Longtime readers will know that we’re big fans of the adventures of Sam Fisher. There’s something eminently satisfying about using a combination of stealthy moves, acrobatics, and super-spy gadgets to get into places where you’re not supposed to be and take things you’re not supposed to have. It’s just fun.
In Double Agent, the series’ fourth installment, you go deep undercover, infiltrating a terrorist organization. In order to maintain the trust of both your NSA employers and the terrorist leaders, you’ll need to complete objectives for both organizations. Naturally, it’s not simple. Frequently the NSA’s instructions and the terrorists’ objectives are mutually exclusive—one side might want someone killed, while the other wants him to live. You’ll have to find ways to keep both masters happy, or deal with the consequences.
The scenarios you’re presented with are by no means cut and dried; the game puts you in situations ripped from the best episodes of 24. You’ll be forced to decide whether you want to sacrifice the lives of a few innocent people in order to save thousands more.
The HQ missions are another big advancement in Double Agent. These missions take place in the terrorist HQ, and again you’re given two sets of tasks. The tasks, which you can complete in any order you like, range from entertaining mini-games, to spending time at the firing range, to collecting intel on key terrorists. The catch is that you’re on the clock. If you don’t complete all the assigned tasks in the prescribed length of time (or if you get caught doing something suspicious), the terrorists won’t be happy with you. And no one wants to have testy terrorists after them.
The HQ missions add a ton of replayability. There’s virtually no chance you’ll be able to complete all the tasks on the first go-round. Exploring the headquarters building, discovering ways to access the restricted areas, and collecting complete profiles on all of the terrorists presents a serious challenge.
While the single-player campaign is great fun, we’re pretty pissed about the stripped-down multiplayer. The PC version of the game completely lacks the co-op game that entranced us in Chaos Theory, and the revolutionary mercenary-vs.-spy multiplayer that we loved in Pandora Tomorrow is a pale shadow of its former splendor. Instead of doing battle with oodles of high-tech gadgets, spies are limited to one tool (and no rifle—not even the non-lethal one from previous installments) and mercs get nothing more than their rifle and a few grenades. Without the challenge of placing wall mines, sensors, and other gadgets, matches where you play as a merc get tedious quickly. We’d be more inclined to forgive the newbtastic changes, if they actually made the game more accessible to newbs. Unfortunately, the multiplayer modes still have a treacherous learning curve.
Ubi Shanghai did include a series of cooperative spy-vs.-AI merc missions, but the merc AI seems impossible to escape when you’re spotted. Their omniscience makes it difficult to avoid their perfect aim. Hopefully, in the next edition of the game, we’ll see a return to the classic merc-vs.-spy gameplay—complete with lots of gadgets and a more fun experience for mercs.
Month Reviewed: January 2007 + SPYING: Single-player campaign is great. We love choosing who lives and who dies! - SPIED ON: Where are the kick-ass merc-vs.-spy multiplayer, the co-op missions, and the remappable controls? Verdict: 8 URL:www.splintercell.com