Ubisoft
Ubisoft
Action
1-3
10.17.06

Splinter Cell Double Agent (Xbox 360)


Sam Fisher’s latest mission propels him into the next-gen arena, and our stealth super spy may have a few problems settling in, but nothing that prevents the solid gaming experience that we have come to expect from the series.

Gameplay

Like a Hollywood action movie, Double Agent begins with Sam Fisher diving into a mission, as he leaps off of a plane somewhere over Iceland and parachutes into enemy territory. Upon completing this James Bond-ish teaser assignment, Fisher receives some shocking news, which sets up the premise for the game. Fisher is sent to jail, (even though it’s not clear why) where he helps another prisoner escape and he falls in with a circle of terrorists calling themselves the JBA (John Brown’s Army). Now Fisher must play on both teams as a Double Agent for his for his bosses at the NSA, as well as his new JBA associates.

The core hide and sneak mechanic that we have familiarized ourselves with in the previous Splinter Cell games is still in place, so anyone who has played any of those titles will be able to pick up and play this game with a very short learning curve.

The newest feature in Double Agent is the “trust” system, which adds certain twists to the plot in the single player mode. There will be various points during the game where Fisher will have to make crucial choices that will decide whether his loyalty is with his old gang at the NSA, or is he sliding over to the grasps of the JBA.

The HUD calculates the trust Fisher has earned from the two teams he’s on. If he places a wiretap inside of the JBA’s headquarters, the trust bar is raised in favor of the NSA. If Fisher blows up a facility that the JBA has targeted, the NSA’s trust bar drops, but the JBA trust bar is raised. If either organization’s bar drops completely, the game is over. So the player must always keep the two sides balanced.

There are ten missions in the game set in such locations as Russia, Shanghai, New York, Mexico and Africa. Like all the previous Splinter Cell games, each mission is objective based where Fisher will mainly be moving around in his trademark crouched position as he snoops, hacks computers, and when necessary kills an enemy.

To mix things up, Double Agent adds mini-games into the adventure. Whenever Fisher returns to JBA headquarters he must perform various task for both sides, such as bugging meeting rooms, cracking a safe, target practice, stealing files, scanning fingerprints, and assembling missile war heads. Most of these tasks must be done as a timer counts down, and is a method to add and decrease the trust bar stats for both organizations. It is not mandatory that all of the tasks are completed, but doing so can earn various achievement points. Some of these mini-games get very monotonous, and being there’s no way to skip out of them, you may find yourself just moving around waiting for the timer to hit zero just so you can get back to the real gameplay.

Probably one of the freshest new features Double Agent has to offer over the previous Splinter Cell titles is the addition of daylight. Fisher is known for snooping around in the dark via his night vision goggles, (and there is still a lot of that here), but now we also get to see him roaming around in broad daylight as he creeps around a cruise ship in Mexico, and dodges gunfire and explosions in the African Congo.

The AI is hit or miss. There are moments when you are doing your best to stay out of sight and you’ll suddenly be spotted. Then there are points when you may pass directly by a guard who should obviously see you, but doesn’t. This has always been an issue with the Splinter Cell games and I was hoping for a major improvement with this title.

There aren’t many new moves or gadgets to utilize. Fisher mainly uses his trusty silenced pistol, automatic rifle, and of course his multi-vision goggles. The boys over at Ubisoft really need to raise the bar when Sam Fisher’s next adventure unfolds. For instance there’s a moment when Fisher comes across a couple of parked snowmobiles while on the Siberian Coast, but they’re just eye candy for the scenery. It would have been great to see Fisher hop onto one of these and get into a high-speed cat and mouse chase with his enemy pursuers.

The single player mode can be completed in roughly ten hours, but multiplayer is where the real action unfolds. The Spies versus Mercs battleground, which was featured in both Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, has been spiced up making it faster and adding six players to the mix rather than four. Ten maps are featured, but not all are accessible until the player unlocks achievements. Anyone who finds Sam Fisher’s solo mission flat and too familiar will definitely get the rush they need on Xbox Live. There’s nothing like playing a mercenary who’s chasing down a spy who is attempting to download data from a terminal before time runs out.

Graphics

The Splinter Cell games are known for there graphical presentations and Splinter Cell doesn’t disappoint, but at times does plays it safe. Most of the character models are carried over from Chaos Theory and given a new coat of paint, but don’t look any different from what was seen in the original Xbox, (which is not a bad thing). Then there’s the Kinshasa African Congo level that screams next-gen. The sun beams down on Fisher’s skin, and the sand glows and buckles as bullets and explosions rock the scene. Hopefully future Splinter Cell titles will emulate the graphics of this level to show off the power of the Xbox 360.

Sound

I played this game through my 5.1 surround sound system and it definitely added to the experience. There are times when the sound is subtle, such as when you’re quickly attempting to hack a computer and you can hear footsteps approaching from the rear speakers making the situation very intense. During the Congo level continuous gunshots whizzing by and explosions going off make you feel like you’re in the center of a battlefield. As with the previous Splinter Cell games, the voice acting is top notch with Michael Ironside again reprising his role our favorite super spy.

Replay Value

The single player mode offers multiple difficulty levels and an alternative ending depending on your decisions in the trust system, but not enough to make you want to go back for more. Fortunately the multiplayer opens up a whole new gameplay experience that will definitely get you pumped.

Bottom Line:

Double Agent is not a huge upgrade over the previous title, there’s still a lot more that can be done with the franchise. It will be interesting to see how the next Metal Gear game will look and play on the PS3, because that’s the only stealth competition that stands in Splinter Cell’s path at this moment. I’d recommend this game for anyone who is a fan of the franchise, but for newbie’s I’d advise you to pick up and play the original titles before you choose to dive into this adventure.

Related Links:

Official Website for Splinter Cell Double Agent

-Johnny McNair




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