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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This old dog's tricks are still cool., November 12, 2006
Sam Fisher is in quite a jiffy. The mole deep inside the territory of a domestic terrorist organization, he's the double agent holding a gun in the face of an innocent man, an innocent man the bad guys want dead and the good guys don't. Lambert's screeching in one ear and the enemy impatiently barks in the other, waiting as Sam decides to hit or miss. You, the player, grip the right trigger and it's up to you and only you to let the bullet hit its mark or ricochet harmlessly off of the grimy wall.

Ubisoft's fourth Splinter Cell adventure, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent has an ongoing double agent theme, hence its title. Sam Fisher's ready for retirement and his last mission before that big break is a massive undercover operation that takes him into the belly of John Brown's Army, or the JBA. The JBA is an organization bent on terrorizing all over the globe. The NSA wants Sam to work for the enemy at all the right times while keeping his head on straight and his mind on the greater good. The story and the missions that take place in Splinter Cell: Double Agent constantly put you, the player, into these two-sided situations. Do you risk losing JBA trust in order to secure some files for the NSA, or alternatively, lose Lambert's respect for hitting a target the JBA wants out of the gene pool?

In some ways, this trust system works well with the otherwise traditional Splinter Cell gameplay. Since most of your missions have you being dispatched by the JBA, your primary goals will more or less be to please them. I found at many points through the game that it was difficult to maintain a good side with the NSA, and oftentimes their objectives required a lot more work than the JBA's kill-and-blow-stuff-up mentality. It's not so much like Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, where your decisions make you a light-aligned or dark-aligned character, but it's a mutual system where a balance of sorts must be maintained. The interesting twist is that at no point in the game can either the JBA's or the NSA's trust completely deplete; and even in mid-mission if you agitate either side too much it's game over. It is entirely possible to find yourself in a lose-lose situation where you've saved your file in a spot where you didn't know you were about to lose that last shred of trust, and because of that, the trust system can be a little frustrating.

Still, the Splinter Cell gameplay is better than ever and you're able to keep Sam in line in several great missions. You'll put all of his abilities to the test, and even early on you'll find yourself being as acrobatic as a gymnast, only you're also as capable to kill as a precise sniper shot to the head. Sam's got all sorts of tools, including the return of favorites like the Sticky Shocker. Those never get old. Sam can also crack safes and hack computers and all of that cool stealth stuff, but most of that is old hat. Really the only big difference is the lack of on-screen meters. It's all the rage these days to show status information in a dynamic form, and Splinter Cell: Double Agent jumps that bandwagon pretty well. Sam's shadow meter has been replaced with a bright light mechanism. As he's cloaked in darkness, the light turns green, but should an enemy notice him or his presence, the light will turn yellow. In combat, or when discovered, the light is red, letting the player know of the imminent danger. The light thing is a little perplexing; similar to Sam's trusty googles, wouldn't the enemy see lights emitting from the darkness? Oh well. In short, Splinter Cell: Double Agent is more of the same stuff you've enjoyed for four years, but it's as much fun as it's always been and feels just like it always has.

Splinter Cell set a visual bar in 2002 when it came out on the Xbox, a bar that even some of today's new, lesser-developed Xbox releases can't reach. Needless to say the four years since then have worked magic on the visuals and the series' Xbox 360 debut is every bit as impressive as the series' debut back on the Xbox. Sam's grizzly, aging appearance is as detailed as ever and the environments that are snuck through are detailed perfectly down to the very last shadow. Oh, and yes, the curtain effect still looks better here than in any other game out there. If it weren't for the series' notoriously stiff animation, this would be a perfect graphical package. The voice acting is as flawless as ever, and with the emotional weight in some of the game's choices you'll hear a reciprocated effect from the supporting characters, like Lambert and the JBA's raspy leader, Emile. The gun sound effects still don't sound as explosive as other games but the ambient music and great voice overs do the trick aurally.

Online multiplayer has been a Splinter Cell highlight since it revolutionized online gaming in Splinter Cell: Pandora tomorrow. Like the single-player game, it wasn't broke, so Ubisoft didn't do a lot to fix it. Avid online gamers might cry fowl about a few things; some gameplay adjustments have been made that make the game a little less "in the dark," so to speak. Spies have really been dumbed down, and not in terms of their maneuverability, but now mercenaries can see a white outline around them after spotting them. Not only that, but force feedback in the controller of a player-controlled mercenary will alert him or her when a spy is nearby. This takes out all of the element of surprise, making it even harder for spies to sneak up on and silently kill mercenaries. Still, online multiplayer is intense and a lot of fun. Splinter Cell: Double Agent is easily one of the best Xbox Live games so far.

In conclusion, there is so little wrong with Splinter Cell: Double Agent that it takes some searching to point out flaws. As I pointed out earlier, the game isn't all that fresh, and the core gameplay is largely the same with Sam having a very limited amount of new abilities. It's really up to you to decide if you want to play through a bunch of missions with similar mechanics as three other past video games. If you make the decision to purchase Splinter Cell: Double Agent, you're most likely an action fan or someone who's already delved into the Splinter Cell franchise. Either way, you're going to enjoy this one. It's one of the better action games of the year and quite possibly the best Splinter Cell yet.
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Location: Bloomington, IN

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