When [i]Double Agent[/i] was first announced, it probably caused as much controversy as Ghost Recon 2 did (or just about any sequel that Ubisoft is responsible for). As we all know, Ghost Recon 2 received a third person point of view, became less strategic, and could appeal more to the casual gamers while turning away many die hard fans. The same process was repeated with the latest addition to the [i]Splinter Cell[/i] series, [i]Double Agent[/i].
Once again, you take on the role of Sam Fisher, the hero of the previous games. After Sam Fisher’s daughter is killed by a drunk driver, he has no more reason to “play it safe” and takes on the most dangerous job: he becomes a double agent. His mission is to infiltrate the John Brown Army, get information about them and their activities, maintain his cover as a terrorist wannabe, and slowly but surely destroy the organization. The story is probably better than the previous games’, but it still isn’t Metal Gear Solid.
[i]Double Agent[/i], like all the other [i]Splinter Cell[/i] games, is simply beautiful. Since the technology of the Xbox 360 allows developers to make superior graphics, the devs were able to make unique and varied levels, in terms of environment, location, time of day, and weather. The war torn streets of Kinshasa look as detailed and feel as real as the dark and icy Iceland level. Sam looks awesome; his face is incredibly well modeled and looks and feels as real as ever. However, sometimes the levels where you are inside don’t look as detailed and sometimes feel a little bland, but maybe that’s just me.
There’s no complaint from me about the sound either, music and sound effects alike. Voice acting is still top notch (Sam is voiced by Michael Ironside).
The trust meter was something I was very interested in. Much like in the Knights of the Old Republic games, based on your actions, you could win one side’s trust and lose the other’s, and influence the end game. During the first few missions, trust is not that big of a deal. I was able to maintain full trust from both sides (NSA and JBA) until the very end. You gain and lose trust by completing certain primary and secondary objectives. Sometimes the two factions’ primary objectives interfere, and that is often when you need to make your decision who you want to impress. Will you kill innocent people, or friends, to gain trust from terrorists, or will you risk blowing your cover by taking the often harder, “good” route? It’s these decisions that make the single player great. Depending how you stand with the NSA, you could get one of the three endings.
There are some filler missions in the JBA HQ where you have a certain time limit to complete objectives for both the NSA and JBA. Not too fun really, but it introduced some characters and helped drive the story along. Of course, if you don’t feel like doing anything, you could just leave your controller, and do other things while the timer reaches zero, but face the consequences (lose trust).
There are plenty of things in the single player portion of [i]Double Agent[/i] that won’t please many fans or newbies alike. In past [i]Splinter Cell[/i] games, you were under the cover of darkness, and your mission, almost always was to remain undetected and try to cause as little casualties as possible. In Chaos Theory, it was more liberal, and you could almost always just go and kill people, and your only punishment would be Lambert yelling at you. That was fun. However, when your mission objective is to kill almost a dozen people, and you don’t need to be stealthy about it either, it’s kind of disappointing. In one level, you are in the middle of a civil war. How the heck are you supposed to be stealthy? It’s impossible. Sure, it’s sometimes part of a spy’s duty to go to places when it’s not so dark (in this case, bright sunlight) or eliminate a few more people than usual (in this case, more than a dozen), but in this series, and in this game, it feels forced. I’m sure many people felt about the changes made in Resident Evil 4 similar to the changes present in [i]Double Agent[/i]. However, unlike in RE4, where if you sucked at the originals you could still pwn in 4, [i]Double Agent[/i] is still as hard as any other [i]Splinter Cell[/i] game.
I’m not a fan of the multiplayer at all. In Pandora Tomorrow (the second game in the series in case you don’t know) I found the versus mode (even though very buggy) to be an interesting concept. Unfortunately, I can’t compare how the multiplayer evolved in Chaos Theory (which also introduced co-op), but I can say for sure that [i]Double Agent[/i]’s versus mode is a step back from Pandora Tomorrow’s. The spies look like some weird cyber-terrorists of the future (in a way they are), and the UPSILON Mercenaries are also too futuristic and un-[i]Splinter Cell[/i] like. Of course, if a game is meant to be futuristic, then these are fine and dandy, but compared to the single player (which is what [i]Splinter Cell[/i] is about), it just does not fit. The game is still laggy. Unless you play with some friends, it will most likely be annoying as well. It isn’t too pleasant hearing some jerk telling you that you are a female dog (obviously using different vocabulary) when you just got killed because of lag. The gameplay isn’t that varied either; as a spy, go around and hack stuff with some futuristic glove of yours, and try not to get killed by a merc because, for whatever reason, you have no weapons to protect yourself from them. If you want to kill a mercenary, you need to carefully sneak up behind one, and crack their necks. If they spot you, well, you are screwed. You need to run away and hope to die another day, and drop a smoke grenade (if you can figure out which button it is, because like in the past games, the controls are way different in solo and multiplayer modes). As a mercenary, you are in first person mode and all you have to do is shoot spies. You also have a drone that can access areas where spies can go but you can not, but it will often cause your death, not a spy’s (a spy will sneak up on you and kill you).
Co-op would have been fun, but there is only Xbox Live and System Link. With versus mode, not having split screen was understandable, but with co-op, it’s not. Once again, unless you play with friends, it won’t be much fun. It’s essentially the same as the versus mode, except that the mercenaries are bots. Your partners will more often that not, leave you, and run off to do their hacking, instead of helping you. Fun. I didn’t play this mode a lot either, as it would have been insanely more enjoyable playing with a friend next to me, on split-screen. The graphics also seem inferior in the multiplayer modes.
With a different, but decent single player, and a not-so-great multiplayer, I suggest that you rent this game before buying it. And kiddies, this is coming from someone who absolutely loves the [i]Splinter Cell[/i] games. If it weren’t for the three different endings, there would be no point replaying the game. Though still a decent game, this is the weakest link of the series. [i]Hitman: Blood Money[/i] sometimes felt more like a [i]Splinter Cell[/i] game. There you could go trigger happy and/or be stealthy at the same time. Pick up the previous [i]Splinter Cell[/i] games and [i]Hitman: Blood Money[/i] instead (read the review [url=http://www.snackbar-games.com/r408.html]here[/url]), and rent [i]Double Agent[/i].
(Note to Ubisoft: As much as I love Splinter Cell, it’s not Need For Speed, and the series doesn’t require a new game annually.)