Special Note:

This Splinter Cell: Double Agent Walkthrough is for version one of the game for the Xbox 360, PC and PS3.

Double Agent Review ★★★★★

I am sad to report that Sam Fisher has finally jumped the shark. While Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent makes several attempts at innovation, it fails miserably, abandons the boundaries of stealth-action game play, damages the main character with a ruinous story line, and actually recycles the same drab, unexciting map for a mind-numbing four levels.

The exact moment of the shark jump occurs early in Double Agent, with a needlessly tragic plot twist almost as senseless as the quizzically-pointless opening to Aliens 3. Death can be a shortcut to dramatic poignancy, or it can simply be a transparent plot device that robs a hero of his humanity. Double Agent seems determined to redefine Sam Fisher as a darker, morally-ambiguous character, for better or worse.

Game play implications include a trust meter to gauge your loyalty to the NSA good-guys or JBA bad-guys, and, ironically, bright daytime missions. Much as I don't like the idea of Sam being a bad guy, he never really has the freedom that this meter implies. The daytime missions shift the stealth-action spectrum toward action and away from the stealthy skulking that has defined the series.

One spectacular exception, the Shanghai level, has a stunningly original map. A beautiful view of the cityscape surrounds Sam as he rappels down a high-rise apartment building. New Year's fireworks explode all around, impacting Sam's ability to hide as they randomly illuminate the shadows that he depends upon to remain hidden. The opposite can be said of the Kinshasa map, an ear-splitting albatross of a level which practically demands to be played like Gears of War.

While Sam is in JBA HQ, the biggest game play addition is a subtraction -- he won't have access to any of his trademark equipment. Goggles, sticky shockers, and most other NSA equipment is unavailable. The map is wide-open and non-linear. You have the option to choose which objectives to complete and the order in which to complete them, but unless you're psychic or have run the map previously, you'll be stumbling about wondering where to go and how to get there. A 3D map is provided, and is quite helpful, even essential, to advancing through the levels, but no compass is provided, making it difficult to orient Sam's current position on the display.

Graphically, there's nothing particularly awful or inspired (beyond the Shanghai level) but I did suffer a heavy dose of screen tearing using my Xbox 360's VGA connection at 720p. The framerate also suffered frequent drops causing noticeable stutter, especially unforgivable on a console where smooth framerates should be prioritized above shader effects.

Fans of the series are likely to enjoy the more familiar areas of the game, and the inclusion of levels such as Shanghai and Cozumel make the game deserving of no less than a three-star rating. Still, the general direction of the story line, its implications for the main character, and the shameless re-use of the JBA map cause this fan to consider bailing on the next installment.

- Last Update 08/28/07