IGN Review of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent
Tom Clancy must be spinning in his grave. Wait, I take that back, Tom Clancy is still quite alive and well - and very well, I'd presume, considering the bounty of money he surely rakes in, as he lends his name to many PC and console games. Fortunately for Tom, he gets his paycheck regardless of how well a game is designed. Unfortunately for the rest of us, some gamers may be suckered into buying a title whose predecessors have offered revolutionary and outstanding gameplay, whilst the latest incarnation offers nothing of the sort.
Reprising the role of Sam Fisher, the player is challenged to complete a series of missions which will test Sam's loyalty to both the United States, as well as terrorist groups. Throughout the game, players are presented with opportunities to prove their worthiness to the diametrically opposed ideologies; subsequently, the decision may need to be made to murder an innocent person to prove that Sam doesn't just talk the talk. The storyline is furthered through an excellent score and decent voice acting, but there are simply too many flaws in the game to warrant this title occupying major Wii time, let alone significant replayability.
There are two incarnations of Double Agent: one for the Xbox 360 and PS2, and this one for the Wii. While both feature similar storylines, the two versions differ significantly in two categories: graphics and controls. The graphics in Double Agent are barely better than what would appear on PS2 and GameCube, and still look inferior to anything the original Xbox could produce. While many people are still debating whether or not the Wii's control scheme is nothing more than a gimmick, Double Agent, unfortunately, reinforces this current perception. The Wii is capable of a whole new level of immersion in gaming, and Double Agent's controls are nothing more than an afterthought - poorly implemented, and tacked on.
If you've played Splinter Cell games before, particularly Chaos Theory, you'll notice a lot of the same - in fact, most of the same. Sneaking through the shadows, creeping up on unsuspecting terrorists, hanging off ledges, and using various tools and devices, there is little that differentiates this title from its predecessors. It is always fun, however, to sneak up on a baddie, put him in a vice-like grip, and either snap his neck or wrestle him unconscious. I played a similar game with my little brother when I was younger, but after they learned her name at the emergency room, my mom didn't think it was funny anymore.
The most important aspect of any action/stealth game is the ability for the player to quickly adapt to constantly changing environments and situations, and responding to them fast enough without catching a bullet or two in the chest. One would assume that the ability to point and click using the Wii remote would be a great step forward in gaming, making killing baddies easier than skipping rope (which I was never really able to do as a child, adolescent, or even in my adulthood). However, the reticule is adjusted through a smaller reticule that must be moved to the centre before a perfect shot can be achieved. I know this sounds confusing - because it is. It unnecessarily complicates aiming and shooting when the game hardly needs any more complications.
Movement is just as clunky as aiming, which is a major misstep for a stealth game. Moving Fisher isn't very smooth, and the implementation of the Nunchuk makes his movements awkward and difficult. For example, you gesture upwards with the Nunchuk to make Fisher jump, or motion sideways to make him lean up against a wall for sneaking. The former is simple enough, but seems counter-productive - moving your wrist up from a neutral position hardly mimicks jumping, and is a relatively unnatural gesture. The latter is sloppy because the sensor is finicky in accepting the correct input for the motion, meaning while you're sneaking up along a wall, and an enemy gets the jump on you, you may be desperately and wildly flinging the Nunchuk in a mad effort to get off the wall (my girlfriend walked in while I was playing and thought I was having a seizure, or maybe miming brushing my teeth - either prospect quite scary). The button layout is also a little questionable, perhaps suggesting Ubisoft believes its players have 7-8 fingers per hand.
Stumbling through the game's environments and layouts, as daunting a task as it may be, is hardly a high-quality Chinese buffet for your eyes, either. The textures are blurry and the game even suffers from slow-down in some places. The visuals are more reminiscient of a PS2 title, and it is quite evident that the game was ported from the PS2 (and "previous-gen") incarnation of the game. While the Wii is no graphical monster, it certainly is capable of quite a bit more; perhaps an unfair comparison, but The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess offers visuals five times as impressive as Double Agent, and it was a Gamecube port. The point is that developers are getting lazy, as they take no risk with the formula or graphical abilities, throw in some "new" controls, and claim to have something great on their hands.
Detracting even more from the depth of the game is the total lack of online play - a staple for modern gaming, and even the other current-gen versions of the game. The inability to take advantage of some of the more intuitive features the game offers in an online environment is certainly a detriment to the game's lasting appeal. However, there is a two-player cooperative mode that is fun for the first little while, but the novelty quickly wears off. Being able to take out enemies in a coordinated assault can be fun, as can hoisting a fellow player over a wall or fence, but once you've done it a few times, you've done it enough (As Michael Scott from The Office would proclaim: "That's what she said!").
The game is a small aural feast as the gamer is treated to a wonderfully composed soundtrack which we've come to love and expect from games of this genre (I still pop in a Rainbox Six cd to get pumped up). Sound effects for the guns and items are spot-on, and the voice acting pleasantly furthers the game's story through cutscenes and missions.
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