Following one of the greatest looking Xbox games was always going to be hard, but Double Agent is certainly an impressive looking game. Character models are hugely detailed, environments are large and take you to a number of different locations, the lighting in certain missions is stunning, and the frame rate holds steady for the most part. You will notice some slowdown during particularly effects-heavy sections, and animations don't quite gel together as well as they really should, but on the whole Double Agent is a fine next-gen debut for the series.
The Splinter Cell series has always excelled in the audio department, and Double agent continues that tradition. Sam is once again voiced superbly by Michael Ironside, and President Palmer himself Dennis Haysbert reprises his role as Lambert. Both do a fine job, and are joined by a fine accompanying cast, although the humour heard in exchanges in Chaos Theory is notably absent here. A suitably espionage-themed soundtrack fits perfectly with the in-game action, and other than a number of recycled sound effects from Chaos Theory, there's very little to complain about.
Multiplayer has played a part in the last two Splinter Cell games, and the Spies Vs. Mercenaries gameplay returns, but it's been changed a fair bit. The biggest difference comes from how each class controls. The spies have become almost monkey-like, able to throw themselves around, clinging to ledges and pipes as if they've got a tail they can use as an extra limb. At first their acrobatic moves are hard to get the hang of, as they move so differently to Sam Fisher. Mercs are once again restricted to a first-person perspective, and although up against a far more nimble enemy, are more than powerful enough to put up a fight.
Double Agent's online offering bumps the player count from four to six, allowing matches of up to 3 Vs 3. Rather than complicate things by having different objectives for each map, all of Double Agent's ten maps (of which some require you to gain experience before they are unlocked) pose a fairly straightforward task. The spies need to download data from various terminals and return the data to their insertion point, while mercs need to prevent them from doing this. Tactics are still quite complex, with the differences in abilities between the two classes being massive, but the online play is far easier to get into than in previous Splinter Cell games.
One of best features in Chaos Theory was the rather brilliant co-op play, which saw you and a mate tackle proper missions together. This mission-based co-op has sadly been dropped in Double Agent, but you can play with up to two other players as spies against AI controlled mercs. These co-op missions are similar to the multiplayer levels, and aren't nearly as good as those in Chaos Theory, but if you want to tackle bots with some mates, they're good for a few hours of entertainment.
Splinter Cell Double Agent isn't the next-gen Splinter Cell experience that Ubisoft might want us to believe it is, but it's still a very impressive single and multiplayer experience. The single-player campaign is excellent throughout (bar a rather out of place opening level) and the multiplayer has been changed to allow more people to enjoy it. The double agent element gives the game a slightly unique feeling, but at times it's hard to shake the thought that you're playing a Chaos Theory expansion pack; albeit a very attractive one.