Ok, thatÃ‚'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 heÃ‚'s too close when it goes off.
Right away youÃ‚'ll notice that the spy is played in the Ã‚"classicÃ‚" 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 letÃ‚'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 donÃ‚'t really have many ways to Ã‚"killÃ‚" 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 youÃ‚'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.
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 spyÃ‚'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 GaaldÃ‚'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 canÃ‚'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 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 itÃ‚'s a multiplayer experience youÃ‚'ll be hard pressed to match anywhere else. ItÃ‚'s so tense and exciting I even had Karla standing behind me, gripping the back of my chair and yelling Ã‚"GO! GO! GO!Ã‚" 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 donÃ‚'t like Team Speak you can also use the in-game voice chat. IÃ‚'m afraid I havenÃ‚'t tried it myself but if I find any issues with it IÃ‚'ll be sure to pass them along.
If youÃ‚'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. ItÃ‚'s up to you!