|System: PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SOE Seattle||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony Online Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Unlimited||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by James Ruffin
June 19, 2007 - Massive multiplayer online (MMO) games deal almost entirely in the realm of high fantasy. Whether in a Star Wars universe or one more reminiscent of the now classic Dungeons and Dragons theme, MMO games have found their niche and stuck with it. Until now. Sony Online Entertainment in Seattle, WA is developing what will be an MMO game that will redefine the genre.
Titled The Agency, the game is being developed for the Playstation 3 and PC and will put players in first person control of a covert operative in a contemporary, more realistic world of espionage. Gone are the sword and magic wielding characters that so inundate the MMO genre (yes, this is a first-person MMO shooter). The Agency will take place in a modern world, starting players off with their choice of being an operative with the Unite outfit, an outfit James Bond would approve of, and the Paragon outfit, an in-your-face, up front organization. From there, players will receive assignments (missions) for rewards and rank and skill increases (whose high level of variability and customization has been hinted at by SOE Seattle but not confirmed). Interestingly, missions will take place in what are called "instanced spaces." These spaces are created in the game world specifically for the players that undertake the missions. In other words, only you, as the player, will have access to this unique, parallel universe that was created just for you and your group. The final goal, however, is to leave your mother organization and start your own spy agency to compete for world domination. Seriously.
As players progress through The Agency they will have the chance to eradicate foes with a variety of kit and caboodle that would impress "Q" himself. They will blast enemies with shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles and submachine guns, call in vehicle support, and use a variety of specialized spy gear to their heart's content. Or they could be really creative and drive their cars off of tall structures and into a helicopters, or jump on a merry-go-round and spray machine gun fire in a dizzying, chaotic circle. Eventually, players will progress high enough to unlock the game's NPC operatives that will perform crafting functions such as weapon modifications and other types of support. Amusingly, these orders don't take place instantly; players will have to wait for their orders to be completed for varying amounts of time, depending on the request's complexity.
Player interactivity will be encouraged by the sheer variety of agents that can be created. When players face difficult challenges, they will find it necessary to recruit other fellow players who possess the skills that they lack. So, if you don't have the tools required to complete a task, whatever it may be, you'll have to ask around until you find someone who does. And as I've said, this all leads to the ultimate goal, World Domination Mode, in which players will maintain their own agencies consisting of other powerful players with which to challenge rival agencies. Unfortunately, little information has been released about this, the game's endgame. What I do know is that it will be heavy with Player vs. Player (PvP) action.
Complementing the instanced mission areas will be public spaces set around the modern world where players can interact on a variety of levels, from chatting socially to partying in-game to playing mini-games in towns like Prague in the Czech Republic. And before combat is undertaken, players will be able to switch between a dynamic set of player 'classes', unique in their skill sets and uniforms (or outfits). To date, these outfits consist of three types: The combat type (heavily geared for front line offensive play), the support type (with abilities to heal and hack enemy computer systems), and the stealth type which is the most specialized. What's unique about The Agency is that players can switch class types at will, depending on the needs of the challenges with which they are confronted. And as the players increase in skill and rank, they will unlock more and more specialized abilities and weapons. Don't be disheartened, however, for these outfit types are broad categories. Players will enjoy a high level of individual customization once they have chosen their broad, general playing style.
Little has been released that would divulge information about the game's graphics, save a couple of rendered screen captures, but from what I've seen it truly looks like it plays like a first person shooter. This could be a game that provides the first person action we all like with the depth and interactivity we are left wanting from traditional first person shooters. It is certainly a game that has captured my attention and I will follow its development with a keen eye. Much has yet to be revealed, so time will tell if SOE Seattle's unique, refreshing formula for the MMO genre lives up to expectations.
CCC Freelance Writer