Jeremy Jastrzab
17 May, 2007

Splinter Cell: Double Agent Review

PS3 Review | Bit late for a double dip?
For at least the next two months, the PS3 releases are looking light. The only solace that new PS3 owners have is that a lot of the games that have been available on the Xbox 360 have now made their way over. While this is of no relief to multiple system owners, there is a fair amount of variety now available on the PS3. The latest game to make this transition is Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Despite being taken out of the able hands of Ubisoft Montreal, we were actually quite impressed with Sam Fisher’s fourth outing on the Xbox 360. Even though the PS3 version was only just released (as opposed to launch), how does it stack up on its own?

For the uninformed, the game starts you off with a mission that is reminiscent of something out of a Bond flick, just in the way that it happens. Upon the completion of infiltrating an ice base, Sam learns that his daughter has been killed in a car accident. Distraught, he takes upon himself the most dangerous mission that the NAS can offer. This involves befriending a terrorist organization named John Brown’s Army (JBA), gaining their trust and then destroying their operation from the inside. Unlike Sam’s previous outings, there is much more focus on the story because you are much more involved with the members of JBA.

For the whole of the last generation, the PS2 versions played second fiddle to the Xbox versions of the Splinter Cell. After all, the original game started its life as an Xbox title and only later progressed to being a multiplatform game. Even though the second and third titles were much closer, it was clear that the Xbox version always took precedent over the PS2 version (as well as GC and PC versions). In truth, the same has occurred with Splinter Cell: Double Agent for the PS3. The Xbox 360 version is the definitive version, even if the PS3 version has a few minor additions. Still, the core game remains intact, which is definitely a good thing.

He's about to sleep with the cold fishes

He's about to sleep with the cold fishes
In each of the game’s ten missions (following the opening mission), you’ll be simultaneously carrying out missions for the JBA and NSA. Often, you’ll be taking part in a mission for the JBA and there will be several objectives along the way for both parties. The successful, unsuccessful and treasonous completion of each objective will affect the amount of trust that each organization has for you. These are handily indicated by meters at the bottom of the screen. The catch here is that a lot of your actions will affect your level of trust and if you lose too much trust, the mission fails. Conversely, gaining trust will open up more leeway and more equipment for Sam to use.

An example of the trust that comes into play is when you’re inside the JBA base. Here, the NSA asks you to place bugs and hacks within the base. If you don’t complete them, you lose NSA trust. However, if you are caught by the JBA (often in restricted areas) you will lose their trust. This trust factor adds a lot to the game because your actions will have consequences. On lower difficulties, you can manage quite well but in substantial situations, the meter can swing violently and both ways.

In terms of your stealth, Sam moves just as well as he has in most of the previous outings. There have been motion controls added to the game but they can be turned on and off as you wish. Tilting the control up and down while swimming will allow Sam to surface and dive deeper and puzzles such as the safe cracking and lock picking are controlled by motions as well. They don’t feel out of place and to an extent, are well implemented. However, at times they can be a tad sensitive and force feedback is missed (particularly with regards to lock-picking).

He'd see you if it weren't for all that Internet Pornography

He'd see you if it weren't for all that Internet Pornography
With the additions of trust and refinement of the overall Splinter Cell mechanics and dynamics, Double Agent is one of the finest efforts for the series in terms of single player. It by no means reinvents the wheel but it does what it has to quite well. However, the discrepancies that we experienced in the Xbox 360 version have carried over onto the PS3 version. That is, that almost half of the missions are carried out within the JBA base, the game sometimes punishes you for actions that are meant to assist you, the 3D map and most of your optional vision modes now borderline on useless. The camera also feels as if it confines you to looking at Sam Fisher’s bald head a little too much.

The multiplayer in the game is pretty much the same as it was on the Xbox 360. You can partake in three-on-three matches that pit spies against mercenaries. The spies sneak around and try to hack a terminal while the mercenaries defend. In Double Agent, the spies are now much faster and much more nimble than same, so the multiplayer can get quite frantic and fun. Thankfully, the servers have a decent population on them at the moment. Outside of that, there are a number of co-op challenges that can be enjoyable as well. The PS3 version adds two extra maps and a female spy on top of the 360 content. Unfortunately, there is still no real co-op mode, as there was in Chaos Theory.

An area of Double Agent that disappoints on the PS3 is the graphics. That’s not to say that the game looks bad but it certainly does seem like a rushed port. While the Xbox 360 version didn’t look as good as some of the other recent Ubisoft efforts, it still managed a fair bit of detail and looked quite sharp. For the most part it’s the same on the PS3 but there are many occasions where the details aren’t as sharp, hands pop through walls and the frame rate is more inconsistent than it ought to be. For example, the scene where Sam is being flown into Shanghai looks quite washed out. This is punctuated by some long and frequent load times. At its core, it still looks a good few steps above the last gen but there was clearly something missed in the port job.

Lady spy will own you.

Lady spy will own you.
In terms of sound, the Splinter Cell series has had a good reputation for very high quality sound. Double Agent is no exception. In particular, the game very cleverly alerts you to your status (found, alert triggered) through changes in the music and sound cues. The delivery of the voicing helps with the delivery of the better-than-average story. However, for some reason, the game is very quiet and sometimes muffled. It's probably one of the things that weren’t that well-addressed in the port.

We suppose that with a lot of the early PS3 titles, it comes down to the fact that the development kits were handed out rather late. At launch, this is an excuse that’s passable but as we’ve now hit the straps for the current generation, developers will really have to start pulling their fingers out. By the time this holiday season rolls around, it won’t be unreasonable to expect that the PS3 (and Xbox 360 in some cases) will really start showcasing their true worth. Just about every port in the current PS3 library, including Double Agent is guilty of this, so it will be interesting to see how things go out.

Overall, Splinter Cell: Double Agent on the PS3 is a marginally inferior game when compared to the Xbox 360 version, even though it has come out a few months later. However, these issues are mainly technical and as a stand alone game, Double Agent great one. If you haven’t already played or owned the Xbox 360 version, the PS3 version is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series. We just hope that the technical side of things will improve by the time the next game is released.
The Score
Splinter Cell: Double Agent is a great game for the PS3, but not a great port.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Splinter Cell: Double Agent Content

Splinter Cell Double Agent maps sneak up
27 Jul, 2007 They're free too.
Splinter Cell Double Agent confirmed for the PlayStation 3
22 Dec, 2006 Will be taking advantage of the SIXAXIS.
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