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Splinter Cell: Double Agent Preview

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
genre: Action

PIV 3000, 1GB RAM, 8GB HDD, 128MB video card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 17, 06
» All About Splinter Cell: Double Agent on ActionTrip

Beware, there are spoilers ahead...

Sequels are always a huge pickle for developers. If they screwed things up in the previous game, they must be damn sure not to make the same mistakes twice or they'll be crucified by the community. It's also vital that the new installment puts forth a fresh idea - something that will appeal to average gamers and devotees alike. But this is usually the part where game designers get stumped (it's not that easy to come up with a new concept, you know). Then it hits them. The most obvious solution to the problem is to come up with a darker storyline, preferably something involving the character's bitter past which is always a good way to stir things up a bit. An evil deed done to him in the past triggers feelings of regret and that often leads to a character with vengeance on his mind, which in turn establishes the perfect foundation for a motive, something that keeps the character going.

"Noir" sequels were seen time and again (Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Hitman: Contracts, Max Payne 2: the Fall of Max Payne) and they were usually successful, which proves the recipe works. To give it even more edge, your average sequel is frequently supplied with extra gore and violence. Whether you approve of the method or not is irrelevant. The fact remains that it sells, so the odds are that most developers will continue down that all too familiar road. Some more so than others.

In Splinter Cell Double Agent, Sam Fisher's life has taken a turn for the worse, seeing as he's forced to cope with the death of his only daughter. She got killed in a car crash and Sam is, quite naturally, devastated about it. Being one of the most reputable operatives out there, he decides not to sit around and pine all day for the loss of his daughter. Instead, he gets back into the spy business when The National Security Agency recruits him to work as an NOC (which apparently stands for Non Official Cover) agent. He begins his first true assignment almost straight away. The surprising catch is that Sam faces a really challenging undercover operation, which will put him through some intense moral choices. The objective is to infiltrate a well-known terrorist organization as quickly and as inconspicuously as possible. The delicate nature of the mission requires Sam to go in without much of his standard spy equipment - that rules out the famous night vision goggles, well for a certain amount of time anyway (he gets to use them later on in a couple of missions).

Sam's top secret task involves getting into one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the world, known as John Brown's Army. In order to strike at the very heart of organization, Fisher must figure out a way to get inside.

After being convicted of armed robbery, Sam Fisher ends up counting the long days in an Ellsworth Federal Penitentiary prison cell. Serving time, obviously, provides the ideal cover for his operation. Before long, Sam gets acquainted with a prisoner name Jamie Washington (enough with the immigrant names already - Ed), who incidentally turns out to be one of the many members of the JBA (John Brown's Army). Eventually, they begin to plan their escape. During an unexpected prison riot, all hell breaks loose and the two inmates manage to nab a news chopper and flee to the terrorist base, where Sam will face his first hard decision. Each step will bring our hero closer to his goal, but it all depends on how he reacts to certain events and how well he can handle intense situations. The JBA doesn't screw around, so they test Sam straight away by ordering him to shoot an innocent unarmed man to prove his devotion to the organization. The good thing is that the choice is yours entirely, regardless if you are prepared to show mercy or splatter someone's brains across the floor with a handgun. No matter what choice you make, the game will become even more exciting as you progress.

Moral choices get increasingly tougher, but on top of that at many points in the game, you'll have to deal with additional challenges. Each endeavor has its reward though, so every time Sam successfully completes an assignment for the terrorists, they will reveal crucial information about their operations and grant him access to new sections within their base. The really tricky bit is that the NSA also has their list of assignments that have to be followed, which puts our poor protagonist in a rather tight spot. Essentially, as a skillful operative, you're gonna have to effectively balance between the demands of Third Echelon and missions given by the terrorists. Reckless decisions can easily compromise Sam's cover, so players are advised to take heed every step of the way and choose their options wisely.

If that's not enough for you, Ubisoft also included additional side-missions to draw your attention away a wee bit from the main task at hand. Completing these missions will improve your ranking and earn you extra points. Moral choices await you in side-missions as well, although you'll also have to think about whether Sam can afford to waste time and jeopardize his own safety just so he can get his hands on a few extra points. Sometimes it may not be worth the risk. Luckily, Sam was also given a few new abilities to help him survive through the whole ordeal. His unique skills will indeed come in handy in certain situations - like when he has to dive into freezing water and swim his way pass the guards undetected (yep, Sam can swim now). Then again, he's a professional operative, so swimming shouldn't be too hard for him. Sam will of course be able to use a range of familiar stealthy and acrobatic moves in order to avoid being caught by the enemy. Also, as you know, taking out foes in silence has always been Sam's specialty, so naturally, that will be an important part of the game.

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