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Splinter Cell: Double Agent

Fisher be bad, Fisher be good - the stealth agent is back and playing both sides of the fence

You've lost the most important thing in your life; suddenly, nothing has any meaning anymore and you don't give a toss what happens to you. What do you do? Stay in bed eating fried chicken and doughnuts until you have to call the Fire Brigade when you want to take a dump? No.

You do what über-spy Sam Fisher does and shave your head, rob a bank and kill a guard, then take a break in a high-security prison - the sort of place where men are men. And other men are scared.

Splinter Cell Double Agent is like no other Sam Fisher outing, in that the lines between good and bad aren't so much blurred as transparent. After the death of his daughter in a hit-and-run incident, Fisher has a bit of a wobbler
and his ever-loyal boss, Lambert, decides a sphincter-loosening mission could be just the thing to get him back on his feet. It's a classic tale of an agent going too deep under cover and forgetting all about little things like right and wrong, and it's your job to act as Sam's moral compass.

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LIKE A FISH(ER) OUT OF WATER
Sam's most dangerous mission yet sees him dumped inside a high security slammer in order to infiltrate John Brown's Army, a terrorist organisation which plans to make high-grade weapons for typically reckless means. This means Fisher's loyalties are split between the NSA - the organisation he works for - and JBA. On the one hand he has to be utterly convincing to Emile Dufraisne, the leader of JBA, in order to gain his trust and so get more freedom within the organisation. But on the other, there are the laws of the land to bear in mind - you know, stuff like not killing innocent people and all that. Inevitably the two standpoints clash, and you'll need to decide whether Sam does the dirty or the decent thing. You'll see an appropriate ending influenced by your actions, too.

Sam's primary objectives are generally NSA directives, the completion of which will see his standing with Dufraisne diminish. One such occasion is when Fisher needs to obtain the vault codes to a stash of federal gold to fund JBA's actions; Dufraisne orders him to kill all possible witnesses; Lambert demands the exact opposite. Doing the former sees Sam's Trust Meter (your way of keeping track of Sam's standing) swing in JBA's favour, doing the latter sees it go the other way. How it's poised at the start of each mission dictates what set of weaponry you can go to work with: the NSA will equip you with non-lethal weaponry where possible, while JBA don't play silly buggers and gladly throw very dangerous guns your way.

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It's always more fun dabbling in dodgy ethics, and to offset any warm, wholesome glow you get from sparing civilian lives you can simply run a few errands for Dufraisne and balance your Trust Meter out again. It's a neat idea, and constantly makes you think about how your actions are affecting your overall experience. Plus, it gives Double Agent real replay value, as you can really go to different extremes. Compared with previous games, which didn't offer much other than a single play-through, it's a big improvement.

For the first time in the series Sam gets to work with a partner at some points, taking the co-op play principle of the last game, Chaos Theory, and working it into the single-player game. However, it's not the step forward it might have been. Yes, having a buddy helps overcome certain problems, but the solution is far too obvious at times. It's as though someone had the idea of adding some teamplay into Double Agent but no clue as to how best to use it. The result is really high walls requiring a bunk-up) in this game, compared to moderately high walls in the last one (which needed a bit of a jump) - hardly revolutionary gameplay. Considering it's supposed to be one of Double Agent's Big New Features, it's a bit cack, frankly.

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