Sunday, December 09, 2007

Splinter Cell: Double Agent - Review

Well this took a while I'll admit (my last preview for this was in August '06). Due to some techn- ical difficulties, Bellerophron was not able to handle SC:DA as it did not have Shader 3.0 technology required by the game's engine. However it was just as well, as upon release it became clear for most gamers that installed it- it was one of the most bugged games of all time. Severe crashes, glitchy graphics, missing textures and impassible puzzles were what you had to look forward to if you were "lucky" enough to actually get the game running. It's only now a year later that many of the problems have been addressed both by Ubisoft and graphics card manufacturers. It's considered a small miracle if you can get the game running in Vista so I installed it on an XP environment on Maxximus, a few patches and driver installs later and I was good to go, I was going to find out was it worth keeping SC:DA on my shelf for a year and if all the research I undertook was going to be rewarded.

First of all, I'm pleased to say that in many ways, SC:DA is much the same as it's predecessors, the original Splinter Cell, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, in so far as you are the now legendary Sam Fisher, the NSA's greatest field operative, once again voiced by one of Canada's greatest exports: Micheal Starship Troopers Ironside himself. Your in mission operational instructions continue to be provided by the inimitable Dennis The Unit Haysbert as Colonel Irving Lambert. It's still a game of stealth where darkness silence are as much your weapons as your assault rifle, pistol and knife, however this time there's a twist: You're working for the bad guys!!!

Well when I say you're working for the bad guys I mean you're a double-agent who works for the bad guys while trying to simultan- eously complete objectives for the NSA, unfortunately these often conflict and you must decide if you should increase your influence with the terrorists so they'll trust you more by completing their heinous objectives or let them down as you covertly complete the NSA's assignments. You're not completely trusted by either side- Sam became a down and out after the death of his daughter and went off the rails which earned him a stay in the state pen so he's not 100% committed to either cause, it's only through your own actions as Sam that he will find redemption or ultimate destruction.

When the game works, it works well. Graphics are as good as the Unreal technology will allow and you find yourself in many different environments that Sam hasn't visited before, this includes Antarctica, where you make your way across the ice, swim and take down bad guys from below and assault an oil tanker, the Caribbean where you make your way through a cruise liner swarming with Mexican coast guard personnel and you rappel down a Shanghai skyscraper as beautiful fireworks ignite the skyline. However the most extraordinary levels were set in war-torn Kinshasa, The Congo where you literally have to discard a lot of the ideas you've learned in this and the previous games as you make your way in broad daylight - yes DAYLIGHT with little or no cover, avoiding or eliminating rebels or government forces who will shoot at a heavily armed Caucasian even if he's trying to steer clear of you.

The game plays very heavily on your own personality and can be somewhat psychol- ogical. Throughout the game there are moments where you much make hard choices that will obviously effect the story's course as they will seriously impact the level of trust you have with either the NSA or the terrorists bout the choices are very clearly open. Do you rescue the civilians? Do you take the sniper shot? Do you shoot your own boss in the head?!!! By the games end it's clear that whatever path you follow- Splinter Cell 5 is going to be quite different from all that have gone before...

Final Verdict: A high tech morality play and a deeply engaging and beautiful game. Fans of the Splinter Cell franchise will not be disappointed and the kind of people who absorb Alias or 24 will lap it up but if you can get your hands on a console version instead of the PC game then I'm forces to suggest those instead due to the hassle that even a PC guru like me had to get the damn thing working, it was this that lowered the score from 5-Stars.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

1 comment:

Bruce Russell said...

[Raises a glass] 'Gentlemen, here's to evil.'