Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Update

We get an updated look at Sam Fisher's latest adventure on the Xbox.


At CES today we had the chance to get a closer look at the train mission in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, which we first saw back in December. Microsoft reps took us through the whole level, which contains even more variety than we'd previously seen and definitely showed the game to be more than just a cookie-cutter sequel. The varied gameplay, strong visuals, and immersive audio bode very well for the final game.

The level begins exactly as it did the last time we saw it, with Sam entering a train and being given a mission to track down an individual onboard. As before, there were quite a few ways to accomplish the mission. The early part of the level showed off what we'd seen before. Sam climbs along the outside of the train and must stay out of sight, since trains and the lights near the track cast off enough light to give away his presence. In some cases you're going to have to watch the occupants of a car for a while to see what they're doing--sometimes they may look at their reflection in the window, which is not a good thing if Sam happens to be dangling in front of it. It's also possible to go through the train by sneaking past doorways using one of Sam's new moves while people aren't looking. A third option shows off one of Sam's gadgets, a fiber-optic camera that lets you check out an area without revealing yourself. When climbing along the bottom of the train, you have to use the camera to ensure the area around the trap door you'll use to reenter the train is free of enemies.

Sam's gadgets play a rather significant role in the later part of the level. You'll need his laser microphone to eavesdrop on a conversation that clues you in on the rough location of the individual you're looking for. One cool touch is that you'll need to use Sam's infrared vision to identify your quarry. You're told he has a prosthetic leg, so by using the infrared vision you'll be able to see which passenger's leg doesn't radiate heat.

However, the coolest part of the level comes at the end, when Sam calls in an Osprey to extract him from the train, and he has to make his way to the top of the train. As you make your way to the roof, a helicopter bearing armed and trigger-happy individuals drops in. You'll have to make your way along the roof of the train to the waiting Osprey as bullets rain down. Fortunately, the crew members in the Osprey have your back, and they'll dispatch the enemy helicopter with a spectacular explosion.

The graphics in the level look quite sharp and benefit from progressive scan support. Despite the enclosed space of the train, the level manages to offer a healthy amount of variety. The tight corridors show off the nice use of light and shadow, which is one of the series' hallmarks, as well as some flowing curtainlike dividers in one of the cars. The underside of the train pumps out a dramatic flourish of particle effects to indicate sparks from the wheels on the tracks, which helps add a sense of urgency as Sam slowly makes his way. The exterior of the train offers a nice sense of space as Sam progresses along the roof to the Osprey. There are also some slick details. For example, when you finally find your target and talk to him, you'll notice a tropical fish screensaver on a nearby computer.

The audio in the game is already sounding stellar. When you're in one of the train cars, a barking rottweiler offers a good scare, and the various conversations you'll hear all add an immersive bit of ambience that helps set the tone. The various effects from weapons and the screech of the train wheels are all well done and help emphasize the precariousness of Sam's situation.

While this is just one level, we have to say we're impressed. A lot of thought has clearly gone into ensuring that Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow covers more than just the same old territory of the original. We'll be bringing you more on the game in the coming weeks as its March release date approaches.

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