Let's face it, despite its many multiplayer merits, Splinter Cell has always been about the single-player experience. But that could all be about to change thanks to Double Agent's multiplayer games, in which heavily armed Mercs battle it out against stealthy Spies. We spent a day bloodying our hands on the latest code and were more than a little impressed with what we saw...
First, you have to pick a side. The Merc - played from a first-person perspective - is armed with an assault rifle, which packs a grenade launcher and adjustable flashlight. He also carries a motion tracker that picks up any movement within a ten-metre radius.
However, the Merc's lack of manoeuvrability prevented us from following spies into the multitude of vents and enclosures scattered throughout each darkened map, and while we could send a remote controlled exploding drone after them, this left us highly susceptible to the Spy's stealthy neck-break attack.
Controlling a Merc proved both tense and exciting, but it wasn't a patch on playing as a Spy. Charged with infiltrating two out of four areas containing data nodes, we found ourselves taking cover in darkened corners while attempting to download information with our glove-based hacking tool, which also allowed us to interfere with the Mercs' torches - switching them off from a distance, and taking out lights.
Controlling the Spy - played from a third-person perspective - was a sublime experience, one that simply haemorrhaged tension and sweated excitement. Vaulting, jumping, rolling, ducking and zip-lining our way towards each objective, we'd suddenly be forced to freeze as Mercs ran past our position, before resuming our mission with a heavy sigh of relief.
Then, after an agonising wait for the data to download while Mercs searched for our hiding place, we'd launch a mad dash back to base via walls, vents and water pipes, each marked with Ghost Markers that showed us exactly which actions we could perform on a given location - an excellent new addition that should make the game far more accessible to newcomers.
Not only are Splinter Cell: Double Agent's multiplayer games shaping up to be the most entertaining and challenging in the series to date, they're also proving incredibly intuitive
and challenging to boot. Keep your night vision goggles fixed on this space, as Splinter Cell: Double Agent could prove to be one killer multiplayer experience.