Review by NWalterstorf

"A compelling story told through a truly dynamic experience."

I'll be the first person to admit that I wasn't always a fan of Splinter Cell. For various reasons, the earlier entries didn't just do it for me. Granted I only played two of them, I felt that the series could have used a lot of work. With the Xbox version of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, my entire opinion on this franchise has changed. It's sparked a new interest in me for the whole series. Needless to say, this game has me anxiously awaiting the next entry in the series.

Tom Clancy's Insignia

At first, the game appears to be the typical Tom Clancy affair. Terrorists threatening the world, and you have to stop them. While this form of plot is definitely a convention when it comes to the genre of suspense intrigue, I don't believe too many games are able to deliver the story quite like how Splinter Cell: Double Agent does. Starting off in typical spy affair, the story takes off like a rocket following the first mission in the game. It is then when the story truly begins; things have changed, gone wrong. A man has lost his soul, and must put everything on the line for the sake of the world.

Compelling story is delivered through wonderful pacing. Each time you fulfill an important objective and move on to the next scene, the plot thickens, the case widens, everything changes and other choices open up for you. Depending on your choices in the game, you will be presented with multiple endings. Will you try your best to work for the enemy and keep your cover, or will you rouse suspicion by your choices and actions?

Ethical Dilemmas are present during the course of the game, forcing you to make history altering decisions. Questions of morality will resonate within your head far after you put the controller down. If this were to happen to you in real life, would you be able to make the decision you did? Will you be able to make these difficult choices in real life should you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place? The questions of ethics riddle the mind.

Perhaps nothing is better at presenting this dynamic form of story-telling than the main characters themselves. Sam Fisher's body language and acting shows the results of the game's nerve-wracking reality. Certain decisions will leave Sam wrecked, certain events will push he and the player to their very limits. There is no easy decision for the player, and Sam certainly reflects that.

On the lighter side, the game continues to draw it's players into the characters through the dialogue. Several grins came across my face as I listened to some of Sam's conversations. His exchanges with Lambert, his witty one-liners, and even the interrogations when an unsuspecting guard. “Tag, you're it.” Filling the cast of characters are other unique personalities. Lambert, Jamie, for two. Each one distinct, each one filling their roles perfectly. The colorful casts performs well with the story; not one other person could be replaced by anyone else and perform that position just as well as these actors do.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent's story excels at what Tom Clancy does most. Tell riveting, powerful stories which leave the mind in wonder. Ubisoft does well baring the Tom Clancy insignia.

Psychological Mediation

Nothing can make a well-told story fall flat that poor directing on atmosphere. Atmosphere is there to compliment the story. Perhaps no other artistic direction and media form could compliment the plot any further. The music comes at various points: when the action picks up - such as when you're spotted - dynamic music comes in. It adds further tension to an all-ready unnerving situation. The music when noticed will create a stir within you upon being discovered, heightening an already intense situation. Cut scenes are heightened by a dramatic flair upon certain cut scenes. There are no cheery “soda pop and cherries” theme when you enter a “safe town.” Every part of this game, from start to finish, wants to keep you on that edge of distortion.

Light tapping comes from Sam's boots hitting the floor as he trudges atop sensitive floors. The slightest noise will give away Sam's position, the tiniest wrong movement could create a sound which sends four guards on a bee-line for your position. Wracking off a bullet from a silenced pistol creates a sense of suddenness, a sense of immediate closure as your enemy's body hit's the ground. A blast of bullets will produce a sharp yet short sound, closing a sudden engagement with the enemy. Not only was the music well fitted to the emotional feel of the game, but the very sound effects themselves force you to lose yourself into the game's reality.

It entraps you. There is no stock sound here. No sound effects were thrown in at random just to add icing to the cake of this game's presentation. Instead, the sound effects compliment the game just as much as the music. Instead of being mere icing to an already sweet cake, the atmosphere of this game is an essential ingredient to an already delicious cake.

The graphics are impressive. I have no tendency to hyper-claustrophobia, but some of the game's dark, enclosed environments are enough to invoke a form of claustrophobia in anyone. And for good reason. You won't find ill-inspired or mundane environments here. Level design is sharp. Sometimes the key to progression is that little space between the staircase which leads to another path, or even an entrance to a crawl space will lead to where you need to be a little faster, or via a different route all together. Showing no slacking off whatsoever, every area in the game presents you with different opportunity to clear it's location. Throughout the entire game, brilliant level design will be one of the key elements of your mission.

On tip-toes

As before, the sneaking in this game as executed well. Bits have been improved, opening up different methods of accessing certain locations and fulfilling certain objectives. But why fix a formula that is not broken? The game play is fine. Through fine movements, I've snuck across environments without even being seen. Keeping my movements as slow as possible, I managed to sneak around guards who were holding a conversation. In a sudden moment, I bashed open a door and exchanged gunfire with two enemies. At another time, I found myself hanging from a ledge at the edge of a platform and pulling an enemy off to his death. I even stuck a mini-camera on a wall to see around the corner; then, discovering an enemy near the camera, I made a noise to lure them to the camera, then pressed a button to unleash a gas from the camera.

Beautifully executed, the game play is addicting an suspenseful. I found myself repeating certain missions just for the sheer pleasure of completing them once again. The improved control of your character gives the game another plus. Doing a split jump between two walls is as easy as facing a wall and pressing a button, contrasted as with the earlier titles where you had to perform a tricky button combination (I don't think I ever pulled it off before).

The beautiful of the game play comes with the abilities Sam is granted. A found myself chuckling evilly with glee as Sam snuck up behind two guards, put one in a headlock, shot the other, then interrogated the guard he held. The beauty of such tactics are impressive. Sam Fisher is no sissy in his long list of abilities. Earlier yet, I found myself interrogating a guard, then plunging him down to his death through a puddle over ice. Each location in the game gives you options to take down your opponents. In one mission, I bash open a door and exchanged gunfire with two enemies. In another play through of that exact same area, I slowly opened the door, then planted a sticky shocker on one guard, then delivered a knockout knee to the other enemy.

Another point which adds to a factor of the game play is your ability to make choices during cut scenes. Some choices in the game are small, only changing your trust meter - a meter which weighs your trust between two organizations - and some choices are large, having a permanent impact on the story. The most drastic aspect of these choices is that you, the player, have a direct effect over which choice Sam's make. You will have to assess the choices carefully, then decide the outcome of the situation.

Objectives Completed

This entry into the Splinter Cell delivers powerful story-telling through dynamic game play. With such varied choices in the game, it warrants multiple play-through's. Because of its semi-non-linearity, Splinter Cell: Double Agent invites the player to enjoy the game's experience more than once. With silky smooth controls, a terrific story and perfect plot pacing, Double Agent delivers a great stealth action experience. It's well worth the money you put down on the game, as the single player and multiplayer warrant a full purchase. Recommended to all fans of the stealth action genre, Splinter Cell: Double Agent will leave you anxiously awaiting the next entry in this fine series.

The Good:
+ Intriguing story
+ Powerful, dynamic story actions
+ Simple control interface complimenting a deep game play engine
+ Perfect atmosphere

The Bad:
- At moments, things get too slow, but these moments are few

The best one-liner:
- “Tag, you're it.”

Splinter Cell: Double Agent for the Xbox console.
10/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/23/07


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