Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Who doesn’t know Sam Fisher and Splinter Cell, the series that made him big? Started out as an excellent stealth game on the original Xbox, the series quickly became popular, amongst others thanks to the original gameplay, the excellent finishing and recently also the surprising multiplayer component.
After a couple of episodes, every series however runs into the danger of becoming a parody of itself, too mainstream, or too much different from what made the originals so fun. Also the pressure to sell can sometimes make all sorts of things go wrong and that for instance Sam suddenly wouldn’t be all that exciting anymore.
And that’s exactly the reason apparently for the makers to throw a ton of new stuff into the mix. The story for once does start interesting since the once so trustworthy secret agent Fisher ends up in jail. But you would be quite naive if you were to think there’s no good reason for that: Sam will have to infiltrate the John Brown’s Army (aka JBA) to unravel their terrorist plans. The latter of course know nothing about the fact the spy is still employed by the NSA and only wants to make an end to their existence.
The storyline itself starts promising but it goes downhill as the game progresses. The ending, multiple depending on your choices along the road, however, is again rewarding. The feeling that remains though, is that the Splinter Cell games have little interesting left from the link with Tom Clancy. Why can’t they work out a deep and complex story?
Those looking for a lot of innovation in the singleplayer campaign will come back from a failed mission. Since Chaos Theory, the previous episoed, there’s little change and honestly, we aren’t angry about that. You’ve got the same moves and equipment, the same possibilities and again you need to sneak as quietly and secretly as possible through all kinds of surroundings and past all sorts of bodyguards and terrorists.
Getting discovered is again a guarantee for a quick death, failing a mission or in best case a loss of points. The recognisability doesn’t make the adrenaline pump less when you do a knife kill, or lure someone to the door to then crush his skull. The options are vast and the tutorial for newbies is more than welcome. The only really negative thing is the AI that really doesn’t feel next-gen and honestly is still as stupid as always.
Luckily there are other things that make Double Agent something else than an expansion pack. The new “Trust System” will suddenly confront you during missions with hard choices where you can either build credibility with the JBA or act according to NSA ethical principles. These moments come too unfrequent and they also don’t have enough impact on the progress of the story. The meter do succeed in encouraging you to play stealthy since being discovered leads to a loss of faith, and you take them to the next level. Don’t expect a revolution though, as Splinter Cell still remains… Splinter Cell and the JBA missions where you need to explore their base can’t change much about that.
The main missions are still of the so well-known and appreciated level. There’s plenty of variation with objectives to be gotten in amongst others a war-torn and sunlight bathing Kinshasa, on a oil tanker, a hotel in Shanghai and Iceland. Although you agani have the freedom to use weapons and bullets, I still feel you can only truly enjoy the game when abiding by the rules of the stealth game. Especially on higher difficulty, where you don’t get ammo at the start of a level, you’ll have to rely heavily on your stealth skills.
The melee skills are still as lethal as great to watch, while the shooting is rather disappointing and little exciting, but of course that speaks for itself in such a game. Action heroes looking for bloody shootouts are at the wrong address here.
Once done with the campaign it’s time for multiplay. The gameplay here reminds of the previous versions, with little teams of up to six people, but what gets noticed most is the increased speed of everything that happens. You get 10 different maps, and depending wich side you choose (spy or merc) you get a completely different experience. You’ll control mercs in first person while spies have to do it in third person view, firepower against subtlety so to speak.
The spies need to hack into terminals and download files while avoiding mercs. As said the speed is a lot higher, but most of the time you’ll be busy sneaking around and planning instead of shooting and jumping. Mercenaries have powerful weapons and can hit down spies as well as see when they’re hacking something on their mini-map. Spies on the other hand have new and quick moves, a ton of gadgets and of course the possibility to darken everything or get covered in smoke.
Nice is also that next to the ranked and unranked games you can also play in squads with your friends. A suggestion would be to play with your buddies in the dark.
The graphical quality of the Splinter Cell games has always been at high level and that’s no different now. However, they’re not leading the pack anymore on X360 as they once were on the original Xbox. The player models look good, the animations are well done, but not spectacular, and especially the light and shadow effects still steal the show. Let’s hope that Ubisoft by next time puts the line a little higher and again amazes us with astonishing graphics.
The same goes even more for the sound which still impresses a lot less than the graphics, without being bad. The soundtrack is dynamic and adjusts swiftly to the situation and luckily Michael Ironside is again present to make the voicing a masterpiece.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent has just enough innovation in story to not feel like an expansion pack. Especially the multiplayer gets a leap forward and will bring hours of fun to the would-by spy. The single player campaign is a decent piece of gameplay that is will finished and offers the typical Splinter Cell experience with a couple of extras like the daylight missions, the Trust Meters, unlockable gadgets and everything presented very well. Quality work as it should be but I for one am hoping for a bit more innovation in the campaign in Splinter Cell 5.