Double Agent breaks ranks

PS3 producer Mathieu Hector explains what's new.

Following yesterday's revelation that PlayStation 3 will launch in Europe on 23rd March, Ubisoft has emerged as one of the console's biggest third-party supporters, and among its first run of titles will be Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Released on Xbox 360 late last year, the game's already critically acclaimed, but with the PS3 release a more tangible concept in the eyes of gamers, we caught up with producer Mathieu Hector to find out what's changed in the latest version and why Sam Fisher's followers should be keeping an eye out for it.

Eurogamer: First things first, which Double Agent is the PS3 version based on?

Mathieu Hector: The PlayStation 3 version of Double Agent is based on the next-gen design of the game, which has already been released on Xbox 360 and PC. However, this version features significant improvements and exclusive content.

Eurogamer: What's been added, then, in terms of new content?

Mathieu Hector: The multiplayer features an additional new spy character (a spy girl - check out the shots and art), two extra maps based on completely new environments and a new set of co-op challenges. The SIXAXIS sensor has also been implemented in both parts of the game as well.

Eurogamer: How does the PS3 version compare to 360's on a technical level?

Mathieu Hector: Graphically, the game's low-level graphic engine has been completely re-written to take advantage of the PS3 hardware. Sony engineers have also helped our team to optimise the rendering pipeline.

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Eurogamer: Does it run in full 1080p?

Mathieu Hector: The game supports the 720p HD resolution, but not the 1080p full HD. Considering 90 percent of the PS3 gamers will only play SCDA in 720p, we chose to have a higher level of details in the maps and a smooth frame rate rather than going for the rather elitist full HD display.

Eurogamer: It must be a bit of a challenge trying to get people excited about a game that's already been out for a while. How do you get around that?

Mathieu Hector: Overall, the additional time allowed us to increase the polish of both parts of the game. Improved accessibility, multiplayer exclusive content and the motion sensor support are the advantages that make the PS3 version the ultimate version of Splinter Cell: Double Agent.

Eurogamer: There's been a lot of negative publicity about PS3 online - certainly compared to Xbox Live. First of all, is Double Agent multiplayer going to be as easy and accessible on PS3?

Mathieu Hector: The title uses a network middleware solution already successfully used on PC and PS2. The PlayStation Network Platform provides all the required services to match the Xbox Live quality. The online part of the game has been on beta test since November 2006 on PS3 and we are 100 percent confident to provide a quality online experience.

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Eurogamer: Any changes to the modes or maps? What have you done to improve what's already there?

Mathieu Hector: In addition to the tilt controller implementation, we took the advantage of the additional time to improve the game accessibility following the recommendations from the players' community. Because the solo campaign already forms a whole, we thought it was more relevant to focus on the multiplayer additional content.

Eurogamer: Which studios worked on this version of Double Agent?

Mathieu Hector: The PS3 version was taken in charge by the team who made the multiplayer of Double Agent, in Ubisoft Annecy, France. The team in Annecy was completed by 10 developers from Shanghai who worked on the PC or the 360 solo campaigns. The two exclusive maps have been produced with Ubisoft Milan, Italy, the studio which previously worked on the PS2 multiplayer maps.

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Eurogamer: Personally, I think this is the most well-balanced Splinter Cell yet - but some people criticised Ubisoft for the continuing use of the Unreal 2 engine. When will we see a true next-gen Splinter Cell made with truly next-gen tech, like Unreal Engine 3?

Mathieu Hector: The engine used on SCDA only uses elements of the Unreal 2 pipeline, mostly the tools set. We have been improving the runtime engine for several years, to finally keep only a few parts of the original code. For instance, the rendering engine is closer to Unreal 3 than Unreal 2. Additionally, the engine has been adapted throughout time to fit with Splinter Cell's gameplay mechanic, which is not really a first-person shooter.

Eurogamer: Any chance of a brand new Sam Fisher adventure elsewhere this year?

Mathieu Hector: The release date for the next Splinter Cell has not been announced yet.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent is due out on PlayStation 3 at launch. Xbox 360 and PC "next-gen" versions are out now.

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