Splinter Cell: Double Agent Review
Stealth-based games are often a love or hate type of game. Either you’re the type of gamer that just wants to run through levels and blow stuff into oblivion, not caring about being sneaky, even if the mission you are doing would dictate that you are. Then you have the other type of gamer, the one that will take a non-stealth game and turn it into one by being incredibly careful, slow in their movements and trying to use as little loud weaponry as possible. They’re not going to be the type to go and assault an enemy head on.
The stealth action series really gained popularity with the Metal Gear Solid games on the Playstation. Taking a different focus on the action genre, Metal Gear Solid (based off of a NES/SNES series) had the gamer being sneaky and potentially incapacitating enemies instead of outright killing them. While you had some decent firepower, there wasn’t tons of ammunition to pick up – you had to be sneaky about how you did things and potentially get your hands a little dirty by punching a guy from behind. It really worked, though, and the series took off, gaining tons of popularity.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent is the fourth in a series of popular stealth action games under the Tom Clancy banner. Unlike the other major franchises under the banner (Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six), you are a single person handling missions. You’ll have a nice weapon loadout, though, and a ton of fun gadgets to use. Sticky cameras, airfoil rounds and an EMP attachment to your pistol are just a few of the fun toys you’ll get to play with. You can unlock even cooler ones as the game goes along, too. So, does the game succeed or is this wide variety of firepower and spy gadgets just wasted?
Splinter Cell Double Agent starts off with a somewhat normal mission that sets up the story – the new agent you’re trying to take on a mission with you doesn’t fully pay attention to orders and rushes in, thinking he can accomplish something. However, this new agent doesn’t make it far into the missile silo and just dies. After the mission, you'll find out your daughter died. This, naturally, completely messes with Sam’s mind and he ends up going off the deep end. He eventually gets himself tossed into jail, quickly becoming ‘friends’ with a member of a group known as the JBA. This also really introduces something from the game’s name – the whole double agent aspect. See, throughout the game, you’ll be given objectives to complete. Some are required to finish a mission while others will just help you to become more trusted by either the NSA or the JBA. Both of these organizations are on opposing sides – typically, helping one will make the other trust you less. However, to be successful in the game, you’ll need both to trust you, at least to a degree. This whole idea of playing both sides really works for the game and plays into the story.
Getting through these missions is far more fun than it has been in the past, too. Where previous games in the series often had missions where you couldn’t be detected at all or you lose, or where you couldn’t get close to killing anyone or lose, Double Agent almost completely gets rid of that. While you still can’t go around and kill everyone you run across, your "tactical" options are far more open. On missions where you aren’t supposed to kill anyone, you’ll just lose some NSA trust and not get a fancy gadget if you do happen to kill someone or get detected. Essentially, the game gives you a chance to keep going if you aren’t the type that is worried about doing perfect on every mission.
Something else I liked was how you are rated at the end of the mission. This gives different types of gamers different ways to enjoy the game. Do you want to go through and try to not be seen at all, not even knocking anyone out? Go ahead and try to get a 100% stealth score. You can still go through on a crazy murder spree if you aren’t the type that cares about your score (and potentially not even lose the chance at gadgets if the mission allows killing). Or, you can go for something in between – the game leaves it up to you and doesn’t force you into any one play style. That was a problem with some of the earlier games in the series and may have made the game inaccessible to some players. While a few of the missions still guide you down a path to a degree, you rarely feel forced down said path.
The multiplayer aspect is slightly tweaked from previous versions – it is no longer 2 on 2 but is now 3v3 with the ability to have mercenaries played by the computer. It plays somewhat similarly to previous iterations of the multiplayer, though, but is different enough to let the new people to the series have some fun. You can play it over system link, too, so if you can get some friends together (college students, I’m looking at you), you can play some games…just make sure you can’t see each other’s TVs.
The graphics and sound really impress here, too. It is pretty fun to listen in to the various conversations that enemies have. Sometimes, they’ll give mission relevant information and others, they’ll just randomly chat about stuff. It adds a lot to the game as it makes them feel human – it makes some of the decisions you’ll have to make later on more difficult. The graphics are also impressive – take a chance to look at some of the guns or at the characters. They really do look pretty cool.
Overall, Splinter Cell Double Agent is a really fun game for the 360 and a worthy first entry on the console. Instead of just being more of the same, the game adds some new elements to the formula that make for a fun experience to those that have experience with the way this plays and those new to the series. While the game still likely won’t appeal to the very hardcore FPS fans, there’s a lot here for most action gaming fans. The only thing that really irritated me while I played were the swimming controls – they just don’t feel right. Otherwise, this is an excellent game that you should, at the very least, rent and play through once.