recognizable pockets of the world; being a CIA agent sounds like a blast. Speaking of sound, Pandora Tomorrow continues the tradition of having amazing sound design embedded in each level that you encounter. The raindrops in the alleys of East Timor were a treat to listen to and this game has Dolby Pro Surround sound which I felt was amazing to have in a PS2 game. Not many games from that time excelled in sound design due to the limitations of the hardware, but Ubisoft went the extra mile with it. Not only was the sound design spectacular, but the soundtrack of the game as well. The start-up theme of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow grows on you slowly with each subsequent play session (Note: Apparently, this track is exclusive to the PlayStation 2 version of the game.)
Overall, the presentation shown in Pandora Tomorrow was stellar and really set a benchmark for future Splinter Cell games as I play through the franchise for the first time in the next few years to come.

Final Remarks
I had a fantastic time playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and it was a great way to return to this legendary franchise. I felt like this particular installment left a stronger impression in comparison to the first installment. A unique and compelling story alongside stellar presentation and gameplay makes me think why don’t developers make games like this anymore in the stealth genre. Ubisoft Shanghai/Milan did an impressive job with Pandora Tomorrow despite the short development time given to them. Overall, It’s safe to say: Pandora Tomorrow is another instant classic from the Splinter Cell franchise ( brian0057 brian0057 won). I look forward to playing Ubisoft Montreal’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory next summer in 2021.

Score: 9.25/10 (Editor's Choice)
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
 
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bender

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Spies versus Mercs was a really neat mutli-player concept but I didn't get into Splinter Cell until Chaos Theory. The introduction of the knife was a godsend.
 
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Fitzchiv

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I don't think it's underrated, was always considered one of if not the best in the series. Probably going to play the OG splinter cell games through soon, got my original copies so it's great I can just chuck them in and they'll work now
 
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-Arcadia-

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The original Splinter Cell trilogy is one of the best trilogies in all of gaming. Too bad Ubisoft doesn't makes games of that quality anymore.

I really, really actually miss this Ubisoft. Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, Beyond Good and Evil — they were the successful company that got there by constantly pumping out awesome games, and making a name for themselves.

On topic, I’ve never played this game, but that was an amazing LttP. I’ve only ever played the first, which I really loved, but this kind of makes me want to go back and revisit that and the trilogy.
 

GymWolf

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Tbh it was the weakest of the first 3 games for me.

The first one had the novelty, the third one had the incredible graphics, the second one was just the chapter in the middle, i barely remember the game tbh.
 
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The Shepard

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I plan on going through the series at some point, never played pandora tomorrow even when I had an original xbox/ps2.

Can grab the whole series for £14 on xbox one. I got them all the other day. Run at 4k on the one x. Works on uk account as that's what mine is, just purchase from Hungary store through link if anyones interested.

 

TheCockatrice

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The game came with my purchase of fx5600 gpu or somehting like that. Good times. I miss Splinter Cell but we'll never get a new one, at least not like the classics. Maybe they'll remaster/remake them.
 
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longdi

Ni hao ma, fellow kids?
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I remember the original was a tour de force on Xbox, using per pixel lighting all over.

Gameplay did not hook me enough to complete.

The first impression was pretty awesome, you get the feeling like a spy of spies, but as you progress on, it feels like a Lego spy, if it make sense. You need to stealth your way like blocks of Lego, quite the rote path through levels
 

dezzy8

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I do not remember this gam being underrated. I remember seeing this shit everywhere when it was released. Chaos Theory just fucking knocked it put the park and people forgot about this.
 
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Zephir

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Fun fact: When I worked at the local waste collection centre, a guy wanted to throw away a box full of PS2 games. I didn't even saw the titles, I recognized the retail covers.

I asked if I could keep them and he said "suit yourself, not a lot of interesting things anyway"....after my shift I checked and there was some pretty good stuff, including all three Splinter Cell games for PS2 (classic, Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory).

This thread reminded me that I should plug my PS2 and give this IP a shot
 

pawel86ck

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Splinter Cell 1-4 are one of my favorite games from 2000-2005 era, but PS ports were downgraded to the extreme, so I prefer to think splinter cell games were just PC / xbox exclusives. PS2 versions had only similar name and story.

SC1 xbox



SC1 PS2



SP3 Xbox




SC3 PS2 (exactly the same spots)



 
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Tazzu

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"Don't shoot, I'm American!"

Seriously though, best atmosphere of the first four games. Chaos Theory is super overated, Double Agent is far better.
 
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Jun 13, 2020
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Splinter Cell 1-4 are one of my favorite games from 2000-2005 era, but PS ports were downgraded to the extreme, so I prefer to think splinter cell games were just PC / xbox exclusives. PS2 versions had only similar name and story.

SC1 xbox



SC1 PS2



SP3 Xbox




SC3 PS2 (exactly the same spots)



Maybe worth noticing that the entirety of Splinter Cell games,
- Splinter Cell
- Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow
- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
- Splinter Cell Double Agent
- Splinter Cell Conviction
- Splinter Cell Black List

are not only preserved on xbox, but also X enhanced.

here's Pandora


and here's Black List, the one I'm slowly replaying these days
 

Men_in_Boxes

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Did OP really make a Pandora Tomorrow thread and not mention it's fucking insane multiplayer, Spies vs Mercs?! Holy hell...
 
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Dane

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Loved this game, I had it and couldn't play for like a year because it required a pixel shader GPU, mine was a GF4 MX which was just a tuned GF2 GTS.

Metal Gear inspired Splinter Cell on its beginnings, and then Splinter Cell influenced MGS3 Subsistence and beyond in gameplay.
 
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Picked up the HD collection of the original trilogy for PS3 not long ago. Uses the PC versions instead of PS2 tho funnily enough, you do get the added bonus of 3D and the first two games running at full HD too (apparently disabling 720p in the XMB gives you full HD on Chaos Theory as well)

Quite the upgrade over the Ps2 versions originally played, tho I do miss the geo-texturing of Chaos Theory a little :messenger_grinning_sweat:
 

pawel86ck

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Picked up the HD collection of the original trilogy for PS3 not long ago. Uses the PC versions instead of PS2 tho funnily enough, you do get the added bonus of 3D and the first two games running at full HD too (apparently disabling 720p in the XMB gives you full HD on Chaos Theory as well)

Quite the upgrade over the Ps2 versions originally played, tho I do miss the geo-texturing of Chaos Theory a little :messenger_grinning_sweat:
What's funny even PS3 edition is using inferior lighting effects compared to PC/xbox version because PS3 GPU doesn't support shadow buffers unlike Xbox and Geforce 3-5 GPUs (however on modern GPUs dgvoodoo can emulate shadow buffers).
 
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Rock And Roll

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I went through this game a few months back after playing the first game last summer. I thought there was a noticeable improvement over the first game, even though the first game was pretty damn good. I definitely thought the levels/setting was more interesting in this game.

I suppose we'll be going through Chaos Theory around the same time next year as well. Looking forward to playing it, the series has been great so far
 
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Soleil rouge

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Good stuff, Miyazaki. Looking forward to more reviews.

This is the only game from the original trilogy that I haven't finished, so this is a nice reminder.
 
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Romulus

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The Xbox versions specifically Chaos theory are much better the last one even a generation ahead in term of graphics the GC and Ps2 were cut versions of the original, great games anyway

Xbox was the last console to legitimately shit on its competitors in multiplatforms. Many looked like a different generation. Some GC/ps2 ports ran at native 720p on xbox. That's insane for the time.
 
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longdi

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Xbox was the last console to legitimately shit on its competitors in multiplatforms. Many looked like a different generation. Some GC/ps2 ports ran at native 720p on xbox. That's insane for the time.

MS always have a knack to ride on the cusp of 3D tech

Xbox = pixel vertex shaders while the competition were still having flat shading
360 = unifed shaders while the competition were using less efficient pixel vertex shaders
One = kinect motion while the competition were using fingerprint sensor
SX = full DX12.2 with all the buzz like XVA super fast SSD, ML, DXR RT, Mesh Shading
 

Romulus

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Splinter Cell 1-4 are one of my favorite games from 2000-2005 era, but PS ports were downgraded to the extreme, so I prefer to think splinter cell games were just PC / xbox exclusives. PS2 versions had only similar name and story.

SC1 xbox



SC1 PS2



SP3 Xbox




SC3 PS2 (exactly the same spots)





We likely won't see this disparity between ps4 and ps5 games. Lol. Pretty crazy this was within the same generation. OG Xbox was a hardware anomaly, raw power and a unique gpu shader pipeline. People say it was just a PC are wrong. Emulation is still difficult.

You can even run Splinter Cell Chaos theory at native 720p with a 64mb ram increase lol
 

Romulus

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Mar 21, 2019
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MS always have a knack to ride on the cusp of 3D tech

Xbox = pixel vertex shaders while the competition were still having flat shading
360 = unifed shaders while the competition were using less efficient pixel vertex shaders
One = kinect motion while the competition were using fingerprint sensor
SX = full DX12.2 with all the buzz like XVA super fast SSD, ML, DXR RT, Mesh Shading

Yeah, I think where the OG xbox separated itself was raw power over the competition. XSX has an advantage, but nowhere near the OG's gulf. Not to mention, it had a harddrive in 2001.
 
Jul 6, 2015
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Splinter Cell 1-4 are one of my favorite games from 2000-2005 era, but PS ports were downgraded to the extreme, so I prefer to think splinter cell games were just PC / xbox exclusives. PS2 versions had only similar name and story.

SC1 xbox



SC1 PS2



SP3 Xbox




SC3 PS2 (exactly the same spots)



Anyone know if the PS3 collection is based off the PS2 versions or the Xbox versions?
 

Goro Majima

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Sep 2, 2007
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Yeah, I think where the OG xbox separated itself was raw power over the competition. XSX has an advantage, but nowhere near the OG's gulf. Not to mention, it had a harddrive in 2001.

That thing was such a beast for its time.

It was basically as powerful as a Geforce 3 during the same year that came out. It would be like if the PS5/XSX was as powerful as a 3090.

Top of the lines cards were only like $300-400 back then though so it's not as unimaginable. Plus graphics card tech was accelerating in the early 00s to where you pretty much needed a new card every 1-2 years.