The Agency E3 2009 Impressions

We silently infiltrate a party full of the world's most influential people, then make a not-so-silent exit during a two-player cross-platform E3 demo.


The Agency

The Agency is a massively multiplayer online game set in the modern world of high-end, high-stakes espionage. Though we had previously seen the level on display, our E3 booth demo gave us some new insights into some more technical aspects of The Agency.

What's New:

This time around, though we had seen the level before, we got better look at the agent's loadouts and how they work in each level. There aren't classes per se, but in the beginning of each mission a player can select a loadout that will have strategic implications. One of the agents we saw brandished an assault rifle and frag grenades, whereas the other had a shotgun and a martini bomb--a nifty device that stunned enemies, freezing them in their tracks and making them easy targets.

Agents will also have two outfits, one for wetwork and the other for blending in with the crowd. Not only do these outfits affect where the agents can go, but it also changes their available arsenal. Can't have a lady in an evening dress shouldering an assault rifle, now, can we? Once inside the swanky event, the lead female agent had a small camera and a sonic disruption device. As long as she was out of sight of the guards, she could photograph the mysterious devices attached to the mansion walls without worry. Once the guards saw her, a red eye icon appeared over her head and prevented her from doing anything spylike. Fortunately, guards are easily distracted, and she enlisted the feminine charms of another guest to distract one guard. As she flirted, the agent snapped a photo and went on her way. A few moments later, the other agent used his masculine charms (talking about sports) to give his partner the window that she needed to complete our recon mission.

What's Different:

Rather than playing on two PCs, our demo reps ran the game on a PlayStation 3 and a PC. The Agency is developed with cross-platform multiplayer in mind, and the two seemed to work together seamlessly. SOE told us that though the capability is built in, there's no guarantee that cross-platform play will be available at launch. The question lies in the PS3's updating capabilities; MMOGs require almost constant updating, and reconciling that with the PS3 update system could prove to be an issue.

What's the Same:

Slick action, helpful teamwork, and the occasional dramatic cutscene are the order of the day. The mansion level showed a good blend of these three elements from the slicker side of the coin. The grimier, grittier flipside has yet to be revealed.

What Kind of Impression Did It Make This Time:

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The Agency has filled out the basics nicely. The action, level design, and strategic elements are all in place, but none of them seems to have the unique spark that will make The Agency a hit. Perhaps this lies on the larger-scale machinations of gathering agents, traveling the globe, and pulling the bigger strings of influence. We'll be keeping a not-so-surreptitious eye on The Agency as its development continues.

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