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Thursday 27 July 2006
Splinter Cell's spy-vs-merc multiplayer matches have long been one of our favourite online mashups, thanks to a fine-tuned balance and some ace level design. And with Xbox 360 about to play host to Double Agent, Sam Fisher's new mission as a turncoat, we snuck deep into Ubisoft's headquarters for a hands-on multiplayer test.
Aside from new levels - eight of them - and some greatly improved visuals, 360's spies-vs-mercenaries battles will be instantly familiar to Splinter Cell fans. You choose to be a spy - non-lethal weapons, super-stealthy, mean neck-break attack - or sign up as a rifle-packing mercenary, attempting to prevent the spies from reaching their objectives in each level, like hacking a series of computers.
Newcomers might balk at the stripped-down three-vs-three matches, but a limited number of players is crucial to maintain the sort of cat-and-mouse action that makes Splinter Cell's multiplayer so different and so addictive. Even so, now we're living in the next-gen era it's disappointing that the developer hasn't made use of the extra power to build bigger levels and add a few more player slots.
What Double Agent does add is a new level of agility for the spy character, enabling players to dive through windows or clamber around a level in lots of different ways. Silhouettes pop up as you move through the level, highlighting climbable drainpipes, scaleable areas and crawl spaces that you can leap under.