Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent
Review by Archmonk Iga
"Sam's most enticing mission yet, Double Agent unfortunately relies more on trial and error than on stealth."
I am really pissed off right now. I just finished playing this game called Splinter Cell: Double Agent. I was really excited to play it because I'm like the biggest SC fan in the world. I spent five dollars on DA. It was not worth it.
Perhaps the best part of Sam's new mission is that he has become a double agent. After a terrible tragedy in Fisher's life, the NSA has asked him to go to jail to get on the good side of an American terrorist organization known as the JBA. Once he's in, he's got to make difficult choices to keep his rock-solid reputation with the NSA while at the same time maintain the JBA's trust. In the end, Sam may either destroy the JBA from the inside out or betray the country he has devoted his life to protect.
This is a cool concept. Really, it's pretty sweet. But Sam and Lambert are the only returning characters, and they are also the only good characters (Lambert's actually kind of an unappreciative ass this time around, but hey). Well okay, Washington is pretty intriguing, but after the beginning he's barely even there. Enrica is a stereotypical "sensitive woman with morality issues" regarding her work, while Emile is the take-no-prisoners villain. Boooring. And what's with the game advertising how every little choice and mission will affect the outcome of the game? There are three subtly different ways the story could branch off in any considerable way. You can skip most of the missions and just go for the goal in each level, because none of them even matter.
Sigh... at least we still have you, Sam. At least we still have you.
The graphics are very similar to the old console versions of SC, only with somewhat better textures. And that's about it--the textures. And even they ain't perfect. Sam's movements are pretty much identical to before--human enough, but still a bit clunky. The facial expressions and lip movements are also very weak. This wouldn't be so bad if this wasn't on a next-gen console like the 360, but it is on the 360. Not to mention the frequent slowdown, which occurs even when there's nothing going on.
To be fair, some of the effects are sweet. The Congo is complete mayhem with trucks exploding and citizens triggering landmines and buses crashing, while the Shanghai hotel has some super cool lighting and art. Not to mention the overall lighting effects throughout the whole game, which are still quite impressive (though a bit unrealistic).
Thankfully, the voice acting is great. Okay glad that's settled.
The music is worse than before, if only because it becomes quite distracting. We hear that "warning" sound that triggers the intense "bum-badda-bum-badda-bum" beat to kick in, even when we're not doing anything. It's okay when it fades in when we're about to sneak up on an enemy, but a lot of the time it just decides to start playing because some guard found the lights turned off five rooms previous.
Another problem was with me not being able to hear the characters speak. It was often because the music or background noise is too loud. Sometimes, there is an interesting conversation going on between guards that I'd like to listen to, while at the same time Enrica is telling me the next step in the mission. Can't someone wait their turn? I'd like to hear this stuff.
Sam is back, and worse than ever. I kind of expected the opposite, but I guess I was wrong. Besides the ridiculously cheesy "badass" transformation of Sam (he wears a tank top in not one, but TWO missions [and wtf, he's badass enough the way he is]), there is plenty of crap going on here. And it makes me the saddest little SC fan in the whole wide world.
First are the gadgets. Forget that you have them, because you will never use them. And if you do, you'll probably get caught before they do what they're supposed to do and you'll have to restart at the last checkpoint or get a game over. The gun is all you'll use, and even that will be minimal because kills lower your score. Hell, you don't even need Sam's signature goggles! I remember those were my best friend back in the day...
The AI is improved to a robotic level. If you get caught you're done. Might as well just pause and restart from the last checkpoint, because you're not going anywhere alive. And it happens a lot. Way too much. Sure, it's good to have tough games. But when you're doing trial and error via dozens of game overs to figure out how to get to point B without getting caught? No thanks. How can a dude hear me walking in the Congo when it's a complete warzone? Explosions, gunshots, screaming--I can't even hear myself walk! Do they have super hearing, as well as super vision? How come when a bunch of soldiers are shooting at each other, and I shoot just one of them in the head, every single one of them suddenly decides that it was probably an American spy instead of an enemy, and turns right towards me and fires relentlessly? Realistic my ass. And it doesn't help that Sam takes his damn time with everything--reloading, opening doors, even crawling under a table to hide. Is he getting that old?
And that's just with the regular missions. I don't even want to talk about the headquarters missions, but I guess I should. In between almost every level, you go back to HQ. Here, you help out the JBA with the usual terrorist type stuff, while at the same time do your double agent duties for the NSA. The first thing I'll say is that Sam sure does walk slow. The second thing I'll say is that these missions are thirty minutes of hell. You have to sneak around your terrorist friends to plant bugs and gather information for the NSA--
Oh wait, no you don't. You can just do the primary mission and wait around for 20 minutes if you want. I don't know what's worse, actually trying to do the lame crap at HQ or just waiting til the timer runs out so you can move on with the game. Kind of a lose-lose situation here, huh.
The levels are mostly a miss. The tanker resulted in me giving up this game the first time I played it, and it's one of the first levels--possibly the worst in all SC history. The cruise ship? Boring. The Congo? An all-too real depiction that truly breaks your heart, but the level itself sucks. Shanghai? Actually, that level's a blast.
Another problem is with the light sensor that Sam wears. Rather than an upgrade, we get three lights. Green means you're in the dark and hidden. You won't see green that much, which really brings down the whole "stealth" part of stealth action, doesn't it. Yellow means you are visible. You'll see that a lot, and therefore depend more on unreliable cover than on the darkness. Red means you've been spotted. When you see red, just go ahead and pause your game to restart at the last checkpoint. Spy work is very high-tech.
I'd like to also mention the clunky controls. They have never been perfect for the SC series, but we all would like to think they'd get it right by round 4. They didn't. The B button has a big responsibility--use it to crouch, stand, somersault, land softly, let go, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. That's a pretty important job, B button. Think you can handle that? No? You're gonna get confused? You mean, you might not land softly even when I press you? You mean you might somersault off a high ledge instead of crouch when I press you? You mean you might decide to do just plain nothing when I press you? That's okay, B button. It's not your fault.
Now for the good: the core gameplay is basically the same as before. Find a way to get to your goal, whether it's through vents, over roofs, across the street, or hanging from pipes. And the Shanghai level is actually kind of fun, if you can make it that far. The new hacking system is pretty cool. Oh, and Sam Fisher is the main character. That's also a good thing.
Well, the main game lasts about five hours, but when you tack on all the restarts that you have to do, it will add up to over ten. So it's basically ten hours of trial and error in an otherwise too-short game.
Multiplayer will keep you coming back and is the best thing about the game. Still, no split-screen? That is really dumb. There are two types of agents to play as, and both have their ups and downs. Upilison force is kind of cool because it's first-person, while the spies are like a more athletic version of Sam. They worked harder on the multiplayer than on Sam's part of the game (obviously!), but there are still control issues and boredom issues to be had. And if you can't find anyone to play with, there are always the bots. Multiplayer isn't as good as the Halos and the CoDs, but it's not bad.
LASTING APPEAL: 6/10
I am not a huge online gaming fan, so maybe that's why I'm so bitter. I understand that the multiplayer is great, but I play SC games for Sam. The story is intriguing in theory but horrible in execution, and the visuals and sounds just don't improve enough over the last-gen versions. And then there's the terribly frustrating gameplay. Splinter Cell: Double Agent is a bad game. Oh well, at least Sam Fisher's in it.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 10/08/09
Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (US, 10/17/06)
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