With curious George opening Pandora's sandbox in the Mideast, I resent Ubisoft’s "Freedom Isn't Free" ad push. (Though I'm sure families of our collateral damage appreciate Madison Avenue's message.) Pandora Tomorrow, the latest-greatest Tom Clancy fancy, set in 2006, actually infiltrates America's propaganda machine: Your aim, as Sam Fisher, is to sneak in and destroy secret documents after once-CIA-supported rebels seize the U.S. embassy in Jakarta—not save the world or even any of the dozens of hostages, the scenario suggested in ads for Rainbow Six 3. And when you end up in an exquisitely rendered Jerusalem, you'll meet an agent for Shin Bet, Israel's secret police, who the game's manual credits with handling "the country's less savory intelligence-related tasks."

Aided by, and armed with, the cream of the military-industrial complex—yet facing entrenched, sophisticated enemies while short on good intel (hello, George Tenet!)—Fisher puts a scowling face on American might that not even Cheney can match. The world's most elaborate series is now also the most polished, but the brand-new multiplayer option makes the game. Go online and choose your two-person team: Shadownet sponsors authorized stealth, while ARGUS organizes "private military corporation" mercenaries, who guard the viruses the U.S. is after. Spies sneak in third-person, breaking necks and crawling through air ducts as usual, but the mercs hunt in first-person, using their own range of weapons and gadgets. No multiplayer title has ever bound and balanced two wholly different games this way. If this is the dawn of military corporations, perhaps freedom isn’t free after all.


"That virus is around here somewhere. . ."
image: courtesy Ubisoft
"That virus is around here somewhere. . ."

Details

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
For Xbox
Developer Ubisoft
Publisher Ubisoft
Rating 10 (out of 10)

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