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Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff

*This post was originally written here on January 3rd, 2010.* 


I love it! There is nothing more satisfying for myself than sneaking up on an enemy player, taking them out, and escaping to safety without alerting anyone else. It's even better when I successfully take out the person who comes looking for them. This is why Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is one of the best multiplayer experiences I have ever had to date. Released in 2004, Pandora Tomorrow introduced a unique multiplayer mode that has yet to be matched by another series. Titled "Spies Vs. Mercs", the gameplay style was drastically different based on who you were playing as. Playing as a Merc, you were placed into a first-person view with a fully-automated machine gun and were given various pieces of additional equipment like grenades and mines. As a Spy, you played from a third-person perspective with a Taser gun and had equipment like flashbangs and sticky cameras. Each team consisted of only two players, and every player had limited lives. Mercs had three each, and Spies had four. Once you ran out of lives, you were done until the next match.

Playing as a Merc was scary. The first-person view naturally limited what you could see around you, and there was always this constant fear that a spy was about to grab you from behind and break your neck. Thankfully, some of this fear was negated due to the greater firepower you had, but greater firepower doesn't mean shit when in a chokehold.

Playing as a Spy, however, was where the game really shined for me. As a Spy, you always felt in control. Any good stealth player knows the key to being successful is by staying hidden but always knowing where your enemies are. I was always filled with glee as I watched my enemies scurry about trying to locate me, knowing that they will fail and that in a few seconds, they'll be dead. When switching sides though, it was always unnerving knowing that somewhere, anywhere, someone was watching everything I do, just waiting for that opportune moment to strike. 


When the sequel to Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory, was released, I was excited to be able to take my stealth skills into a co-op story mode. None of my friends had Pandora Tomorrow, so I always had to play with randoms (and as usual, with mixed results). Playing through Chaos Theory with my friend Jarvis though was the first time I had played this style of game with a friend, and it quickly became one of my favorite co-op experiences ever. Deciding who will take which path, setting ourselves up so we can take out enemies at the same time without alerting anyone else, and helping each other reach locations otherwise impossible all added to the unique fun that Chaos Theory provided at the time. I am really happy to know that I can continue my stealth adventures in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Conviction

Thankfully, I don't have to wait until February to get my fix. While not strictly stealth games, there are some titles out there that satisfy my need with a friend. Modern Warfare 2 is the most obvious one at the moment. Replicating scenarios from the campaign, there are a few Spec Ops missions in which stealth in the primary focus. Playing these on Veteran with a friend is a ton of fun, and if we mess up, we still have a chance to survive without having to start over. The real fun, though, comes from not getting caught. Situations often play out like this:

 "Stop! You see those four guys over there?"

"No, where?"

"Look to your right a little more."

"Ah ok, yeah, I see them."

"Ok, I'll take the two on the left, you take the two on the right, good?"


"Ok, on three. One...two...three!"

 *All four enemies drop simultaneously. None of the surrounding enemies are alerted.*



It's immensely satisfying successfully pulling something like this off. You just feel so goddamn cool

While quite different than the previous games I have mentioned, the Left 4 Dead series provides similar moments with a team. Playing as the Infected in Versus, staying hidden until the right moment and coordinating your attacks with your fellow players is key to winning, and getting the drop on two or more players that are separated from their team makes you feel just as badass as Modern Warfare 2 does, if not more so. In Left 4 Dead, you are usually dealing with real people and the execution requires more planning and is more difficult to actually pull off. Lining up a scope is far easier than lining up that perfect pounce as a Hunter! 

As co-op becomes more prominent, we'll get to enjoy a greater deal of unique experiences that don't involve a basic first-person shooter where you just run around blasting everything in sight. I look forward to what 2010 will bring us, starting with a return to one of my favorite series: Splinter Cell. 

So what is everyone else's experience with stealth in multiplayer? Have any particularly awesome moments that stand out in your head? What are your favorite games that feature this style of gameplay? Let us know! 
Edit: And yeah, I know Conviction was delayed until April, but this was written before that happened! :P
Posted by HistoryInRust

I didn't ever get the chance to play Pandora Tomorrow, but the Spy class in Chaos Theory was infinitely more fun than the Soldier class. 
Not exactly multiplayer, but the stealth missions in the Modern Warfare campaigns have been handled really well.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff
@Sir_Ragnarok: Indeed! I enjoyed the stealth in the campaign in Modern Warfare 2 as well, but doing it with a friend when a mistake (on Veteran) could cause you both to have to start completely over makes it far more fun and intense. After enough practice, you're able to get through a level fairly fast. It almost got to a point where we basically started doing speed runs.
Posted by ArchScabby

Oh man I played so much Pandora tomorrow.  It blew my mind every time I played it back then.  It was one of the first Xbox Live games I played next to Counter Strike.  It's also the only Splinter Cell game I've played mulitplayer, and from what I've heard around the internet it was the best so I'm okay with that.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff
@ArchScabby: I know! It was so radically different and new from anything else on the market. I always loved showing the game off to my friends. I tried to convince them to get it so we could play together, but they were too poor. :(
Posted by Deusoma

I never played any of the Splinter Cell games after the first one (though I'm thinking of coming back for Conviction), but from your description, I see an inherent problem in Pandora Tomorrow's multiplayer: it's only fun when you're a Spy. I'm going to guess that it alternates teams between rounds, because it seems to me that the only reason anyone would play as a Merc would be if they had to, so that both teams could have their turn on the fun side. :P 
I'd prefer a multiplayer system where it was fun for players on both sides, though admittedly I can't think of how you'd do that.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff
@Deusoma: I can see what you mean. Playing as a Merc was still fun, but really, I was anticipating becoming a Spy the whole time. The same seemed to be true for most people I played with. If I remember correctly, I think people would join games and then leave if they weren't able to play as a Spy first.
Posted by TwelveFootFour

The Chronicles of Riddick had a mode kind of like this, but with a little faster pace. It was called capture/kill the Riddick. You started off as one of four mercs or Riddick. As the mercs you started above ground picked your guns and dropped down into a pitch black mine shaft. 
Also I played so much Chaos Theory with my friend it was crazy. I never beat the single player though...I remember when that game was coming out Donny (my friend) watched me beat Pandora Tomorrow the weekend before Chaos Theory came out so when I picked it up we just started right on the co op.

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff
@TwelveFootFour: I remember hearing about that Riddick mode on the Bombcast. It certainly piqued my interest, but I think I might have waited too long to get the game. I don't even know if people play it anymore!