Review by NeoTS

"Another Dance Through the Shadows"

In my opinion, Splinter Cell is one of the most underlooked series this entire generation. Sure, it doesn't have an epic story like Metal Gear Solid or blazing gunfights like Halo, but every game in the series as a definite appeal about. Creeping noiselessly through the shadows has been the games trademark, and it has pulled it off with perfection, up to and including this game. But this is not like any Splinter Cell you've played. Sure, it's got the nightvision and sticky shockers, but now the player can actually control the way the story moves. Sam is a double agent this time around, and decisions the player makes throughout the course of the game will affect how it all plays out. It's a darker, more desperate version of Splinter Cell, and it's one I thouroughly enjoyed.

Sam Fisher, a Splinter Cell in the shadowy Third Echelon. He's been there and done that, then gone back to do it again. Things go all to hell for him when his beloved daughter, Sarah, his struck and killed by a drunk driver. He loses his edge. Goes a little crazy. Decides he has nothing left to lose. So his longtime boss, Irving Lambert, approaches Sam with a dangerous proposition: to infiltrate the dangerous JBA organization and pose as one of them, to find out about Red Mercury, a chemical with the potential for a nuclear detonation. He's locked into Ellsworth Penitentiary, where he hooks up with Jamie Washington, right hand man to Emile Dusfraine, leader of the JBA. Now Sam is deep undercover, and the decisions he makes will affect everyone.

You know the gameplay. It hasn't changed all that much. You creep through the shadows, pressing the circle button to go into a crouch. There's a meter in the right hand corner of the screen that shows your health, how visible you are and how much noise you're making. If Sams profile is visible, you're totally lit up. If there's nothing but black, that's all the enemy can see. You'll want to keep the noise down so they don't hear you sneaking up on them. When you've snuck up on them, there are a variety of things you can do to incapacitate them. The smartest thing to do is grab them, and if they have any information, you can interrogate them. Otherwise, knife them in the back or choke them out. If he turns around at the wrong moment, you knock them out with a flying knee of sorts or bury your knife in their gut. It all depends on how you want to play the game. Unless you're a purist, you don't have to get close at all. Pull out your rifle or pistol and take aim at their head. Or if you're into nonviolence, you can nail them with a sticky shocker or an airfoil round to knock them out. Enemies aren't your only obstacles. There'll be lasers, machine gun turrets and security cameras all hindering your movement. You can knock all these offline with a special charge from your pistol, but you'll need your EEV visor to spot the ones that can be knocked out. You can also disable lights in this manner, giving Sam a brief moment to move from spot to spot.

Like I said, the biggest addition is the ability to make decisions. Oftentimes, you'll get conflicting missions from Third Echelon and the JBA. For example, there's a traitor in the JBA, and Sam knows who it is. You can either rat him out to the JBA, and have him killed to strengthen your own standing, or alert Third Echelon to have him picked up. Depending on what decision you make, it will ultimately cause one side to trust you more and the other side to trust you less. You'll have to balance these decisions as you go along so you don't play one side overly hard.

Perhaps I'm going crazy, but it seemed to me that the visuals in Double Agent were not up to par with previous entries. Maybe it's just the end of the PS2's life talking, but sometimes they seemed bad. Of course, the lighting is great, but the characters seem a little blocky, and some of the environments don't have enough detail, and seemed washed out. Sam looks great, the animation when he's creeping close to an enemy is great, including the way he puts his hand on his knife in case of trouble. There isn't a lot of CG, but when it's there you can bet it's good. Sam's voice hasn't changed, which is a very good thing, being one of the more recognizable voices in videogames. Most of the sound effects, the comforting beep of the nightvision being flicked on is still there. The music is about what you'd expect from a Splinter Cell game.

As a big fan of Splinter Cell, I can totally recommend this game. It has everything I love about the series, plus a little extra. There's two unlockable missions that are fun to playthrough, adding some humor and a little reminder about what a great character Sam is. There's only about ten stages or so, so it could probably be beaten in a rental period. But if you like stealth, this is the way to go until Metal Gear Solid 4 gets here.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 01/16/07

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