Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Multiplayer Impressions: The spy who loved me?
Since picking up Pandora Tomorrow on Wednesday, I've put about 15 hours into the multiplayer portion. Yea, I know - that's roughly 7.5 hours a night over the last two days.
Am I insane, have some sort of fetish, or am I just a nerd? Well, all of that's debatable, depending on who you talk to, but the truth of the matter is: the multiplayer is just that good. It's actually amazing to be honest with you, and is quite revolutionary in its approach to online play. Read on for some initial impressions?
As you probably know by now, the team based play is 2 vs. 2 - 2 spies (called Team Shadownet) and 2 mercenaries from the Argus Corporation - Armed Guardian Services. The spies try to break in and complete various objectives, while the mercs are tasked with stopping said infiltration. There are several gametypes available: Neutralization mode, Extraction mode, and Sabotage mode. Each type has variables involved in completion for either side, but it mostly involves the spies trying to disarm or extract viral containers, while the mercs try to protect them. As such, you're provided with some serious tools to accomplish your goals. Mercs are armed with a heavy assault rifle, as well as a torchlight (essential for searching out spies in the dark). They also have access to flares, fragmentation grenades, mines and spy traps -- as well as a few others. Mercs are also able to use Electromagnetic vision (which pinpoints spies by the gear on their person) and motion tracking, which bathes the screen in red and allows mercs to clearly see the moving target in the environment. To even things up, mercs play from a first person view, while the Shadownet spies have a 3rd person view, making it easier to see their surroundings, while limiting what the mercs can see.
The Shadownet spies have subterfuge as their most valuable tool, and can climb up into overhead air vents, up above ceilings, and are generally more nimble than the mercs. They can jump over railings, climb up to high vantage points (the first time you play as a spy on the Cinema map, you'll be astounded at the view from above the drop ceiling in the main theater. A real "wow" moment) and flip off of walls Trinity style to get the drop on their opponents. Spies have multiple gadgets available to get the job done including - night and thermal vision, binoculars, spy bullets (to mark enemies who will subsequently show on your radar), sticky cameras, and the all purpose tazer. Trust me, there's nothing like lighting up a merc and watching him do the funky chicken as a huge amount of voltage runs through his body. Priceless. You can also knock mercs on their asses with an elbow strike, and take them hostage if you manage to sneak up behind them.
As for the actual gameplay - simply astounding. I've been gaming for a long time (ok, no old man jokes please, I fully embrace my arrested adolescence) and I've never experienced anything like this. The depth is amazing; the maps are incredibly well designed, with multiple pathways and all sorts of cool architecture, and the graphics? Honestly, some of the best I've ever seen, and for an online enabled game? Mind blowing. Everything looks phenomenal, and ultra-detailed. From the character models, to the rich environments, it's all incredibly beautiful.
Now, how have I spent those 15 or so hours online? Having the time of my life actually. The following gamertags are all real. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. They're just hardcore gamers, much like you, having a blast with a wildly inventive title.
Fei Long and SkyNett (that's me) as mercs, against Poondoggie and Maxxx Power as spies. We're on a map that has multiple objectives, three buildings surrounding a center courtyard, each with canisters of ND133. So we're watching for any alarms to indicate where the spies might be (of course, a great distraction tactic is to have your teammate run through an area, setting off the motion detectors while you have at the objectives. By the time the mercs get there, the first spy is long gone) when Fei spies a laser pointer on the ground. "Where is he Sky?" I have no idea of course, and then he starts shooting at us. Turns out Poon is hanging upside down from a ventilation shaft about 30 feet over our heads, taking pot shots at us. Fei Long blasts him with the assault rifle and he plummets to the ground. Impossibly, he's still alive, and jumps up running headlong into me. I unload half a clip into his chest, which finally puts him down for good. It doesn't get much better than that boys and girls. Moments like that abound, and just when you think nothing else shocking can happen - something does.
Or take last night for example. Playing with my clan mates Filter and snoops, we decide to go 2 mercs (me and snoops), against one spy (Filter). We're on Cinema (the movie theater map) and suddenly snoops calls over the headset "Help, Filter's got me!" I run around the corner to see Filter holding him hostage with a gun to his head and an arm wrapped around his neck. So I'm staring down the barrel of my weapon at this scene, which is straight out of an action movie, and I headshot Filter and drop him. Too late - he'd already broken snoops neck. Amazing stuff, and it'll have you hooked from the moment you start playing. Actually, that's one of the coolest moves you can pull in-game. When you sneak up and grab a merc from behind, you can press the white button to taunt him while you snap his neck like a twig. Alternately, you can simply knock him unconscious. Either way, it's insanely fun.
The possibilities for tactics are endless. You can set off alarms to distract mercs, tazer them, shoot out motion detectors, jump on them from above (there's nothing like being a spy up above a mercs head, laughing as he searches frantically for you) or simply try to outwit and outrun them. As mercs, you can set up traps and proximity mines (if a spy gets too close to one of these babies, it's lights out for sure), coordinate with your partner to trap them in a vice movement, or simply blast the hell out of any spy unlucky enough to get in your way. And that's just scratching the surface. This is truly online gaming nirvana. Don't miss it.
The multiplayer portion of Pandora Tomorrow is most assuredly something very special. Trust me, once you start playing, you won't want to stop. The tension that ratchets up as you move through dark corridors as a merc, with only a small cone of light in front of you to guide your way -- while wondering if a spy is sneaking up behind you -- is out of this world, and sneaking around as a spy is equally nerve-wracking, but I promise: it's the most fun you've ever had with your clothes on. Play it now. Look for a full review of Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow next week here at Gaming Target.