Last-generation Xbox or not, Splinter Cell Double Agent is indispensable. A taut, tense exercise in cerebral gaming, it isn't just another Sam Fisher sequel, but a giant stride forwards for the series. You will, by now, know that the secret to the Splinter Cell games isn't so much how many bad guys you shoot, but actually how few. Shadow crawling, pipe-shuffling, circuit-board shortening... well, it's all still in there, but there's a whole new layer to Double Agent now. We're guessing you probably figured that out by the title, though.
We weren't sure how the new 'playing each side off each other' dynamic would work. Obviously, as a sleeper within a terrorist organisation, there are rather unsavoury things you have to do to stay on side, but if you go too far, the NSA will get suspicious. Play it too nice, though, and the terrorists won't buy your story for a second - they're not as easy to hoodwink as you might think. We presumed, rather stupidly, that it would be a case of doing one bad thing, one good thing, etc to keep our 'favour bar' somewhere in the safe, green neutral area in the middle. But no sir, it doesn't work like that at all!
Let's take an example. Say you're planning a jailbreak with a terrorist chum. Well prior to that, you have to save his life in the jail courtyard. If you kill his attacker, your chum will give you a gun during the jailbreak. If you simply knock the guy out, your mate won't trust you completely and you'll have to break out unarmed. Since having the gun makes the jailbreak considerably easier, any fool would choose to kill the perp, right? Well, you just try it sunshine. The NSA will be down on you like a sack of shit in the next mission, demanding to know why you killed someone. They'll not trust you with some more sophisticated material that might help you out, so effectively, by choosing the easy option in one mission, you're making subsequent ones that much harder. Now see where Ubisoft Montreal is coming from? It's little wonder the Splinter Cell series is so damned popular.
Beyond the incredibly inventive new gameplay dimension (the choices become far more complex - and risky too, we might add), there is simply nothing on the last-gen Xbox that stands up to the Splinter Cell series. The use of lighting, dynamic sound and stunning level design leaves every would-be contender shivering in its boots. The fact that Sam is now able to conduct his missions in the most inhospitable places adds yet further depth to the game. Crawling on our stomachs to the underside of a frozen lake is not only showy, but brilliantly executed. Pulling an enemy through an ice-hole then drowning him in freezing, lung-ripping water is brutal. And brilliant. Sandstorms, ice storms, severe weather, they're all your friends this time around, and watching the shock on an enemy's face as two arms lunge at him from within a raging wall of sand, is reason enough to buy this game, surely? Want another?
Well, multiplayer is SUPERB (and by God, we capped that up on purpose). There are a few tweaks and changes that'll send fanboys into a spin - the proximity detector can be accused of making things slightly easier for one side, for example - but you think Ubisoft didn't realise this mid-development? Don't assume that just because an enemy team has the proximity detector, the people using it have their team's best intentions at heart. Double agents don't just appear in the solo game, okay?
As the fourth iteration in the series, there was every chance Splinter Cell Double Agent would end up recycling what worked well before it, becoming formulaic and pedestrian where it should be throat-stabbingly good. But, Ubisoft Montreal has not only raised its game, but perhaps created the last great classic for last generation Xbox. This not only gives fans 'more of the same', but so much more on top of that, with the added benefit of staying true to what Splinter Cell started out as. This is a true classic, and a beautifully made one at that. Rediscover Splinter Cell all over again, and we promise you, there's no way this cracker will stab you in the back.
A perfect blend of old-school Splinter Cell and new gameplay ideas. A triumphant swan song for the series on last-gen Xbox.
- Brilliant use of the 'double agent' dynamic means the game stays fresh and unpredictable.
- You'll be torn between decisions, trust us.
- The atmosphere is astounding. Great use of lighting and sound creates a real, tactile world where anything goes. Cracking stuff.
- Michael Ironside reprises his role as Sam Fisher. Man, can that guy give you the willies. And that's just the voice-acting.
- The multiplayer mode has been improved no end; there's little doubt the new features add even more to an already brilliant game mode.
- As a double agent, you can become a good guy or bad guy and affect the game's outcome. That's like two games for the price of one!