Splinter Cell Double Agent ReviewCain Dornan
Sam Fisher: stealth expert, martial arts fanatic, body builder and the home to a sinister and cheeky personality. After starting somewhat of a phenomenon back on the original Xbox with the release of the stunning original Tom Clancys Splinter Cell, the franchise has grown into a multi-title release that continues to offer gamers the chance to satisfy the super secret agent terrorist-slaying desire that lies within many of us. While the core mechanics and overall feel of the game have changed little (which, in this case, is arguably a good thing), each new installment has continuously offered improvements and new features that make the game refreshing, yet also pleasingly familiar.
The jump onto the next-generation of consoles has seen surprisingly little change to the overall series; while the introduction of the trust meter for both sides (more on that later) adds some interesting decision-making elements to the game, the rest remains largely unchanged from previous installments. That is, apart from a new coat of paint, an improved online multiplayer mode and some new, very cool animations that makes busting terrorists arse with your bare hands ever the more satisfying.
As the name implies, Splinter Cell Double Agent will see you taking on the role of a two-timing secret agent: youll essentially be working for both the good guys and bad guys. After the opening mission sees your new spy recruit being caught and killed, Fisher is hit with further bad news when told of his daughters murder. With nothing to lose, and on the brink of insanity, Fisher agrees to tackle the most dangerous mission the NSA has offered him thus far: to befriend the enemy in aim of learning their evil plans to wreck havoc and chaos throughout the world.
To do this, the NSA throws you into prison: not because of what youve done, but to allow you to come into contact with one of the key members behind the latest crazed terrorist organization to rear their ugly heads. After showing off your skills in being able to bust him out of jail, youre recruited by the organization, known as the JBA, on a trial basis to see whether you are skilled and trustworthy enough to become a valued member.
From this point forward, youll spend your time completing missions for both the NSA and JBA. Particular missions will improve the trust of one organisation, while completing another or failing to do so will see their trust level deteriorate. The aim here is to balance your trust levels for each organisation, making you choose which missions to complete and which to ignore or sabotage in order to keep the trust levels in check.
The inclusion of the trust meter and working for the two different groups is the most major new inclusion to the gameplay. Despite teaming with the darker side, the missions play out very similarly to what you would have undertaken for the NSA, albeit in an opposite fashion. Instead of locating and disarming a bomb, for example, when working for the JBA youll be locating an appropriate location and arming the bomb. Most of the gameplay remains relatively unchanged from previous Splinter Cell installments, apart from some minor changes and additions.
There is, however, one new interesting inclusion that pops up at various stages throughout the game. Incorporating the games focus on trust, this new inclusion forces you to make moral decisions that challenge you to see if youre siding with the JBA or NSA. Such choices include choosing whether to kill a hostage or save him, or whether to allow a bomb on a large cruise ship carrying some two thousand people to be detonated or sabotage the operation, rendering the bomb useless. These choices not only affect the level of trust youll incur from both sides, but also affect how the ending sequences of the game will pan out. There are a total of three different endings to be had, each changing depending on the choices and actions that you took during the game, of which takes about eight hours to complete on the first run-through.
The series interesting multiplayer mode returns, allowing you to battle as either a stealthy, acrobatic spy or as a heavily armored guard online with up to six players per game. There are two teams to choose from: a sneaky spy, who plays homage to improved flexibility, agility and some added cool maneuvers that Sam Fisher could only dream of, while the other team chooses to play as an armored, machine-gun totting guard. The aim of the game is for the spies to infiltrate a location and retrieve information from scattered data points, all the while avoiding the bullets and explosions from the guards who must prevent the spies from succeeding in their mission. Its an interesting concept to say the least, with each of the sides sporting their own unique abilities and gadgets. Unfortunately, the fun factor of the multiplayer mode seems to die quickly, leaving the lifespan of the games multiplayer component fairly limited.
The Splinter Cell series has always been well known for its outstanding graphics and overall presentation, with the latest in the series being no exception. The game offers some superb lighting effects, character models and environment designs, all offering pleasing high detail and accuracy to the real thing. Theres little that disappoints with the games visuals, with only the occasional lower-detailed and slightly blurry environment texture disappointing slightly. The character models are impressive on all levels, in particular Fisher himself, offering some outstanding detail and realistic animation that impresses. The game offers a fair number of different environments that youll be making your way through, each intricately detailed, helping to keep the game feeling varied throughout.
Unfortunately, we cant help but be slightly disappointed with the over usage of identical looking enemies that youll encounter throughout the game. It isnt always immediately noticeable from a distance, but once you grab them for interrogation it becomes immediately noticeable that many of the enemies in certain areas look identical. It dampens the experience slightly, as after youve grabbed the same looking guy at four different points in a single stage, you cant help but feel the realistic level of the game dropping slightly.
The games sound features re-used sound effects from previous titles in the series, but also features some solid voice acting that backs the personality and appearance of each of the games characters.
Although Sam Fishers latest adventure doesnt revolutionise the tried-and-true gameplay that Splinter Cell Double Agent offers, what we are offered here is an enjoyable and very solid gameplay experience that is presented in full next-generation technology. The game offers outstanding graphics, good sound and solid gameplay that offers an engaging storyline and decision-making process, backed with a reasonably good online multiplayer component that should keep most fans satisfied for a short while. If youre a fan of Fishers outings so far, Double Agent is more than worthy of a purchase.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.