More “Chaos” than “Pandora”, Double Agent on the Cube has some rough spots, but utlimately comes out alright.
Like Sam Fisher himself, Splinter Cell: Double Agent for the current gen consoles (PS2, Xbox, GC, PC) has been shrouded in darkness and secrecy. Most of us, game journalists included, expected these versions to be scaled down replicas of the X360 game since they all sport the same title, box art and plotlines. Appearances can be deceiving however and it is with great pleasure that I inform you that the current gen and next gen iterations of Double Agents are almost entirely different games. And lest you be disappointed because you love Splinter Cell but don’t own an Xbox 360, I’m here to tell you that the current gen versions actually stand above the next gen game, in terms of playability, design and plot, but naturally can’t compete in the graphics dept.
The plot of Double Agent involves the death of Fisher’s daughter, which alters the course of Fisher’s personal and professional lives. Completely devestated, Fisher accepts a dangerous mission to infiltrate a terrorist organization called John Brown’s Army. To do this, he must go to prison and enter the shadowy realm of the underworld from the core. As the game progresses, Fisher will have to balance his allegiance between the JBA and the NSA which comes into play via the Trust meter. Existing as a Double Agent and balancing between the two is interesting and allows for some experimentation.. Each level features objectives Fisher will have to meet to keep up appearances with the organisation the level is developed around. Every so often Fisher will have to make a decision that will impact either alliance – depending on what choices are made will impact the endings the player will receive at the end of the game.
While the core plot elements are the same, I found that playing through the current gen versions tended to fill in the plot holes that were glossed over on the Xbox 360 (and occasionally vice versa). Whether this was intentional or not (I’m assuming they weren’t) I found it very interesting that playing both versions gave me a better insight to the overall storyline. So you know what I’m going to suggest, right? Play both games if you can.
For any fans who have enjoyed the series right through to last year’s Chaos Theory, the current gen Double Agent will instantly feel familiar. Those joining Mr. Fisher for the first time or those whom require a brush up, will have the benefit of being taken through one of the most well-designed and thorough training levels ever created. It’s a wonder why this wasn’t done before.. The first level will accurately show via movies and execution, how to use everything at your disposal properly. Sorry X360 owners, you miss out on this excellent feature as the X360 training levels are convoluted at best. Once the action gets underway, Fisher will stalk enemies in the shadows, making sure to keep an eye on his light meter – another area missing in action on the X360. Where the current gen version sticks to the rules every SC fan has taken as gospel since the first game, such as stay hidden, hug the shadows, use cool gadgets, slow and steady wins the race and all that, the X360 version throws some of these elements completely out the window thanks to daylight missions, rare reliance on gadgets etc. I’m not suggesting evolution of the genre is a bad thing, but Fisher, like Batman, is a character who is far more believable in the dark. If you are looking for a traditional Splinter Cell game, you’ll find it on the current gen consoles. If you are looking for something enhanced over Chaos Theory, I’m afraid you’ll really find just more of the same. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, is going to be up to you.
Even though the primary mode is single-player, Fisher will occasionally team up with an AI partner. These levels are quite good and the AI partners function very well. It’s amazing to see how far AI programming has evolved and progressed within the last generation of consoles. If you’re itching to tackle co-op with a friend, the Xbox version is your best bet with co-op levels that specifically reference the single player mode missions rather than being extensions of the multiplayer game which we saw in the 360 version. Playing split-screen co-op allows for two players to pull off moves together such as wallclimbing and even dual interrogation. Multiplayer online takes a step backwards unfortunately and removes the Mercenary vs. Spy in favor of Spy vs. Spy (my apologies to Mad Magazine). The PS2 version features two exclusive modes – Disk Hunt and Survival, while the Xbox antes up with 3 player head to head goodness.