Splinter Cell Double Agent Competitive Multiplayer Hands-On

Sam Fisher is set to return this year in Double Agent, and we sat down for a first look at the exhilarating multiplayer side of the game.

The next game in the Splinter Cell series is now set for release in October. October 20 to be exact, which is probably disappointing to longtime fans of the stealth-action series who are eager to play its first installment on a next-gen platform. But when those fans see what Ubisoft is doing with the multiplayer component in Sam Fisher's next mission (to say nothing of the game's unique new story campaign), we think they'll be glad the developers are taking all the time they need to get it right. If you haven't been keeping up, Double Agent sees former government spy Sam Fisher becoming disillusioned with his old employers and turning into a terrorist as a result. The single-player mode has been covered in our earlier previews, but we finally got the chance for some hands-on play with the multiplayer side of the game at recent events in London and San Francisco.

Previous Splinter Cell games have earned acclaim for their multiplayer features, with the excellent co-op mode being a highlight. However, Ubisoft concedes that previously, the experience online could be frustrating for casual players who were shunned by the hardcore competitive groups. In Double Agent, effort has been made to tighten up the levels for quick 15-minute games, while expanding features to keep hardcore players coming back. The multiplayer designers have also focused on making the gameplay as accessible as possible for newcomers, and indeed we were able to jump into both roles--the mercenary and the spy--in the competitive multiplayer mode with ease the first time we tried them.

Like in Pandora Tomorrow, Double Agent's competitive games feature two teams of three people playing cat and mouse, with one set of spies and one of mercenaries. Each team has its own combination of skills in order to help it attain the objectives for each level. The spy, played from a third-person perspective, possesses great agility, being able to quickly climb most obstacles and crawl through vents. The mercenary is played through a first-person view, and has access to weaponry and gadgets that will help him eliminate this spy threat. With spies crawling over each level in an effort to hack computers and steal data, it's the mercenary's job to stop them by any means necessary.

Stealth is naturally the name of the game when you play as a spy, especially since your adversaries are toting assault rifles.

In fact, that's the spy's sole objective. Each map has four computers scattered throughout that contain sensitive files, and the spy team will have to successfully hack into two of these computers, retrieve the data, and return it to an extraction point to win the match. The mercenaries' job is simply to kill all the spies or at least stymie their hacking attempts until time runs out. Both teams' objectives are made a little easier by a 3D minimap that shows the location of all your teammates and the four sensitive computers. These computer icons will blink when one of them is being accessed, so you can easily keep track of where the relevant activity is at any given time.

Double Agent affords each team new skills and technologies in order to more effectively combat the other side, and there are a number of checks and balances in place whereby each side can counter the other's strategy with efficient use of these diverse abilities. The centerpiece of the spy's arsenal is a hacking tool that allows him to access computers from afar. The catch is that the farther you are from the source, the more time it will take to hack and download the data--and you'll see a cell phone signal-style graph on your heads-up display indicating how strong your hack is at the present distance. While hiding away will increase your chance of survival, remotely hacking will mean that you have to wait around potentially for a good couple of minutes. But luckily you can start a hack, then stop it and move to another location and pick up where you left off, which can be incredibly frustrating for mercs who are trying to find where you're hacking from.

That's not nearly all the spy can do with this hacking tool, though. You can also deactivate most lights, much like Sam Fisher can in the single-player game. But in multiplayer, these lights stay off for good, so you can essentially shroud an entire area in darkness and then rely on the spy's thermal and night-vision modes to see the hapless mercs, who only have a standard flashlight. The hacking tool even lets you break out certain windows, and you can hack into some door locks to open new pathways, too. Spies can also choose from several gadgets at the beginning of a level, from a health boost to a scrambler that will disable the merc's motion sensor to a flare that can blind him. Naturally, you're a little short on offensive options when playing as the spy, but you can sneak up behind a merc and snap his neck if you're really careful--and the few times we managed to do this were among the more exciting moments we've had in a multiplayer game in a long time.

Visual cues within the environment make it easy for spy players to see exactly where their escape routes are.

Playing as a spy in Double Agent's multiplayer mode feels a little like playing regular Splinter Cell in fast forward, since these guys can just get from one place to another so fast. In addition to the standard hanging on ledges and shimmying up pipes, spies can pull off some nimbler evasion moves that you won't see in the single-player game, such as diving over low windowsills. Best of all, the game shows you exactly where you can perform these maneuvers, with a silhouette of the character performing the action in the right spot and a hovering button icon showing you what to press. Trust us, this assistance is more than welcome when you're fleeing from a merc who's trying to mow you down with his rifle and you don't have time to scour the area for possible escape routes.

Of course, spies don't get to have all the fun. The mercenaries are armed with a standard automatic assault rifle, as you'd expect, and you can zoom in with it to perform a single sniper shot for higher precision. As mentioned, the mercs only have a flashlight attached to their rifle, but you can at least change the focus of the beam to control how far ahead of you it will illuminate. You've also got a special vision mode that will light up the spies "like a Christmas tree," in the words of one Ubi rep, when they're engaged in a hack attempt. You can barely see your surroundings otherwise in this mode, though, so it's not really useful unless you're near a computer being hacked and can't locate the spy.

The mercs may be less mobile than the spies, but whatever...they've got guns.

In fact, the mercenaries have been blessed with quite a lot of cool new gadgetry. There's now a motion-sensor tool that lets you see if a spy is in the vicinity, both audibly and through controller vibration. Mercenaries also have technology that gives spies a white outline when spotted, making them easier to pick out. This only works when a spy is in full standing mode, at which point they're extremely visible, so a crafty spy will always want to stay crouched to avoid this problem. But, of course, once you've spotted and are firing on a spy, they'll want to get out of there as fast as possible, so they'll naturally be in a full upright position as they flee. That just makes them all the easier to keep track of as you're trying to gun them down.

But wait, there's more! More toys, that is. Using one of the new drone robots, mercenaries can plant themselves in a hidden space and use it to hunt down spies remotely. The robot can fly up and down to reach places that otherwise only a spy could, and if you do find a spy hiding in the shadows, you can detonate the drone remotely. You can also opt for a standard frag grenade instead of this drone, which is useful for flushing spies out of hard-to-reach places. Mercenaries can also jump off buildings and ledges, rappelling down quickly to safety. All these enhancements and toys make up for the fact that, in terms of movement, a mercenary is far more restricted than a spy.

We played through this mode in a three-on-three system-link configuration on the Xbox 360, and the subtle new changes made for a very tense game of cat and mouse. We loved the ease in which spies can scale buildings and get into the nooks and crannies of every level. As a spy, the challenge is to find the sneakiest place to hide and hack computers from afar. As you wait nervously in the shadows while the mercenaries shine their flashlights around, you can sense their frustration at not being able to find you. Likewise, mercenaries can use drones and grenades to scour the levels and kill spies from afar. And if spies ever reveal themselves to a mercenary, they can easily be eliminated with a machine gun.

We're betting this competitive mode is going to be a big hit on Xbox live when Double Agent hits shelves in October.

There are eight new multiplayer levels in Splinter Cell: Double Agent, featuring industrial locations in several places including New Orleans. Another map we played was set in a mansion. All the maps have areas that only spies can access, which helps to negate the mercs' overwhelming offensive advantage, and we had a blast playing both roles and using our unique tech and abilities to try to shut down the other team. We think anyone who enjoyed the multiplayer mode in Pandora Tomorrow is going to have an awfully good time with this mode--we certainly did during our short (too short) play session.

In fact, based on how much fun we had, this mode is certainly set to be popular at launch with the Xbox 360's Live community. The agility of the spies lets you nimbly traverse the levels and easily learn each hiding spot, while the camera used for the mercenaries again makes Splinter Cell feel like a first-person shooter. The improvement in gadgetry, as well as the motion sensor, also adds to the tension when playing as a mercenary, and it's incredibly satisfying to find a spy with a drone and to detonate it from afar. And it's equally satisfying as a spy to successfully black out a room, hide behind cover, and sneak up behind a mercenary to silently snap his neck. Luckily, October's not too far away, so we'll not have long to wait before we can all play Double Agent online.

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88 comments
martindabest
martindabest

Im curious about the multiplayer, but it sounds good :)

lazyenglishman
lazyenglishman

Yeah i'm definitely getting this game if i have the money XD

warthogjump
warthogjump

i've been looking up about this game 24/7 ; I simply can't wait for it, im gettin it the day it come out. However, i had a few questions in mind that someone might be able to answer: - i haven't seen the shotgun and/or sniper attachment for the sc-20k, i was just wondering if they were going tio be available, since the shotgun attachment for chaos thery was awesome..... once you got bored of stealth and had to go on a killing rampage. - Any verification that his daughter is really dead? - Offline wise, is their going to be a split-screen co - op and/or deathmatch? Last I heard, you could use mercs as bots and vs them offline (single and splitscreen) and online by becoming spies. any verification on this? - online wise, is there going to be coop, haven't heard bout any co-op yet... thanks all...

joomen
joomen

cant wait to play this game online , looks like the same old stuff i love with pimp graphics

kingofkings360
kingofkings360

Can't wait for this game to hit stores in October.

xxlilb54
xxlilb54

they should make multiplayer have better graphics and gameplay

reece590
reece590

I love ALL the splinter cells expesally Choas Therey for the single player, Coop and the Amazing Xbox live multiplayer. I am getting this game day one....

lil2jay8702
lil2jay8702

I played all of them splinter cell and finished them so im waiting for this killin one...The graphics are great and i hope the game play too

DarkWolfx12
DarkWolfx12

Metal gear is good, and splinter cell as well. But it does not have the same stealth skills, nor actions that splinter cell has. Metal Gear has a very good story and everything, but I simply like SC better because of its gameplay.

lobotron
lobotron

Why are all the ppl bald in MP mode?!

Schurmy
Schurmy

Yeah this game gets me hyped just the fact that you play two sides...... Multiplayer really looks good to I think they are going to pull of this title I dont know about you guys but this game is going to be in my hands when it hits stores.

Bloodhawk_DX
Bloodhawk_DX

The Splinter Cell series has been so good so far. I can't wait to get my hands on this title!

daddo-splat
daddo-splat

Iam down with this game a change is good in missions and 3 on 3 multi player adds to the fun!! wanna be MGS the only resemblence is the lead characters. I love Mgs too but these games are apples and oranges. splinter cell sticks to the missions and objectives while MGS has you fighting super bosses who are bare chested and insane with anger!!! theatrically MGS is a great story unbelievable and over the top with psychological twists. and lets face it Splinter cells multi player has always been fun. will see how mgs4 does with its atempt? Beside if you play and can afford do both!!!

Acronomic
Acronomic

Sweet. The daytime missions really are a welcome change. Multiplayer looks a lot more playable too - I only wish they could make the spies' movement seem more fluid and less shaky.

MechHawk
MechHawk

The Characters look funny... Hope the bring back some of the classic multiplayer maps like Warehouse, Mall, Polebase, Etc...

LsTr_Of_SmG
LsTr_Of_SmG

Hmmm with that remote hacking tool it seems like they have made thinks a hell of a lot easier for spy players... :S

Rossgath
Rossgath

wannabe metal gear? the stealth is much better in splinter cell

thepeter
thepeter

this is a wannabe Metal Gear. Enough said.

Ashkanhoss29
Ashkanhoss29

Instead for the multiplayer which is looking very good with the 3vs3 and new maps, I'm not likeing the singleplayer because its too different. I"v been playing the SC series since the first one, and I'm not likeing how there are day time missions and no nightvision goggles. The thing that made the other splintercells so good and different was the light and dark gameplay with you haveing the edge with nightvision goggles and other hightech equipment. But who knows, this change might be a good thing. I also dont like the look of the characters in Verses, just like the stupid look they gave samfisher in the third game.

IStoleUrSokz
IStoleUrSokz

Everyone (including the writer of this article) was talking about pandora tommorow's competitive multiplayer. Didnt anyone play competitive multiplayer in Chaos Theory? It was a lot better than pandora tomorrow's.

Infernoply
Infernoply

is it offline multiplayer at all?

Knighty
Knighty

This game is going to be a blast to play!

ultrazone
ultrazone

I'm excited. I've always enjoyed Splinter Cell's multiplayer. And this iteration looks like its gonna be even more enjoyable. I can't for the life of me understand why people would ever look down on this game *cough* tehfuzzball *cough*.

mer1384
mer1384

I am ready for double agent with my new computer!! GIVE ME IT FASTERRRRRR!

Berem
Berem

This games multiplayer will consume my life!

chineolee
chineolee

Anyone got a time machine so we can fast forward to October?

Paceydre
Paceydre

People who say the multiplayer is crap didn't sat down long enough with pandora tomorrow's multiplayer. At first I didn't like the multiplayer, didn't understand anything from it. The more I played the game with a good online buddy of mine the more games we won and the more fun we had. After a few weeks we were playing as a team, helping each other out and to play as a loner got you killed more than when you played as a team. This is something which I like and what I like more is that we can now play 3vs3. With Pandora Tomorrow there were so many people who wanted to play with me or with my buddy but we always played as a team. Now other friends have a chance to play with us on our team.

mhrnw
mhrnw

This game is gonna be awesome. When it comes out it will instantly be the best game for 360 and I can see it being a strong nominee for game of the year. Hey fuzzball you're right splinter cell is no metal gear. It's much better. Metal gear is too cartoony for me. All it has over this game is a better storyline. Splinter Cell has better gameplay and is more realistic. They are both good games but I'd give the edge to Splinter Cell.

SpartansOnFire
SpartansOnFire

I loved Pandora and Chaos, and I'll probally love this one too. Though I think reinventing the entire game like this is a risky move. But so far it looks great so, let the cracking begin!

dd99
dd99

i agree with fuzz ball, this seems very much like the hidden: source

tehfuzzball
tehfuzzball

Although mulitplayer is good in the spilter cell games (last 2), its really just the same as Hidden the mod for HL2. I'll probably downlaod this, so I won't be able to play multi-player :(.

x505
x505

spies ftw

tehfuzzball
tehfuzzball

This game is going to most likely suck. The others in the series weren't amazing, and ceratinly no metal gear solid. So taking the series in a turn like this, really isn't a good move.

innerwar
innerwar

Haha that spin move wasnt so bad. Just means fewer spies running blindly up to mercs beating the snot out of them because the mercs cant aim fast enough (on xbox anyway, pc was fine). Playing a merc in PT was painful stuff.

Executioner3000
Executioner3000

I can't wait for this game. Oh, and hionspeed64, orton13 probably "Doesn't give a crap about the Multiplayer" because he can't play Online for some reason. Something like that because I'm about to get Xbox Live for the Original Xbox, and I'm completely excited about it, but before, when I couldn't get Xbox Live, I didn't really care for Multiplayer either. Either that, or there's the possibility that he doesn't like Multiplayer at all, which, to me, is pretty amazing.

guslan
guslan

I need this game man, It´s gonna rule , I love Splinter Cell

hionspeed64
hionspeed64

ortan13, SC's multiplay is the one of the most creative. I can't see how you "don't give a crap about the multiplayer."

stiker71
stiker71

This and THP8 are my top wanted games right now.

Faceoff713
Faceoff713

The game so far does look promising, but honestly in SCCT the Mercs were way to powerful with that stupid spin move. And Co-op was extremely laggy so hopefully they will avoid those problems this go around. SCPT was probably the best multi player game on the original XBOX. The game was so well balanced. I don't know how I feel about 3 vs 3 but it will be an interesting turn out. The key to these games is being well balanced and hopefully SCDA will success SCPT in that department. Hopefully SCDA won't be to noob friendly like Halo 2. I'm really looking forward to a game that takes strategy and skill to infiltrate the Mercs and break a few necks. I don't want it to out into a double wielding SMG spray and pray game such as the much disappointing Halo 2. Down with noob-friendly games. But in the end I can't wait for October 20.

wazzdan
wazzdan

Looks great but having a couple tweaks would be nice.

classic_rocker
classic_rocker

the vid with the news looks quite dumb, u run around while getting shot at then hide in holes. :P idk so far..

indrid-cold6684
indrid-cold6684

I hope they fix how glitchy the multiplayer is. I got stuck as a merc inside a spy once.

Romanticide
Romanticide

Those visual cues look dumb. I hope that its optional.

FPSSteve
FPSSteve

This is gonna be so awesome. I just hope it will still have co-op.

coolcon2000
coolcon2000

I just can;t wait for this game. i am glad they are trying to fix the beginners losing most of the time. Can't wait for the multiplayer.

grave_rob
grave_rob

i'm nearly foaming at the mouth.