The Agency Updated Impressions

In this espionage-themed MMO, we take a look at a new mission set in a snowy chateau.

It's safe to assume that James Bond isn't a big massively multiplayer online game player. Sure, he has probably dabbled with World of Warcraft on one of those long flights from England to Russia, but we doubt orcs and paladins are really his thing. No, if he were to jump into an MMO, he'd probably wait until The Agency comes out. This MMO shooter from Sony Online Entertainment Seattle looks to provide a new take on the persistent online space by trading medieval fantasy for espionage, gadgets, and cocktails. We recently paid a visit to SOE Seattle's offices to see an updated build of the game in action.

What The Agency boils down to is a combination of two things: the action of a shooter set against the structure and persistence of an MMO game. That means you'll be taking on missions from your faction of choice as though they were guild quests, advancing your character in both stats and unlockable gear, and leaving your mark on the game's persistent world through the use of AI-controlled operatives. But dig a little deeper than that and you've got a dyed-in-the-wool action game running on the Unreal engine--a shooter where a headshot is a headshot no matter what your opponent's stats are.

Your choice of faction plays a large role in the way missions play out in The Agency. The two options for the taking are UNITE, a high-tech agency filled with classy spies, and Paragon, a group of rough-and-tumble mercenaries who go about things a bit more directly than their Bond-themed counterparts. We were shown a brief mission displaying how you'd go about things as a UNITE agent. The goal was to infiltrate a Swiss chateau where a fancy gala was being held. The two SOE staffers playing managed to get in by adorning their fanciest dress to schmooze with guests, then sneak into the back by cleverly distracting a guard. Had they been playing as Paragon, we're told they'd have infiltrated the waiting staff and simply snuck through the back kitchen. One route requires socializing, patience, and the opportunity to sip a nice martini, while the other simply gets the job done. In a nutshell, that's the difference between UNITE and Paragon.

The mission in question led the two SOE staffers through some back rooms, into a meeting with a villain named Dr. Kessler, and out into the front driveway for a big firefight. It looked like pretty standard shooter fare with a good mix of ranged shooting, grenade throwing, and ducking behind cars for cover. But some of the unique features include your ability to rappel down from a high balcony instead of searching for a ladder and switching between first- and third-person views on the fly. After this large fight, the SOE staffers managed to sneak behind the back of the chateau in order to display some of the game's stealth tactics, such as picking locks and sneaking up behind guards for silent takedowns. All along the way, they were gathering intel by photographing various locations in the chateau--a task that isn't critical to succeeding in a mission but that does offer increased rewards come completion time.

There's no rule that says you can't use assault rifles in an MMO.

After you've spent some time working your way up the ranks of your faction, you'll eventually earn the ability to create your own sub-agency. You'll do this by collecting operatives, which are AI-controlled agents you essentially boss around as though you were M from the Bond films. You'll build them up by having them perform missions of your choosing. These include obvious quests like sending them off to assassinate vital targets, but you can also recruit tech-head operatives who will build specialized gadgets for you. All these operative missions can be performed even while you're not playing, as long as you've got them all queued up and set to go while you're off living your real life. (For example, we were told that crafting especially powerful weaponry could take a week's worth of real-world time.) Down the road, these agents can become valuable trading chips that you can exchange with other agents or simply sell off for straight in-game currency.

The ultimate goal in The Agency is achieving world domination. The SOE reps were a bit coy about how you go about reaching that goal over the long haul, but they did note that the path can be tricky, with opportunities for betrayal readily available--for both you and those you're working with. We'll have more on that sort of longterm character development in the near future, so be sure to stick around for more coverage leading up to the as-yet-undetermined release date on PC and PlayStation 3.

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Discussion

170 comments
FlashHawk79
FlashHawk79

World domination? What's that supposed to mean? You mean groups of players actually fight for control of the game world? Or does it just mean like WoW as in little PvP skirmishes where a 7-man team of Alliance soldiers intercepts a 9-man team of Horde soldiers determined to cause a negligible amount of mischief.

Evilnator
Evilnator

i think this game has no monthly fee, its sony, sony aint greedy like say.... *cough* microsoft... xbox live... ...Lol. This game is gonna rock =D

Jackc8
Jackc8

This looks fascinating - definite pre-order for me!

Boomkins
Boomkins

This game has some neat ideas... looks promising.

kaliban
kaliban

Very fresh concept. I hope I get accepted for beta, I'd love to give this a test drive.

Darkman691
Darkman691

I wonder how they are going to deal with the PC vs PS3 control sensitivity, for fps's their is a big difference between a mouse and a gamepad. Do you think they will let inter-platform PvP or do you think the entire game will be just PvE. I hope this turns out good, i have both a capable PC and a PS3 so if it turns out well ill probably get it for which ever turns out best.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Another MMO..... Not bothered. Will fail, like most MMO's.

152389
152389

This looks so amazing it is blowing my mind. I enjoy RPGs but fantasy isn't really my thing. This reminds me a Deus Ex.

adamas78
adamas78

I come from a background NON-MMORPG (played a few days WoW thants it), I like more action FPS like TF2 and CoD..BUT This is one of the more exciting games Im looking forward to..The perfect relatable game theme/environment(City,Clubs,Hot Virtual Chicks and more stuff starting with C) FPS, and MMO! Almost a Mr and Mrs Smith.. Imagine the marketing possiblities with dynamic environments, billboards.. REAL VIRTUAL SHOPS EVEN (where you can actually purchase 'real' cool clothes and stuff.. not robes, gowns and studded armor like in other games) *special attention to capital lettering* This is where we go now, into the Matrix!! This done right would be the biggest social thing since movies,gaming and internet,shopping,and .. ..a true Alter Ego!!! Who the F is not excited.. just me!!?

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

advertiser33 you are able to draw and amazing set of conclusions from a few screens. If your a dev for the game then why dont you improve that stuff. If your not a dev then HTF would you know if the "weapons are poorly designed"? Could it be your guessing ?.... guess so...

pidow
pidow

I will wait until this game gets off its feet and start moving towards a finished product.....right now its a may be!.

w4rgasm
w4rgasm

@Streetrider9873 - He obviously doesn't like WoW.

Mr_Fujiv1
Mr_Fujiv1

@advertiser33 Couldnt aggree more. heres your thumbs up

advertiser33
advertiser33

the moves look very inhumanly quick and the game itself looks like a massive cartoon. the weapons are poorly designed, and the atmosphere looks repetitive

-Origin-
-Origin-

dedum you are in fact correct, it is the same text from crysis. lol good eye

ArachisPT
ArachisPT

@ airshocker I presume ur talking about monthly fees? Its not necessary, Guild Wars does not has monthly fees and is alive and well, and updates still come up! The game looks good! To bad about the monthly fees... But I think I would choose Global Agenda instead of this one...

airshocker
airshocker

@ Metronome1982 Then don't expect to play with thousands of players at any given time. You want an experience that lasts, MMO companies need a way to pay for their servers AND make profits. Cheapskates like the above aside, this game looks interesting.

Metronome1982
Metronome1982

stuff paying a monthly bill for a game,i like to just buy a game and play it when i like.sounds interesting,but not my cup of tea.

dedumdedoo
dedumdedoo

Is it just me, or at 3:21 is the text exactly like Crysis's text?

clembo1990
clembo1990

I hope this game is good. It really deserves to be as the producer is a really nice guy.

FallenAngelXBL
FallenAngelXBL

a head is a head shot? Soooo...why bother ever leveling up and just gank players until ur bored?

6asket6a11
6asket6a11

I think this game looks fun and i can't wait.

TehEliteElite
TehEliteElite

What about the payment system? Monthly fee = no money for Sony.

fiskefyren
fiskefyren

this game doesnt look very good, it has a godfather 2 feel over it and that game wasn't very good either. but the npc part sounds much better than the npc part in godfather 2 which was just horrible -_-

kaijukrash
kaijukrash

@ cardinalphoenix I agree with you on the pay per month to play thing. That bugs me. That's part of what's always kept me from MMO's. The last thing I need is another bill every month. But I am intrigued by this one. Oh and props for the use of the Killer 7 avatar. I thought I was the only person alive who actually liked that game.

cardinalphoenix
cardinalphoenix

@SephirothsAngel: Heh, a much older Otacon, but yeah...I can see what you mean, ;-) Seems like an extremely unique idea! Most MMOs are kinda basic at this point, but this seems pretty different. I'm still not interested in the idea of paying money every month and feeling obligated to play because of it, but...it definitely seems cool, :-D

SephirothsAngel
SephirothsAngel

It's funny that the guys name is Hal, he looks like Hal Emmerich (Otacon) from MGS

ShadowJake
ShadowJake

looks interesting enough to track...

chronolzx
chronolzx

this might actually be the first MMO i try ever.

Jerian
Jerian

Seeing as im from Seattle ill probably have to check it out

Chickenesta
Chickenesta

"The SOE reps were a bit coy about how you go about reaching that goal over the long haul" yeah sounds like they don't have a clue yet....another stupid ill-considered MMO on the way? I think so.

Deimonian
Deimonian

The outrageous cynical mind of mine is having a hard time seeing how it can turn out to be a MMO, but if they make it work, it could turn out to be good, I guess.

Hyork
Hyork

pandastew: '007esque spies don't use gadgets that is so far fetched such as high tech explosive ball.' What, you mean... like a grenade?

cockneyscouse
cockneyscouse

It sort of looks like a deeper Team Fortress to me, has potential to be cool...perhaps....

Ycheez
Ycheez

There is already another MMO shooter, Battlefield Heroes. But still, This game is gonna be awesome!!!

Vasot
Vasot

Sounds like another boring MMO

jomala
jomala

This might just be the first MMO RPG I could get into. Sounds like the Operatives could provide a lot of variety, and the setting is supercool.

pandastew
pandastew

seems very stereotypical. mercenaries or gun for hires just don't carry heavy machine guns meant for transport vehicle while wearing nothing but wife beater. at the same time, 007esque spies don't use gadgets that is so far fetched such as high tech explosive ball. they just made what they have smaller, and more undetectable. not more cool or attention getter.

MrLions
MrLions

Awesome idea But it isn't going to be a WoW killer.

gago-gago
gago-gago

Please let this be free to play online.