Splinter Cell: Double Agent Review

The Splinter Cell franchise is one of those few cross-platform series that always improves after every installment. While maintaining its standard action/stealth gameplay roots along with a solid and fun multiplayer component, the game series blossomed into one of the most popular and exciting franchises ever. In the months building up to the game’s release, teasers on the game’s website hinted at Sam Fisher’s spiral into depression after the death of his daughter. Now that Splinter Cell: Double Agent is available, you’ll be fully thrust into the world that is Fisher. The game adds some new thrills to the single player portion while highlighting more enjoyments into the multiplayer. But there are some lingering bugs in the single player that docked the score; nonetheless, it’s still a fun time.

Fisher spirals into the "good guy turns bad" storyline after his daughter’s death. After Lambert tells him the news, he pulls Fisher out of doing any NSA jobs for six months until Fisher accepts an undercover gig of infiltrating the radical John Brown’s Army group. Lambert relays the news to Fisher and after a very brief cutscene, the game skips ahead six months and you don’t see any of the emotional trauma Fisher (presumably) goes through, minus very brief flashbacks. These kinds of things detract from the immersion but the variety of missions make-up for that.

The visuals are absolutely beautiful. With the introduction of daytime missions, you won’t be shielding your eyes to avoid the sunlight; in-fact you’ll want to peer out of the shadows to just look at the wonderful visuals. The enhanced Unreal Engine 2.5 used in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory takes center stage as you trot across varied locations including a cruise ship, a hotel in Shanghai, and a prison. Slick animations make the smooth transition from the Xbox 360 to the PC, along with the sweet lighting and plenty of normal and texturing mappings. Combined with bright HDR sunrises while on a cruise ship sailing around Mexico, or the bright flairs of fireworks exploding in Shanghai, you won’t be less than impressed about the visuals.

Still sticking to the classic formula, DA brings a little more into the fold. With a few new moves and gameplay tweaks, Fisher is armed to the fullest. Swimming, for example, is finally added and it’s implemented rather tastefully into the game. In a nice visual tweak, the camera drips after you emerge from the water and Fisher leaves behind some wet footprints. In terms of moves, Fisher can use a striking attack while perched from a corner and while swimming; Sam can drag a hapless fool to his doom. Other additions include more mini-games from the earlier titles; lock picking and computer hacking make their appearance again in DA, but Fisher can now crack safes, build mines and defuse bombs.

The biggest inclusion to the game is the trust system. Once you get to the third level, you’ll be doing jobs for the JBA and NSA at the same time. But all the decision-making is up to you. Do you have the will to kill a helpless hostage to gain trust for the JBA, or do you let him live for the NSA? Regardless, whatever you choose will affect your trust for either group. After each "stealth" level, you’ll be back at the JBA headquarters where you’re given 20 minutes or so to complete various jobs for the two groups. You don’t have to do any of these jobs, but if you’re lacking some trust, this is the time to bring it back up. For the NSA, you’ll be doing some background spying by recording voices to get past some locks, while for the JBA, you’ll be doing your training for some upcoming mission. Note that if you completely lose all the trust for either group, the game ends.

Audio gets the big-ups, too. Never have I heard a punch sound so vicious. Perched in the dark, the second you grab the helpless victim from the corner you’ll immediately hear and feel the chest chop that levels the fool, and hear his groans as Fisher brings him around and locks him in a choke hold. Michael Ironside and Don Jordan return as their respectful roles of Fisher and Lambert. Renowned Canadian composer Michael McCann makes his video game debut, handling all the music in the game.

The PC/Xbox 360 version only gets one multiplayer mode, where players are put on opposing teams to face off against each other. The Spies of Third Echelon are required to retrieve two files from computers while avoiding the Mercenaries of Upsilon Force who are there to protect them. The Spies have a variety of acrobatic moves and numerous gadgets while the mercenaries are the standard run and gun foes. For example, the Spies’ wrist computer can be used to manipulate the environment, from turning off lights, opening doors to malfunctioning the mercenaries’ lights or vision modes.

No game is perfect, and DA is no exception. I found that cracking safes ceased to work in every level following the initial training level; many other players experienced the same bug. Other bugs/weird things I found included: being able to search a cabinet right through the floor, picking locks was a little twitchy, some recurring sounds, saved games not ordered correctly and until a recent patch, unlockables on the PC version weren’t…unlockable.

Double Agent offers a whole new sha-bang in the stealth genre. It provides plenty of glorious visuals, the audio is top-notch and the missions are pretty damn fun. There’s plenty of fun to be had while playing the game, and if you like stealth action titles then this game should be in your library.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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