Microsoft's latest Xbox One backward-compatibility efforts have been revealed, and they offer a bit of a treat for stealth fans, with two Splinter Cell titles - Blacklist and Double Agent - playable on Xbox One from today.
Both are largely excellent instalments of Ubisoft's sadly neglected stealth series, with Splinter Cell Double Agent being the earlier of the pair. Two completely separate games, sharing the same name, locations, and general plot released in 2006, with one version launching on Xbox, PS2, GameCube, and Wii. A second, flashier instalment, made its way to PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 - which is, of course, the version we're dealing with today.
It's business as usual as Double Agent begins, but this fourth series instalment soon ventures into new narrative territory when Sam Fisher is dismissed from the Third Echelon following some devastating news. Although your ultimate goal is, once again, to quash a terrorist threat, Double Agent - as its name suggests - aligns players with both the good guys and bad guys.
"This, as it turns out, is the game's master-stroke," said Kristan Reed in his 9/10 Double Agent review back in 2006, "because for the first time in the entire series you have a real grip on what's going on, who's behind it and why."
Double Agent's general set-up does more than simply regurgitate the series' familiar brand of stealth-action though, it asks players to approach and complete their objectives in such as way as to maintain trust with both the NSA and the terrorist side - sometimes even testing allegiances, with some meaty moral dilemmas.
"It's by far the best game in series to date," said Eurogamer, "[and] it's finally delivering on the rich potential that's been apparent since the beginning. By giving players a real incentive to be the stealthy super-spy, it's opening the game up to being what it should have been. And by wrapping it in a memorable narrative and giving Sam Fisher the ability to be evil, you actually start to care not only about your actions, but the characters in the game too."
Double Agent's strong successes were followed by Splinter Cell Blacklist in 2013. Releasing on PS3, PC, Wii U, and Xbox 360, this sixth series instalment saw Sam, now working for the newly established Fourth Echelon, up to his old tricks as he attempted to stealthily orchestrate the downfall of terrorist organisation the Engineers.
Blacklist foregoes Double Agent's innovations in favour of greater cinematic bombast, leaving little room for its familiar cast to breathe. "Blacklist is more concerned with events than people, said Tom Bramwell in his 8/10 Eurogamer review, "but at least those events make for interesting levels. Splinter Cell always feels most fun when you're using light, shadow, cover and a wide range of tools to manipulate enemies, and once you've unlocked a few gadgets and settled into its rhythm, the settings in Blacklist are rich with potential."
Sadly, its cinematic intrusions are frequent and, said Tom, "the campaign feels like a fun game bogged down by its desire to look like a stylish action thriller; it's cavalier with its politics and your time, and on occasions you'll wonder why you bothered to negotiate with these terrorists. But when the game clicks, which it does often enough across its many modes and missions [including the classic Spies vs Mercs multiplayer mode], it overcomes the inadequacy of its storytelling and reminds you why Splinter Cell was so appealing in the first place."
If you've an original Xbox 360 disc copy of either Splinter Cell Double Agent or Blacklist, you just need to pop it in your Xbox One for the game's backward-compatibility support to kick in. Alternatively, Double Agent is available to download digitally on the Microsoft Store, priced at £8.99/$19.99. Blacklist, however, doesn't currently appear to be available.