CES '08: The Agency Updated Impressions

Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming espionage-themed, persistent world online shooter looks like a winner.

LAS VEGAS--The Agency looks unlike anything seen to date. In fact, this upcoming persistent online shooter looks very promising because it should deliver a blend of third-person action wrapped in a cool espionage setting, but without the complex, convoluted interface and gameplay of massively multiplayer online role-playing games. The Agency itself isn't an MMO per se, but it is a persistent online game that will let you pursue a huge array of espionage missions alongside fellow players.

We last saw The Agency at the E3 Media & Business Summit, which was more than six months ago. While progress has been made since then, the game is still in pre-alpha state, meaning that all the pieces aren't in place. Still, what SOE Seattle has to show at CES is nonetheless impressive; the developers showed off a mission that takes place in a beautifully rendered version of Prague in the Czech Republic. It's the kind of place that's full of cobblestone streets, distinctive Central European architecture, and plenty of detail. Running into a flower shop, which is the front for a secret base for one of the two factions in the game, is a treat because suddenly the shelves swing open and you enter a vast underground facility that takes its cues from many of the Bond films. There's all sorts of experimental weapon and gadget testing going on in the background (with the promise that the developers will update and change the tests over time to keep everything fresh). There's even a working Q*bert video game cabinet, which is an example of the kinds of minigames in The Agency. Even better, the developers will tie these minigames into the main game, so you might only be able to gain influence with a certain character by having a certain Q*bert score.

The game will basically have three types of missions. The short mission is designed to be 10 to 15 minutes long, which is perfect if you want to just get into the game, play for a quick burst, and then get out. Medium length missions are about 30 minutes to an hour if you want a longer play session. And then there are the game's set pieces, which are elaborate missions that last more than an hour.

Your role will be to create an operative and customize him or her using a large variety of body parts and such. That's pretty much par for any online game. Where The Agency stands out is in its gameplay. You play it just like a third-person action game, so the screen isn't cluttered with the kind of interface elements you'd find in such a game as World of Warcraft. Because The Agency is also being prepped for the PlayStation 3, the developers have had to come up with a very clean, simple, and elegant interface that lets you interact with the environment easily.

The mission that SOE Seattle showed off illustrated the depth in the game. In it, three SOE Seattle developers each controlled a separate character as they had a mission to tail an operative of Das Komite, an evil organization that is up to no good. Tailing the operative showed off some of the espionage elements of the game: If he spots you and your cover is blown, you're in trouble. You can have an alias that disguises you, but in that case, your health bar turns into an alias bar, and the closer or longer a bad guy looks at you, the more it drains until your cover is blown.

Having successfully trailed the Das Komite operative to the Prague underground, trouble erupts as the evil organization's plan becomes clear. The bad guys are plotting to blow up the pillars that are beneath the city, so it's up to you and your team to stop them. This involves lots and lots of gunfire. But it also involves a lot of cool ways of interacting with the environment and using special powers, gadgets, and abilities. For example, one operative can turn the water in a pipe to steam and use it to scald unsuspecting guards beneath it.

The climax of the battle is the race to stop enemy agents from planting bombs on and blowing up the pillars or disarming any bombs before they erupt. If you succeed, you'll have an opportunity to execute what are called Agency Moments, which are climactic scenes in the game. In this case, once the bad guys realize that all is lost, they try to begin fleeing to a nearby truck. If you and your teammates can kill enough of them, you can see an elaborate cutscene that shows a Hollywood-esque scene of the truck being destroyed.

There will be plenty of replayability in the missions because you can get graded and receive a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how well you do. It looks like SOE Seattle is up to something pretty cool, and we can't wait to learn more. The Agency is scheduled to ship sometime this year, though the exact scheduling has yet to be worked out.

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50 comments
burstlimit514
burstlimit514

I would like to get a beta or a demo. It sounds like a great idea.

BadXample
BadXample

I have no idea what to think of this. It's not like it would be the first time SOE messed up a great idea. Still, I wish more info was available. I'll keep my eyes open for the beta. Anyone know if this will be subscription based?

dylant21
dylant21

This game actually does look amazing but you cant really compare it to the age of conan. This game doesnt go as far in to detail as AOC does, not to mention it is alot more action based and fast paced. AOC seems like the new WoW to me, hopefully it will pull alot of players off WoW, that would make it easy to play with other players because there are more available. At one point WoW was like that, so many players really didnt matter what time of the day you were on, but now the average play time for individual players is only 12min...so we all know WoW is gettin old and we need somethin new and i think AOC is gonna be that.

Spike_97
Spike_97

GIVE ME A BETA!!! i want this SOOOO BAD!!! This kicks Age of Conan in the nuts!

rico212
rico212

hope we dont get screwed

DredWulf
DredWulf

something needs to kill WoW and it's not gonna be WAR online hopefully this one will take it.

the_fry_cook
the_fry_cook

i don't know what to think of this game, if anyone has the spare time can you tell me whether to get this game or not? cheers

jazilla
jazilla

I want to play this game, but I do not have any faith in SOE after what they did to SWG. i remember seeing some stuff about this though and you can play a character that is more stealthy or a character that is more weapon oriented. maybe SOE can redeem themselves in my eyes, but this game is a ways off.

KharakMcCane
KharakMcCane

Looks really interesting , it might show up really revolutionary... just like SWG was at it's time. If I decide on gettings this (considering my bad memories with SOE , about MxO , PlanetSide and SWG , and maybe some other games they ruined and I missed out) I really hope they'll keep on doing the good job they SEEM to be doing. I really hope I won't be disapointed by some "über-update". Besides that , it all seems revolutionary , I just hope you'll have some nice freedom in the game , not just missions... but that's for the Devs to decide. With hope & faith , Kharak McCane

JetMonkeyking
JetMonkeyking

I wasnt comparing, just stating my opinion, and btw its coming out in spring.

mAttthhheaLy
mAttthhheaLy

"SPORE looks a lot better" What? That comparison makes no sense, they are completely different games... from the sound of it there's never been a game like this and it should be interesting to see how it pans out. If Spore ever gets released then I'm sure it will be a great game, but it's completely ridiculous to look at every game in comparison to one great one.

TrueIori
TrueIori

And this is why i got a PS3 HAHHHAHAHAHA love it

warbmxjohn
warbmxjohn

Looks like a very promising title! I want to know more!

teirdome
teirdome

Good preview Jason. It got me interested in a SOE online game... which I swore I would never do again after the flop that was Star Wars Galaxies.

Simmo007
Simmo007

Looks incredibly promising... I am hoping this and something like Warhammer online will be the games to nock WoW off it's online domination pedestal.

Maersyndel
Maersyndel

I'll be there......must have this game!

ryaz_weaponx
ryaz_weaponx

AWESOME.........this might just b the next best thing

GOkinaka
GOkinaka

Sounds very interesting.....

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

sounds... lame... "city of spies". looks way too much like a little kids game.

sleepy_eyed
sleepy_eyed

This game looks cool. I'm looking forward to it.

thekodaman
thekodaman

Online RPGS tend to give me horrific WoW backflashes.

DarwinBC
DarwinBC

I really hope this launch goes better then Vanguard. Maybe this will stop me from playing Vanguard so much..lol

Tokyo90
Tokyo90

I'm getting this game for sure

sephi_strife
sephi_strife

Finally, something that sounds like it can finally stop me playing WOW.

DahLong
DahLong

i hope the game is fun

Sony_92
Sony_92

Im 100% sure im getting this game .. its awesome

i_DUB
i_DUB

this looks sick

Space-Q
Space-Q

"Give me a release date, I want to pre pay this game!" I would put money on it that it doesn't come out until late summer or fall of 2009 take any release date/goal and tack a year on to it.

Vojkan80001
Vojkan80001

Well it's made by SOE so it's gonna rock HARD

Samyos
Samyos

looks like a great multiplayer game

fizzyfunk
fizzyfunk

Well it's made by SOE so it's gonna rock.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

doesnt seem very RPG ish to me .... just another multiplayer game with a big online twist ...

b_blakeney
b_blakeney

"Queues" should be "cues". C'mon, Gamespot, edit fer chrissakes! I had an idea like this a while back, but now that the technology's here, I can't wait to see what they do with it. Take that, Blizzard. Somebody else is getting my money now.

Pete5506
Pete5506

its starting to look good

Darth_Tigris
Darth_Tigris

Anyone see the pics? They look like pre-alpha Perfect Dark Zero. Can a console MMOTPS maintain high enough graphic content for today's gamer???

Arcanum
Arcanum

Give me a release date, I want to pre pay this game!

cjno13
cjno13

Looking more and more like i will have to give this a try when it somes out

Sicrowell
Sicrowell

I'll have to grind Q*bert for a certain score to advance? That's awesome!

mitu123
mitu123

Sounds like a must have game for the PS3(and PC), I'll doubt it would fail.