Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow [PC] Multiplayer Impressions

You kick ass as a spy. - Sway to Certis on ICQ

You hear that? Certis kicks ass!

When I was a kid, some of the most fun you could have was playing hide and seek in my neighborhood. You could see (or not) see me crouching in some bushes well past bedtime as a neighbor kid stalked by, looking for me. When he halts in front of your hiding place you stop breathing and you think Â"keep walkingÂ"… donÂ't look hereÂ"… keeeeeeeep walkingÂ" and sometimes, it worked. It was tense, exciting and when you were on the cusp of being caught, almost intimate. So it is with the multiplayer side of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. ThereÂ's nothing quite like it.When it works. I forgot to add that part to my little intro there, thereÂ's nothing quite like itÂ"…. when it works. Although the Xbox and PC release happened at the same time this is an Xbox port. Everything about the multiplayer portion feels rushed on the PC. You canÂ't sort the server list by name, ping or anything really. ItÂ's a jumble that makes finding a specific server a real chore which in turn makes the lack of a direct-connect by IP option even more unsavory. All sorts of online features that you would find in games like Raven Shield (also from Ubi) are simply missing from this implementation. Aside from the front-end issues, I should point out that the 1.1 patch that was recently released does re-arrange the lobby into sections but it also seems to be preventing quite a few people from running the game at all. Nice work!

The Mercs

Ok, thatÂ's all the bad stuff. Once the game works, everyone has somehow managed to find your server and you start the match things get a whole lot better. The general idea is simple, up to four players can play the game at one time. One team plays the role of hired Mercenaries charged with protecting numerous canister switches throughout the map. With the Mercs you play in first person mode like a standard FPS and you carry the most firepower of the two teams. Mercs have assault rifles, grenades, mines, tasers and a few other gadgets that can take a spy down in no time at all. Because your job is to protect objects, you have the luxury of walking around the map and placing things like spy traps that when tripped, tell the Merc that a spy has been in the area and shows where on his radar. The Merc can also place proximity wall mines to deter the pesky little buggers as well which usually kill a spy in one shot if heÂ's too close when it goes off.

Supreme firepower is all well and good but PandoraÂ's multiplayer is so much more than that. ItÂ's about piercing the darkness and spotting the spies as they skulk about. You get three vision modes as a Merc. One is the standard mode where youÂ're looking at the world with no adjustments at all. Shadows are very dark and itÂ's entirely possible to stand right in front of a spy and not see him if he isnÂ't moving. The second is motion detection mode which paints everything in a red haze and makes it very hard to see anything properly unless itÂ's moving. When you do catch a spy on the move in this mode however, it doesnÂ't matter how deep the shadows are, the spy will be painted on your screen clear as day. The other view mode is electromagnetic, your screen is awash in a blue haze and again, itÂ's very tough to see things normally. It does however paint the spy a glowing blue if he is using any of his two view modes as he skulks around. ItÂ's an interesting rock/paper/scissors sort of dynamic and it almost becomes a mini-game unto itself. There is also one wild card in the MercÂ's arsenal. A simple flash light that doesnÂ't provide a huge cone of visibility but it does pierce the darkness and itÂ's really your only hope of spotting a spy in the shadows if they arenÂ't moving or using any vision modes. On the other hand, the flashlight also gives away your position so you have to be careful with it.

The Spy

Right away youÂ'll notice that the spy is played in the Â"classicÂ" Splinter Cell third person viewpoint. This is a huge advantage over the Mercs because it allows you to look around corners and generally have a better situational awareness than them. This will be a running theme during your tenure as a spy. You get night vision mode which letÂ's you see the entire level plain as day and you get a heat vision mode which allows you to spot laser spy traps and cameras a bit easier. Having these vision modes and a better view point is essential because you donÂ't really have many ways to Â"killÂ" the Mercs as you try to sneak your way towards the canister switches. You can shoot them with your gun which zaps them momentarily and mostly just pisses them off. If youÂ're good enough you can sneak up being a Merc and knock him out (or kill him if his health is low) much to the delight of your target. You can also jump down at him from above and knock him out if you time it right. Very satisfying.

Spies cannot easily kill but they do have a few tricks up their tight fitted black sleeves. If caught by a Merc the spy can toss a flash bang down and run like hell, momentarily blinding your pursuer and giving you a chance to hide. The spy can also launch the flash bangs from their guns along with smoke grenades that choke the Mercs and sticky cams that can be made to shoot a sleeping mist that knocks them out cold if you time it right. Playing either role in the game can be tense but sitting on a box and praying that the Merc below you doesnÂ't look up with his light is very gripping.

To give you an example of my ultimate triumph as a spy, last night Gaald Sway and myself were playing. Gaald and Sway took the role of hapless Merc and I played the lone spy out to steal their goodies. We played extraction on the warehouse level which works in such a way that should make a spyÂ's life quite difficult. You see, my job was to steal one of three canisters from the first section, bring it back to the spawn point and then head to the next section (now unlocked) to steal another canister. This means the Mercs know exactly which area I have to go to and when I do steal a canister they know exactly where I need to take it. In the first section, I managed to sneak right up behind Gaald as he was snooping around one of the canisters. When he turned his back I jumped up onto the platform that held the item, grabbed it and jumped down on GaaldÂ's head before he knew what was happening. This knocked him out and gave me an easy run back to the start point. As a spy, when you pull that sort of maneuver off, you canÂ't help but feel like the coolest mofo on the planet. The rest of the level went along like that, me stealing canisters and the Keystone Mercs bumbling around and cursing me for not setting off their wall mines. Good times had by all!

The Bottom Line

The PC version of Pandora tomorrow is not without its problems. We all had to reinstall the game after the patch went bad and some of us even had disk read issues doing that. Once you do manage to find a game and some good people to play with itÂ's a multiplayer experience youÂ'll be hard pressed to match anywhere else. ItÂ's so tense and exciting I even had Karla standing behind me, gripping the back of my chair and yelling Â"GO! GO! GO!Â" as I rushed off with a canister and a Merc hard on my heels. While eight maps may not seem like a lot they are so big you will need weeks to really gain enough familiarity with them to play it to the fullest. Much like playing hide and seek in your old neighborhood, I think this is a game that will last months as we get more involved with the maps and become more nuanced in our dealings with Mercs and spies. Because there are only four people allowed per server pretty much anyone can host without any issues. If you donÂ't like Team Speak you can also use the in-game voice chat. IÂ'm afraid I havenÂ't tried it myself but if I find any issues with it IÂ'll be sure to pass them along.

If youÂ're looking for a new experience in multiplayer action I highly recommend this on the PC or the Xbox. I think the Xbox route may be better (and more stable) for many of you but the PC version is cheaper and supports higher resolutions. ItÂ's up to you!

- Certis


Nice Certis. I will quit bugging you now.

Dude. GWJ game night for four. I'm tired of zapping strangers.

I havent had any problems with the xbox version...but edwin did say he had some trouble actually getting into a game with 4 people, but I havent seen that yet.

The mercs also have a laser identifier that identifies spies in the dark without revealing your location as much as the head lamp does.

laser identifier

They do?

I still don't understand the spy trap.

I dig the Xbox verison. In fact, I'm hoping to get some more time in tonight. I am so not good at this game yet. But I want to be :).

Flux wrote:

I still don't understand the spy trap.

It's like a laser tripwire, marking the spy on the merc's map.

And you can listen in on the spies with the white button (on Xbox... don't ask me what it is on PC) once they hit the trap (supposedly).

"H" key. It also works for spies when you use spy bullets (lamest...gadget name...ever).

I guess that is why I was really asking about the spy trap, the "Hack communications" - "H" key is something you can use with it but I have yet to see how to really. I guess the timing is tricky.

Well when your hit with a spy bullet the mercs screen fizzles around a little bit so you can tell if your conversation is bugged. Also like phragged said the laser identifier is another "vision" mode for the mercs. Another thing I noticed that with the mercs EMF vision it doesn't matter if the SHADOWNET's visions are off, they are still visible from a certain distance. If you play the very first part of the single player you can hear Douglas say that the suit is made of hundreds of microscopic photo electric cells. In essence if you are close enough you can see through the darkness and detect a spy.

Also the mines can be set to laser tripping mode. In the Xbox version just hold down the alt fire to bring up a menu that you can choose either proxy or laser. Again like Certris brings up this is another paper/rock/scissor mini-game. A spy is normally used to the proxy mode where the mine emits a beeping noise, in laser mode the mine is silent. But this makes the mine detectable via thermal view which then can let the mercs detect the spy in EMF mode. Also the mine's red light no longer blinks it does something else which I forgot.

Also you forgot to mention that the smoke grenade can put a merc to sleep if he is in it for too long, while also giving him blurred and double vision.

As a parting gift.


Playing R6 on Live, I kind of got turned off by the qaulity of people I found to play against/with. All this talk about Pandora Multi makes me want to give it a try, though.

Propa, I think this is a game that absolutely must be played with and against people you know. I don't ever plan to just pick up an online game of Pandora Tomorrow on some anonymous server. I think it wouldn't be half the game.

Edwin wrote:

If you play the very first part of the single player you can hear Douglas say that the suit is made of hundreds of microscopic photo electric cells.

That's the other great thing about MP, that it's directly tied into the SP missions, meaning that SHADOWNET wins in the end all the time.

The ingame voicechat is pretty nice. When you are setting up the game, everyone can talk to everyone. In the game, you can only talk to your teammate, *except* when a spy grabs a merc, you are literally whispering in his ear, able to give him a final taunt before you snap his neck....

Oh, and you don't *only* have to play with friends to have a good time. Try finding one friend who will play with you as a spy, and pit yourselves against two newbie mercs.... Priceless.

Try finding one friend who will play with you as a spy, and pit yourselves against two newbie mercs

Actually thats what I've been doing and its been a blast going against random strangers.
(although we've kind of ruined your plan by going against awesome spies and mercs, but even when your getting your ass kicked its fun with a friend)

I would love to learn how to play this better. If you see Sephirah online, gimme a holler and maybe we can duke it out.