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01 Nov 2006

Over the last four years Sam Fisher has built up a reputation as being the quintessential stealth super-spy that we all wish we could be. Instead of resorting to heavy shoot-em-up tactics to mow down endless waves of enemies, Fisher is all about using gadgets and employing stealthy tactics to make his presence virtually unknown. After seeing the death of his trainee and his six year old daughter, Fisher’s career takes a turn for the worse as he becomes imprisoned. Although still working for the NSA, he must now gain the respect of a well known terrorist group (known as the JBA) to bring them down from within. As the name suggests, a double agent is essentially a spy who is fighting on two sides with entirely opposite morals. While working for the NSA, Fisher is expected to complete missions in a professional manner without killing anybody unless it is entirely necessary. On the other hand, the JBA will constantly test Sam by forcing him to kill innocent civilians amongst other things. Double Agent puts a heavy emphasis on the new trust system, which constantly keeps track of how fond each side is of Fisher. If he becomes too ruthless the NSA could get him in serious trouble, but if he’s too clean he could blow his cover and lose his life. Generally speaking, the latest inclusion in the Splinter Cell series incorporates an in-depth storyline with tons of choices that lead to multiple endings in order to make the entire experience much more relevant. The previous instalments in the series have looked great on earlier consoles, so naturally Splinter Cell on the Xbox 360 looks better than ever. The new high definition visuals are much crisper than the old Xbox could deliver, while the character models and level designs carry the same amount of realism as before. Fisher’s wardrobe consists of some interesting looking suits, and even the enemies have a much more intimidating appearance. Likewise, the sound has always been an important aspect of the series so you obviously won’t get short-changed here. As you are sleuthing around, the overlying uncomfortable silence makes every footstep extremely important, and you’ll also need to watch out in case you brush up against any objects. In the event that you are detected, all hell breaks loose as gunfire sprays in all directions and a fast paced instrumental piece intensifies the moment. The voice acting is as solid as ever, and it can be comical to listen in on enemy conversations before you decide to slit their throats. The basic formula for any stealth action game holds true to the entire Splinter Cell series, but Double Agent expands on the basics to make the gameplay more captivating. By having to balance your trust with two rival factions, you’ll constantly be faced with life-altering decisions that will ultimately change the final ending. This, in conjunction with enhanced AI, more inspiring level designs, and an overall stronger sense of freedom, makes for a spy title that can easily be deemed as a must have.Aside from having main objectives for each level, there are secondary and tertiary missions that can boost trust for either side and even unlock new weapons and gadgets. The story will branch off depending on how strong your ties are, and you’ll often have split-second decisions forced upon yourself that will really get the blood rushing through your body. Directed moments, as they are referred to, are interactive situations in which you have very little time to make a decision. The first of these comes up when the JBA ask you to kill a helicopter pilot who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. By not killing him the JBA will be one step closer to discovering you as a spy, but by shooting him in the head the NSA will surely frown upon your merciless killings. Although these moments only come up once every couple of missions, being caught off guard with such a scenario will have conflicting thoughts race through your mind, which is certainly entertaining to say the least. The computer AI has undergone improvements, but it is still lacking in some areas. Rival guards have a greater sense of environmental awareness, so leaving locked doors open and unconscious bodies on the ground will ensure that an alert is issued. Depending on the difficulty you select, enemies will be keener to your slightest moves, and they will be able to deliver deadly blows if you are detected. As always, light can be used to your advantage if you remain hidden in the shadows, but there is a ridiculously noticeable problem in this area. Even if you are only a couple of feet in front of a guard, you won’t be detected even if you should clearly be seen. Furthermore, performing actions, such as hacking computers, also won’t give away your location as long as you are in the dark. This is less of an issue on the harder difficulties though. Probably the best update in Double Agent revolves around the level designs and mission structures. One moment you’ll be travelling through Iceland in an open arctic setting, and before you know it you’ll be rappelling down the side of a massive office building. One to look out for and well worthy of the Tom Clancy brand.

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