If you’re a regular reader of TheXboxHub, you’ll know that I often beg, plead and generally demand for the next proper Splinter Cell game to be released. Of course, so far this has not done the trick and instead we have seen a string of cameos from the former Third Echelon man which has not gone down too well. But anyhow, the next best thing I can do (in order to contrusticely focus my energy at least) is to reminisce about Sam Fisher’s adventures in times gone by.
Today it’s the turn of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, possibly the furthest departure from the classic formula in the entire series. As you may well have guessed, Fisher had gone undercover in an attempt to assess and neutralise terrorist organisation John Brown’s Army (often referred to as the JBA).
As the story twisted and turned, you needed to carefully balance favour with the NSA and JBA by choosing your actions carefully. You would receive objectives from both sides as you played through each mission, many of which were set within the JBA headquarters. Often you would have to choose one over the other, which affected your trust meter. Your decisions also affected what gear became available to you but ultimately resulted in one of several endings, depending on how loyal you were to each side.
I remember a strong sense going into Splinter Cell: Double Agent that Fisher was a good guy, and always would be. Anything he had to do would just be to save face, I told myself, he couldn’t possibly turn. However, rather interestingly the game allowed you to do just that if you wish, which went against every moral fiber in my body and felt so… wrong.
The classic Splinter Cell gameplay remained in Double Agent but felt somehow much more raw and gritty than other outings. This was most likely due to the fact Fisher was without direct support from the NSA, or it was at least limited in order to maintain his cover. It gave him a genuine sense of vulnerability that until that point in the series, I had never experienced before.
Indeed, Fisher was very limited to what he could do and where he could go in the JBA headquarters without arousing suspicion. The stealth meter was your aid in sneaking through to off-limits areas without being detected, and this was more important than ever as you couldn’t simply shoot up the place and leave as your cover would be blown forever. That certainly would be a case of mission failed.
On balance, this also made Splinter Cell: Double Agent the most difficult game in the series. Fisher’s health automatically regenerated for the first time, which sounds handy, but this was little help when he was detected, staring down the barrel of several JBA guns.
The classic lock picking mechanic made a return, as did a new bomb defusal mini game amongst others. However, it was the email decryption cube that sticks in my mind more than anything else, as it was so bloody difficult to solve. During the eighth mission, you’re back in the JBA headquarters and need to gain access to an important email by solving a 3D digital Rubik’s Cube. Yep, it was exactly as horrendous as it sounds.
There is one moment however, which genuinely shocked me. Towards the end of the game (SPOILER ALERT) you are faced with a choice to prove your loyalty to the JBA. You can either shoot Jamie Washington (your former cellmate and JBA member) or instead turn your gun and take out Irving Lambert, who rather stupidly got himself captured clumsily sneaking around the JBA compound.
Now, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much of a legend Lambert is and as a result I could never, ever bring myself to shoot him. It sounds mad because it’s just a video game, but I was genuinely unable to do it. However, in the canon storyline Lambert does indeed die. This is a fact and cannot be changed. I was, and still am, absolutely devastated.
A strange quirk of Splinter Cell: Double Agent was that there were two versions released, with fundamental differences that strangely mirrored (structurally at least) the two different paths you can go down in the game itself. The one released for Xbox 360 (which I am reminiscing about here) is the superior version as far as I am concerned, both in terms of story and polish. Often referred to as “Version 2”, the other interpretation of the game was released for the previous generation of consoles, but rather oddly after “Version 1”. It’s all a bit confusing really.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent certainly wasn’t afraid to tread new ground in 2006, introducing events that would change the series forever. At first I struggled to warm to it coming straight after fantastic Chaos Theory, which still remains my favourite Splinter Cell game to this day. However, if you’re after a Sam Fisher experience quite unlike any other, this is well worth a look.
Splinter Cell: Double Agent is available from the Xbox Store, fully playable via Back-Compat on Xbox One (enhanced for Xbox One X) and Xbox Series X|S. Let us know in the comments what you thought/think of this one.