"Double Agent sneaks in and breaks the neck of the competition."

Splinter Cell: Double Agent
For the Xbox 360

Well, for starters let me kick off this review by saying I've been an enormous fan of the Splinter Cell series since the first game. I'm not sure why, but I've always been pulled towards the stealth/espionage feel- a feel that this game pulls off so well.

The story begins a bit darker than the last three games, Sam's daughter was hit by a car while he was off on assignment, which tears him up inside. His state of mind starts to slip into depression, no longer caring about if he lives or dies. So, he takes the most dangerous assignment of his career, as a double agent. This, of course adds a great twist to the story and to the gameplay at large. Sam has to work for a terrorist organization called the J.B.A. or John Brown's Army. A group of typical Clancy-created terrorists that are out to change America for their various political reasons, that are struggling to get the resources they need from black-market suppliers and other terrorist groups. You have to work for them, while gathering intelligence and fulfilling objectives given to you by the NSA at the same time.

Since the gameplay works with this, you, the player, get to decide the outcome of the story by either being a goody-two-shoes or getting the mission accomplished as planned. You can easily balance the NSA and the JBA's faction by paying attention to a handy meter placed in the bottom left corner of the screen showing your trust the either two organizations have in you.

The game plays like Chaos Theory, albeit quite a bit more cinematic and grander in scale. This is great, because Chaos Theory was an amazing game, the movement, combat and stealth is all pulled off expertly in Double Agent. It also, once again, mixes up the formula by not placing you in the role of an insomniac spy. Yes, lots of the missions are in the daytime. Which is a new change, a very intense change really, you'll have to watch your back more in the more action packed levels.

Speaking of levels, the game has a great variety when it comes to locales. There are ten levels in all, 6 being totally unique. You start off in Iceland, swing by Shanghai, take a dip in Okhotsk, drop the soap in a Kansas penitentiary, have a relaxing time on a cruise ship near Mexico and of course visit the always lovely Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I'm sorry about the sarcasm, really I am. But, the games levels have some amazing variety and each one has a nice change in gameplay. You have to dodge tanks and armed soldiers in Kinshasa, avoid authorities in the floating casino, and jump off of a skyscraper in Shanghai.

Throughout all of this you'll have the aid of the always slightly irritating Lambert and your variety of gadgets. Night vision goggles, electro-magnetic goggles, thermo-vision, grenades, mines, sticky shockers, shot gun attachments, riot shotguns, etc. You've got the gear to fight a secret war.

But, so do your enemies… occasionally. The enemies run the gamut of being reasonably intelligent to simply brain dead. It's not a big deal, but you can occasionally crouch 4 feet in front of someone, in a lit corridor and they won't notice you- just because you're in a ‘shadowy' area, which is silly.

You probably won't notice this much though, because of just how mobile Sam is and how easily he can dispatch enemies. The majority of the old moves are back, from pulling people off ledges, rappelling, inverted neck-snapping and even the good ole' slice of the throat. You've also got a handful of new moves like being able to pull people through thin ice and stab them through the heart underwater, or drowning someone if they get too close to the water… Yes, Sam can swim now.

All of the moves are easy to pull off thanks to the game's excellent, tight controls. The level design is also amazing, giving you plenty of freedom to go about an objective your own way- though, the game isn't as open for the gung-ho crowd that was into Chaos Theory.

The game also has an excellent multiplayer mode (also a very hotly disputed topic online). If you've played Chaos Theory or Pandora Tomorrow you would have at least probably touched its amazing multiplayer of Spies versus Mercenaries. It was actual stealth gameplay used in a multiplayer environment, and it pulled it off well. Those games also seem like cripples in terms of speed when compared to Double Agent's multiplayer.

Lots of the old gadgets are gone, since the addition of being able to hack an objective from a range has totally changed the gameplay. If you have never played Splinter Cell multiplayer, and all this is going over your head the game plays like this: One team (3 people) play the Spies. Agile, extremely fast and the offensive players of the game. Spies run around the maps trying to hack terminals for information. Once they have enough information they run it back to their spawn area and score a point. Two points wins the match.

The other team plays the Upsilon Mercenaries (once again, 3 players). Unlike the Spies, which play in the standard Splinter Cell third person view, Mercs are played like a first person shooter. Their job is to stop the spies from hacking objectives by killing them, or by fending them off for the allotted time.

The game is further complicated by the fact that there are four objectives that can be hacked, something that spies must exploit and Mercs must overcome. The changed gameplay makes this hectic race an even greater challenge. Mercenaries can no longer effectively camp and spies can no longer take on the mercenaries face to face. The gameplay is very difficult to describe so I'll try my best here. “Orgasmic” comes to mind, it's bliss if you can overcome your past love of Chaos Theory's multiplayer and spend some time with Double Agent's.

Well, I really can't say much more about Double Agent. It has its bad sides (it re-uses a single level four times, poor voice acting at times, the CGI cutscenes aren't well animated), and it is a recycled engine. But the fantastic pacing of the game, the replayability that comes from multiple endings and the fantastic multiplayer modes, the great level design and the awesome graphics really make this game a winner.

Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Control/Playability: 10/10
Gameplay: 9/10

This game gets a 9/10. It's fantastic, with only a few flaws. Pick it up as soon as you can, it's going to be one of the best games of the year and it's already one of my favorite games of all time.

~By MagicalMonkeyMop
GT: SnipeyMcGee

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/20/06

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