IGN Review of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent
The debate is over; videogame villains are dumb.
You've probably come to this conclusion before, but the rocket scientists in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent take idiocy to a whole new level. They know there's an enemy -- me -- on their tanker ship, and here they are wandering the deck trying to find me with their flashlights... yet they keep pointing the damn things at blank walls and areas that aren't even dark.
It almost made me feel sorry for them as I ran up from the shadows and stabbed them right in their unsuspecting livers.
Brain-dead bad guys aside, Double Agent brings Sam Fisher to the PlayStation 3 for a successful campaign in almost every gameplay aspect that fans could want (except multiplayer, but I'll get to that later) and it provides an enjoyable go-round for any stealth-action fan. But let's start at the beginning...
For years, Fisher has been a doom-and-gloom agent of Third Echelon and has undertaken a million crazy missions to knife terrorists, blow up buildings and basically put his neck on the line so that the US remains safe. Personally, I'd call that the career path of a man with a death wish, but Ubisoft wants you to believe that [Spoiler Alert!] only after a driver runs down Fisher's daughter [End Spoiler]. Sam has nothing to lose now and has accepted his most dangerous mission yet: he must infiltrate a renegade group known as "John Brown's Army," a terrorist cell dedicated to taking out the status quo with a nuclear weapon.
The undercover role actually shines in an interesting story and challenges you to complete two sets of objectives that are fundamentally opposed to each other. Even when you're chilling with terrorist buddies at JBA headquarters, you're on the clock for the National Security Agency, which means both groups are giving you missions at the same time. It's up to you to pick which objective to tackle and that choice plays into how much each group trusts you.
After helping break Jamie Washington, the convict who ushered Fisher into the JBA, out of prison, Sam is brought to HQ, tested and introduced to the boss: Emile Dufraisne. Afterwards, the bald jerk-face hands Sam a gun and orders him to kill the news anchor that came packed with the chopper that Fisher and Washington high-jacked on their way out of the pen.
Simultaneously, you get two objectives -- JBA says to kill the on-air talent and the NSA orders you not to.
Do you risk pissing off your new boss and shooting wide, or do you lose face in front of the government types and make a blood-colored Rorschach Test on the wall? The choice drastically affects two bars in the left corner of your screen, where blue lines measure the faith JBA and the NSA have in you. If you continually piss one of the groups off, that organization's meter will empty and your mission will end in failure. Most of the time it's easy to keep both factions happy, but when it comes to choosing to jump on a helicopter with the bad guys or wait a few seconds to ice an NSA target, you'll feel the weight on Sam's shoulders and forget about the linear levels or easy objectives.
Graphically, the game looks good, but falls short of the detailed display Sam saw on Xbox 360 last year. Players who ran through the paces in Microsoft-land will notice a slower framerate and the loss of a few small details (things like a smaller quantity of fights during the prison riot, different textures on character close-ups and no goggle-toggle when tossing on Sam's specs).
There are other areas where Sam and company suffer from a bout of PS3 hiccups too. In some instances, for example, snow falls everywhere but the top left-hand corner of the screen; Sam's hands occasionally clip into walls while he hacks at a wire; and the camera will sometime flip out as our hero climbs across a pipe. These miniscule glitches are forgivable, however, and it's actually quite fun to pull enemies into icy ponds, crack safes and hide in the shadows. Plus, the PS3 gets two additional multiplayer maps and a female spy that the 360 never saw.
Fun as fooling with Sam's trademark gadgets may be (which include winches, fiber optic cameras, rappel ropes, etc), I was really looking forward to some online play. After all, this was the franchise that brought us "Spies versus Mercs" and all the choking we could handle. Double Agent brings us "Spies versus Upsilon mercenaries." In other words, it's a letdown. One team with minimal weapons (think no guns) runs around a map trying to hack into some computers and download some data, while the other team tries to keep the spies from downloading said data and getting it back to their control drone. Lame.
There are ten maps, which is cool, a handful of co-op challenges, and a section that allows you to follow the progress as a player, but it's doubtful you'd stick around long enough to make the most of it.
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