Splinter Cell: Double Agent marks the debut of Sam Fisher on the Xbox 360. Splinter Cell has been one of the pedigree franchises for the Xbox platform as a whole, and it continues this trend with Double Agent. While there are some areas of the game that fall flat, Double Agent provides a nice canvas for future Splinter Cell titles. SC: DA combines an engaging single player story with a full fledged online experience that will keep this game in your rotation for months to come.
The single player game is the most diverse game in the series, as it has Sam traveling all over the world in his double agent duties. Without spoiling anything, Sam must infiltrate a terrorist organization known as the JBA (John Brown's Army) and gain their trust. The real twist of the game is that although you seemingly work for the NSA, you can go rogue at any time during your adventure. You will receive objectives from both the NSA and JBA, and it will up to you as to which objectives take priority. Ubisoft has implemented a trust meter that will show you how much faith either group has in you. Complete a JBA objective and the JBA will trust you more, while you will lose some trust with the NSA. To further drive this point home, there are interactive sections in the game that will have Sam make very distinct moral choices. Will you kill an innocent to keep your cover with the JBA, or will you refrain and possibly be outed as an NSA agent? The choices that Sam has to make actually make for great cinematic pieces, as you will wrestle with some tough decisions throughout the game. The story basically boils down to terrorists trying to blow stuff up, and it will be up to you to thwart their activities. The new addition to the single player game consists of JBA missions located at the JBA headquarters in New York City. You will be able to walk around the compound and try to complete objectives for both the NSA and JBA, with trust being added or lost depending on your actions. There are some performance issues with the single player game, as frames will drop from time to time. The game mostly feels good at a rock steady 30 fps, but it will drop occasionally when the action picks up. The game's length is also a cause for concern, as anyone who is familiar with the series will be able to blow through the game in no time. These issues are minor annoyances however, and Splinter Cell: Double Agent manages to provide an excellent single player experience.
The multiplayer portion of Splinter Cell is a decidedly mixed bag. Remember the awesome co-op game from Chaos Theory? Yeah well, Ubisoft apparently decided that it was too much fun for us to handle and has axed it from the game. They have replaced it with a half baked attempt at mission based "co-op" levels. Anyone who is familiar with Chaos Theory's co-op is going to be very disappointed. I assume that time constraints are the reasoning behind the neutering of the co-op, because I can't imagine that it was a design decision. On the other hand, the spy versus mercenaries portion of the multiplayer improves previous efforts up dramatically. The lone multiplayer game has a team of spies trying to recover data from computer terminals littered throughout the well designed maps. The mercenaries are charged with defending this data at all costs, and their job is made easier by an endless supply of ammunition. Spies have no weapons, and basically scoot around the map as quickly as possible while trying to avoid detection. As soon as a terminal is being hacked into, mercenaries will be alerted to that position immediately. Teamwork definitely has advantages and bonuses here, as a well thought out plan can almost always lead to victory. The game limits teams to three on three, but the maps never feel empty or depleted of combatants. The game is very accessible for players new to the series, and never alienates veteran Splinter Cell players. The multiplayer portion of Splinter Cell: Double Agent improves upon the previous titles' efforts in almost every way (co-op excluded of course).
The graphics in Splinter Cell: Double Agent does a serviceable job in delivering a next-gen experience for 360 owners. The visuals are definitely aided by a high definition setup, as the game renders clean and crisp graphics in a variety of interesting locales. The graphical highlight of the game is the Kinshasa level that has Sam smack dab in the middle of an urban warzone. SC: DA mostly looks fantastic and I'm sure the next Splinter Cell will look even better. The sound in the game is excellent as well, thanks to a hefty number of explosion and weapon effects. The sound is one of the more important features, as it will help Sam in sneaking about undetected. The only technical issue that I encountered is the not so steady framerate in certain situations. Other than that, Splinter Cell: Double Agent delivers a technically sound experience from start to finish.
If you've never played a Splinter Cell game before, this might be the time to jump in. The game is very accessible to veterans and newbies alike, and it offers a great single and multiplayer experience. Fans of the series will find more of the same stealth action they have always loved, plus new interactive scenarios that help to immerse you further in the game. While I was disappointed in the co-op portions of the game, I fully expect that to be implemented in the next title of the series. Splinter Cell: Double Agent delivers a great action experience, and one that shouldn't be missed by 360 owners.
Reviewed by Patrick Welch (aka FoeHammer)