|Splinter Cell: Double Agent (2006)
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC
Some people like to sneak around. They dig hiding around in the shadows waiting for their prey. They like to walk around on tiptoes, slipping up behind their victims to place them in a choke hold and then quickly snap their necks without detection. Some of these people are government operatives. But most are just video gamers who enjoy the likes of the “Metal Gear” and “Splinter Cell” series. These are the people who visit online message boards and ponder the greatness of Solid Snake and Sam Fisher, and just who is better in that greatness when it all comes down to it.
Personally, Sam Fisher gets my vote. It’s undeniable that Solid Snake is one of the biggest iconic characters to ever grace a video game, but the guy is just a drama queen too much of the time. And that voice! Ugh, could the guy ever be bothered to express any other emotion besides grave contempt? Sam Fisher, on the other hand, is just your average guy who happens to be a superior agent. He’s tough, but he’s also got that soft, gooey heart in the middle at the end of the day. You gotta be a little human even if you’re a supreme badass.
And so Sam Fisher returns in “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent,” a breath of fresh air in Ubisoft’s long-running franchise. This time, the game is about more than just sneaking around. “Double Agent” finds Sam Fisher playing a dual role – one role for the National Security Agency, and another for John Brown’s Army, a group of American terrorists who have the means and clout to get their hands on some very nasty high-powered weapons. What this means for the gamer is the power of choice, and there will be some tough choices to make. Will you take an innocent life to further the needs of the JBA, or spare him to gain more trust from the NSA? There are many such moments in “Double Agent,” and the choices are never easy, as both factions have their own trust meters that fill up or go down depending on the choices made.
On the other hand, the game offers players the experience of truly honing their stealth skills during the second level of the game, while at JBA headquarters. Sam Fisher is given a list of tasks to accomplish as well as a set amount of time (always more than enough to complete the task list). The order in which the tasks are completed is completely up to the player. Will you bug the antenna on the roof first or run through a training course, picking locks and cracking a safe? There are no weapons given during this portion of the game, so players will have to genuinely stick to their wits alone. So if you’re not one who’s big into stealth games, chances are this is where you’ll wanna go play something else.
“Double Agent” also proves to not be a run and gun game. Since stealth is definitely required on some of these missions sans weapons, players just can’t rush and attack their opponents. The AI is adaptive, meaning if you screw it up a few times, the enemy’s going to learn your mistakes and make it that much harder on repeat tries. And while the AI isn’t completely perfect, it makes for a much better experience compared to some of the past “Splinter Cell” games. This, coupled with the branching story line, makes “Double Agent” one of the best in the series all around, if not right there at the top.
Multiplayer is pretty good, too, although a little buggy at times, so hopefully future patches will correct the minor problems afflicting some of the players. There are a bevy of online choices to pick from, including quick match, Mercs vs. Spies, co-op, and some three-on-three action. In all, it’s the best of both worlds for fans of the series with a great one-player storyline and enough online and multiplayer action to make everyone happy.
This limited edition of the game includes a bonus disc of extras. Included is a documentary on the game itself, a making-of featurette, game tips, game trailers, a Q&A with Michael Ironside (who voices Sam Fisher), and plenty more. It all comes in a jazzed-up slipcase for ten bucks more than the standard edition, which is just the core game. Either way, “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent” is an exciting, dramatic adventure that offers a fresh experience in a genre that could certainly use a few of them. If you’re a fan, grab it. If not, hey it’s the holiday season and lots of great games are coming out like crazy.