|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, X, PC. GC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal / Shanghai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Released: Oct 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by D'Marcus||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by DMarcus Beatty
There arent many gamers who dont know the name of Sam Fisher. As the more realistic alternative to Solid Snake, Sam Fisher has been the dark prince of stealth action games since his debut on Xbox many years ago. While the Splinter Cell games have always been great titles, one of the major complaints of the series has been a lack of a compelling storyline. The latest iteration of the Splinter Cell series, appropriately named Double Agent, finally addresses this issue and gives gamers what can easily be considered the best Splinter Cell adventure yet.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent takes covert operative Sam Fisher on one of his most dangerous missions to date. Sam must gain and maintain the trust of John Browns army, a very dangerous terrorist organization. As he infiltrates their ranks, he must juggle completing objectives from both the NSA and JBA, and sometimes these orders conflict and players are forced to make a choice.
The game begins with a training mission wherein Sam loses his cocky and impulsive partner in training. Immediately following the completion of the mission, Sam learns that he has lost his daughter. This sets Fisher into a downward spiral which ends with him taking this dangerous assignment as a double agent within the JBA. While the story is fairly well done, the player doesnt get to feel the emotional impact as much as expected as the game begins in earnest with a jail break after Sam has already gained enough trust with a member of the JBA. We dont get to spend much time in prison or with a depressed Fisher, as when the game starts hes all business again, albeit a little darker than before.
One excellent addition to the gameplay is that the gamer actually gets to play out the infiltration method. This includes swimming under frozen lakes to reach goals or parachuting. This method really helps to bring the player into the game world, as you dont feel that youre just being dumped into mission after mission. Also, Ubisoft replaced the text menu of Sams actions with a visual cue, so that now when you want to open a door, youll see an icon of a door opening instead of the text box that let you choose how to open the door. There are also no onscreen indicators of Sams life a la Fight Night 3, so you must tell how close to death Sam is by a reddening field around the screen. Both of these elements also help make the experience more immersive.
As usual with the Splinter Cell series, the graphics are very well done. Sam animates with lifelike precision. When the camera pulls in too close, however, his facial features are a bit lifeless; a minor complaint compared to the stunning environments and detailed character models. The camera also does a fairly good job except for a few instances where it comes in too close when Sam attempts certain actions.
The use of the conflicting objectives adds a new element of choice to the gameplay. Both the NSA and the JBA have different levels of trust that are gained and lost through the completion of objectives. If you are able to complete JBA objectives, you gain trust with their organization. This works fairly well, especially in the missions at the JBA headquarters. During these missions, the NSA tasks Fisher with gaining info and the JBA wants Fisher to prove himself. There are restricted areas that Fisher will have to enter if he wishes to complete NSA objectives, but being caught in these zones by the JBA is a trust penalty. For a number of these, it is possible to please everyone, but sometimes the goals are mutually exclusive and Fisher must choose one or the other. Completing certain objectives gives Sam access to new weaponry and gadgets, while losing too much trust with the JBA gives Sam less access to the headquarters, which makes his NSA objectives more difficult.
There is also much less focus on the darkness this time around. Fisher has to sneak around in well lit areas this time around, which forces him to time his creeping when enemies have turned around or have moved away. More often and unrealistically, enemies will announce their intentions to move away, so Sam can just time his movements. This is much more exhilarating than creeping through the darkness, as players know that an NPC simply turning around can doom Fisher. While there is still some hiding in darkness, there is a lot more emphasis on Sam hiding in plain sight this time.
The single biggest addition to this Splinter Cell is the inclusion of a story. All previous Splinter Cells had political storylines that most gamers didnt care about and were thinly veiled excuses to move Sam from mission to mission. This experience on the whole feels more cohesive. While Sam is still bounced around from mission to mission, players feel more connected to Sam and his objectives now. The infiltration parts help this immensely. There are also scripted moments that require Sam to make a difficult moral decision. The first of these asks Sam if he would kill an innocent man to maintain his cover and gain JBA trust. These choices get more and more difficult as the game progresses. All of these different elements combine to make the storyline much more compelling. While the story probably could have been done better in certain parts (such as letting us gain the initial trust in prison or including Sams grief over his daughter more prominently) it is done better than any previous Splinter Cell.
Splinter Cell also has a super-friendly save system. The game saves for you at certain checkpoints and the player can save the game at any point anywhere. Most gamers will get used to the stop and go save mentality, pausing to save every time that a new guard in incapacitated or Fisher successfully creeps into a new area without being seen. This can be a double edged sword as it makes the game much easier and much slower paced, but balances the Splinter Cell flaw that you cant always tell when youve made a mistake or which enemies saw Fisher do what.
On top of the excellent Splinter Cell game, there is the critically acclaimed multiplayer mode. The mercs versus spies makes its much anticipated return to the series and its debut on the 360. This time around, Ubisoft has upped the number of players from four to six, and has made the game more beginner-friendly. Mercs again protect terminals from stealthy spies in Ubisofts rendition of Capture the Flag. As before, mercs are heavily armed and played from the first person perspective and spies are lithe and nimble and played from third person. The mercs have lost a lot of their gadgets in favor of heavy firepower this time, so spies dont have to worry about tripwires and other traps. As always, the multiplayer shines and is almost worth the price of admission by itself.
Tom Clancys Splinter Cell: Double Agent is a step in the right direction for the series. Although there arent many significant changes to the gameplay, the game still feels more exhilarating and more immersive because of the improved visuals, better storyline, lack of darkness, and the moral choices Sam if forced to make.
By D'Marcus Beatty
CCC Freelance Writer
Sam Fisher is about to embark on his most dangerous mission ever: Self examination.by Vaughn Smith
Forget James Bond. He's too "pretty boy". Video game heroes like Solid Snake and Splinter Cell's Sam Fisher have introduced the youth of today to an older, more grizzled and grounded character. Ask Sam Fisher how much tail he's getting during a mission or how often he stops for a beverage; shaken, stirred or whatever. Fans of Ubi Soft's stealth mega-hit series are about to see how low a beloved character can go in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Hint: It ain't pretty.
Story: The game is set shortly after the events of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. While on a mission, Sam learns that his daughter, Sarah, has been killed by a drunk driver. Overcome with depression, he is unable to concentrate on the operation and is pulled out by his superior, Colonel Irving Lambert. After many months, the broken Sam Fisher begs for another mission to distract himself from his grief. Lambert reluctantly agrees and offers him a mission as an NOC (Nonofficial cover) agent. These agents comprise CIA and NSA agents who infiltrate organised crime, and are used for HUMINT purposes. As with similar organisations, the US Government denies any involvement. Sam becomes a notorious criminal by staging many bank robberies and a mock body count - a scheme set by the NSA to explore the motivations of a domestic terrorist group known as John Brown's Army (JBA). Sam finally surrenders after a three day Hostage crisis and is sent to Ellsworth Prison. He is thrown into the same cell as a JBA member, named Jamie Washington, and with his cooperation, they break out of prison.
Once the two escaped, Jamie offered Sam an invitation into the JBA. Sam accepted. As part of the JBA, Sam must complete objectives to gain their trust as well as complete NSA objectives. The decisions he will have to make will be increasingly difficult as you progress through the game. Will you kill an innocent hostage and save millions? Gain the JBA's trust but fail an NSA objective?
At this time, Double Agent is due to be released sometime in September 2006.
CCC Site Director