E3 hands-on preview – Splinter Cell: Double Agent

Courtesy of DailyGame

The Splinter Cell series, traditionally an Xbox powerhouse, has slowly been transforming from a unique stealth game into a more action-orientated title over its many years, and the next game in the franchise, Double Agent, is no exception. This time around Sam Fisher is going deep under cover to infiltrate the latest terrorists threatening the world. So deeply under cover, in fact, that he may never return.

To earn the trust of the bad guys, their boss asks you to kill an innocent man in front of them. The view goes into first-person mode and you see Sam’s arm pointing a gun at a man who’s tied to a chair. He’s gagged, beaten and begging you not to do it.

Do you shoot him? The choice is yours. Unlike the previous installments of the game, Double Agents features a branching story line with moral decisions to be made along the way. You will be getting jobs from both the NSA and the terrorists, and you have to balance out somewhere between them to end up at one of several different endings. Ignore the terrorist missions and they won’t trust you. Ignore the NSA too much and they will start to wonder whether you’ve jumped ship and joined the other side.

The stealth and awareness gauges have been removed and replaced with a simple colored circle in the corner of the screen. It turns green, yellow, orange and red to indicate whether your enemies are aware of your position. The light on Sam’s back also turns color to save you the trouble of having to glance down.

The first level we played had Sam running around a third-world town in fatigues with his head shaved and sunglasses on. At first glance this level looked very similar to Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter — almost too similar. “Daytime Stealth” is being promoted in Double Agent, but with no darkness to creep through, the feeling is mostly lost. Stealth, to us, doesn’t mean sniping everyone in town from 200 meters away.

More context-sensitive animations have been added, like the ability to crawl under a truck and attach yourself to the bottom to bypass a difficult section of a level, or hopping up on a tank and dropping a grenade into its hatch. The animation for these is superb, as to be expected from any Splinter Cell game.

Next we played a winter level that had Sam wearing a body suit that made him look more like his old self (if his old self ever entered the daylight). We jumped into the water and swam under the ice toward an unsuspecting solider who was standing above us on the ice. The Ubisoft representatives showed us how Sam could now punch through the ice and pull him into the water. It sounds a little corny, but it was very cool.

From our time with Double Agent at E3, the game is fun to play, but stealth lovers may be a little disappointed with the stronger emphasis on action. The series has become more accessible and lets gamers play the game however they want, but in the process, Ubisoft seems to be removing much of the stealth that made fans flock to the game in the first place.

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