Splinter Cell is a gaming series that never fails to impress and the likes of Chaos Theory and Pandora Tomorrow kept gamers wanting more from Ubisoft each and every year. So now we come to Sam Fisher’s first ever venture into the world of a next-generation console in Splinter Cell: Double Agent. We can only hope that Ubisoft have made this game even better than the already awesome Chaos Theory. Have they managed in that task? Read on to find out.
First of all there’s the storyline and like all Tom Clancy titles you can actually follow what is going on as the game progresses and you will get attached to certain characters and dislike a few others too. Your decisions will shape the outcome of the game for you. Will you be the good guy and do as the NSA say? Will you be prepared to simply use your stealth and hope by the end of the mission you are still alive? Or will you take the side of the JBA and use your brute force instead of your stealth, your ruthlessness instead of your cunning and will you manage to fulfil your need for blood, freedom and carnage? Either way you will have to make a choice and that is left in the hand’s of the player.
Firstly I would recommend that you do the two training missions, they are simple and any novice will be able to complete the levels, but once you complete them you will at least have some understanding of the games control setup. If you go into the first mission guns blazing, then your chances of surviving will be slim and you will be dead before you know it..
Once the training is out of the way you are ready to serve your country and the first assignment sees you babysitting a less able agent in a routine observation mission of a military factory in Iceland. If you are a follower of Splinter Cell then you will know that routine isn’t in the games vocabulary and sure enough, what starts out as routine ends up a terrible mess. Firstly the guy you were babysitting gets into a right pickle and it is you who must go in and stop a nuclear warhead from launching (routine or what!). In this first mission you get to see one of Sam’s new tricks which is breaking through ice and dragging enemies down into the icy water, you can also chuck people out of windows, over ledges and the customary neck breaking fun, but more on that later. Once you’ve blown the missile up you are extracted in a rather bad mood and things get worse as you are told your daughter has been in a car accident and has died shorty after. In comes Lambert who starts a rather enthralling narration on how you went from the top of your spy game to a gibbering loony. Sam takes his daughters death hard (I mean who wouldn’t) and deciding that he has nothing to live for he goes and signs up for the Third Echelon’s toughest mission and so begins the real game.
Your find yourself locked away, but not for any crimes you’ve committed but instead to go undercover and gain the trust of The John Brown Army. Your first mission is to spring a member of the JBA from jail and he will then take you to his hideout and that’s where the fun begins. Once in the JBA hideout you will be given tasks like try to hack into a safe but you will be given a tight time limit. Now once you’ve done what the JBA have asked you to do you will then have a good few minutes left before your mentor returns and in that time you will be asked, nay… ordered by the NSA to undergo certain tasks like getting JBA medical records, downloading bomb codes, hacking into servers and so on and so forth.
The above mission I wouldn’t class as a true mission because it is more of a fact finding lesson and you will have to do it a couple of times throughout the game. The real fun comes when you have to jet off to take over oil tankers or defuse bombs. A few missions in you will find yourself trying to control a helicopter that has gone into a deadly nosedive. You then transport your JBA colleague to top of a Chinese skyscraper and in one of the most breathtaking levels in the game, you will find yourself para-sailing down the sides of the building with the wind battering at your sides and rain hitting your face. What’s more you have to deal with helicopters and countless guards and its levels like these where you don’t have to use stealth as much. You will actually feel the adrenaline surging through your body as you try to walk across the outside of the drenched building trying to slowly get away from the searchlights and the same goes for the rest of the levels in Double Agent. One reason a lot of people don’t like the Splinter Cell series is the fact that stealth was the only answer, but if you like your guns then you still have a good chance of completing the various levels in the game.
Once a mission has finished one of two things happen, firstly your trust rating will go up and down depending on your actions. For example if the NSA have told you not to harm any guards and you instead kill them all the NSA are going to be a tad pissed and not trust you as much. The same goes for the JBA, if you forget to kill a certain person they will be annoyed and not trust you. The second thing is that you will be scored on your performance, so if you’re sported, if the alarm is raised or if you’re shot the score will go down (I managed to get -128 on one level), but if you manage to remain unscathed and you take out the target efficiently and complete the mission with no one seeing or hearing you then you get lots of points and you will be the teacher’s pet of the NSA or JBA.
At first I thought I wouldn’t care about my score, but like the 360 achievements you just have to get the highest total you possibly can. You will end up saving every three steps just to get those three extra points for your score. Even better is that you will be rewarded for certain sub-missions … i.e ‘Infiltrate the Hotel without any alerts’ is one of many star missions. If you don’t alert anyone of your presence then you will get a cool gadget like a new grenade’s, bullet types or even gun’s.
Since were on the subject of guns we will move onto Sam’s rather large arsenal of gadgets. You have your guns, which is the trusty SC-20K which is a precision automatic machine gun, although the feeling you get from listening to that little ping of your silenced pistol and you watch as the body in front of you slumps to the floor is simply priceless. You also have voice recorders, sticky grenades which have the ability to gas enemies and shock them, you have flash bangs, smoke grenades and the list goes on. Not forgetting your trusty knife and much like the pistol it just sounds so 007 when you hear the fabric tearing as you plunge your little dagger into the enemy’s heart.[Ouch, medic! -Ed]
Probably the most improved part of the game has to be the multiplayer because many did not like the days of Chaos Theory and 2 on 2 shoot outs but this new version has been made that little bit easier and by god Ubisoft have cracked it. There is only one gametype available and that is a 2v2 or 3v3 match between Upsilon forces (aka. Mercs) and Spies. Now the spies must hack into the various data terminals located around the numerous maps and download information then return it to their base. The Upsilon soldiers must … well kill the the spies to put it simply. The Spies do have a little mini arsenal and can choose to take a syringe (to heal yourself), a jammer (to make an echo location of yourself), a flash bang (blinds enemies) and finally smoke grenades to screen your escape. Now spies have no weapons to rely on, which I think is great as it balances the game, but they can still knock the Mercs out by jumping on them or they can come from behind and break their twig like necks. You will also be able to look really cool and lure the Mercs to to ledges and throw them of railings, windows and whatever else you can use.
Of course the Mercs have a lot of stuff to stop the spies dead in their tracks. Not only do they have a machine gun (which is very loud) which can convert into a sniper rifle and you can also change your rifle into a grenade launcher as well. Mercenaries also have a drone which can act as a floating grenade and kill spies in places you cannot manage to get to. Mercs can also do a melee attack and a charge forward to knock out the opponents and even a rather nifty headbutt too. Finally if all that wasn’t enough they also have a motion sensor which will tell them how far away they are from the spies, no matter where they go.
There are quite a few maps available including Blackwing, Motorway 90, Boss House, Slaughterhouse and few others. Hopefully, all being well, more maps will become available on the Marketplace after the launch and we are hoping they won’t slap a ridiculous price tag on them.
Currently the game suffers a bit of lag from time to time, but it’s not actually that often and for the most part runs as smooth as silk. Ubisoft have in fact already released a patch, although as of yet we have no clue what it’s for. For anyone thinking the idea of soldier’s vs spies is pointless well shame on you, shame on you, for Double Agent takes such a simple gametype and makes it unbelievably addictive and tense.
Graphically the game is unbelievable, who would have thought ten years ago we would have games that look as good as this? You can make out everything from Sam’s throbbing head veins to the wonderful view of the Icy Tundra as you scout around. It does truly look next gen, I mean its actually bordering on lifelike it really is that good. The graphical jump from Pandora to Chaos was immense and the same goes for this. The cut scenes look sublime, the enemies just look so kill-able, and the surroundings look simply beautiful I could just kiss my TV. [Watch out for static! -Ed]
The multiplayer doesn’t fail the game either with the spies looking beautifully crafted and the various bullet trails looks very swish. What’s even better is looking at an exploded grenade in your death screen; I mean if that doesn’t look awesome I don’t know what does. The lighting and textures look unreal. The way Sam can simply slip in and out of shadow and the sublime colours in the China level from the fireworks truly make for an amazing game. I mean if they can do this now, what in the world will the next one look like? It’s just scary thinking about it.
Audio wise there isn’t anything better then sticking this game on 5.1 surround sound you will be dribbling with delight as you hear each gunshot ricochet round your room and the silent crack of an Upsilon neck sounds just as breathtaking. The game can tell perfectly between metal, concrete, snow, grass and wet surfaces, all of which have their own unique sound and feel. Even the sound of Sam breaking a hole in the ice sound amazing. They’ve even given the drone its own little sound although I wouldn’t get to close or you might end up 6 feet under. All in all the game sounds unbelievable, much like the graphics it is hard to find a fault…anywhere. The only problem would be not everyone will be happy with the multiplayer changes since many loved Chaos Theory and the idea that their tactics wont work will upset a few fans. Things have to change and Double Agent changes for the better.
The new Splinter Cell is without a doubt the best game in the series. With a fresh new multiplayer which is both addictive and unbelievably fun and a campaign mode with all new twists and turns to keep you occupied. Just the multiplayer will keep you hooked for weeks on end, but if that’s not enough then the fact that the game has three alternate endings may get you going through the story one more time. Graphically it’s truly stunning and if anything this has to be one of if not the best game to hit the 360 thus far, it really is. My advice to you is buy it, not tomorrow or on the weekend, but NOW.
Originally Written By: Lee Matthews