previewed on PS3
In this world of massive, persistent, online RPGs where everything seems to be elves, dwarves and orcs fighting for honor and glory something new has to appear every once in a while. Well, it seems the time has come again and the name of the game is The Agency. The group responsible for it, Sony Online Entertainment Seattle.
The Agency revolves around a world of espionage, intrigue, global conspiracies, world threatening mad men, tuxedo wearing agents and femme fatales. What The Agency tries to do is put you in the shoes of a regular 00 agent. How it does it is by blending RPG and shooter, creating a third person shooter (which can also be turned first person) with some RPG elements thrown in for good fun. You've got to have fast reflexes and good aim like any other shooter but then the RPG stuff starts to kick in and you have to add the skills and classes and inventory too. Not that the game's action is toned down by all this stuff: the developers couldn't emphasize enough how this is a shooter and that ‘if you aim at somebody’s head and pull the trigger you’re going to hit that person on the head’.
A feature to encourage dynamic gameplay is “The Agency Moment”. After a player meets a certain required action at a certain required time a cinematic will roll, showing the agent elegantly address the current threat the way James Bond would. Escaping from a tough spot in his sports car, which you’ll be able to actually drive, amongst other vehicles like jets and boats, or running from an exploding building or such.
You are what you wear
Like any other MMORPG you start off by creating a character: your spy. After you have decided on the looks and chosen which agency to join you’ll soon realize your spy doesn’t have any class or skill to pick. Instead, the game uses an innovative “you are what you wear” system. This means that the gear you are currently wearing defines which skills you can use. Even more importantly is that at any given moment you can trade roles of play. If you want to be in an assault role, dress like it. If you want to be a medic, you better have a red cross somewhere on your clothing. It’s as easy as that.
Besides deciding which skills and classes you can and cannot have, outfits mean a lot more in the spy world. Entering the United Nations Intelligence and Tactical Experts (UNITE - the technocrats) headquarters in your everyday wardrobe is no biggie but try going a fancy restaurant to meet with an important contact and you get kicked out instantly. So you will need to get a tuxedo or a night dress to get into important places and meet important people. Meeting these people means quests, which The Agency calls missions so it’s a very rewarding to pick the right outfit for the right place. This probably means less female characters going commando around the place and less perverts running around which is always good.
After you create a character the hunt for experience and loot begins. Like any other RPG you need to find NPCs willing to give you quests, complete them and return for the rewards. To find these NPCs called contacts, there is more to be done than simply walking around the world watching for people with exclamation marks over their heads. The requisite for meeting with important contacts is not only a minimum level but it involves meeting on exclusive locations (with the proper wardrobe, like mentioned above) or even beating some of the mini games that come with The Agency. Besides the confirmed Poker, Black Jack and who knows what other gambling games there’s also Q*Bert. The popular arcade game is back and ranking high in the game’s scores and can make certain contacts get interested on you. SOE Seattle wants to make sure you have fun in-game, and it doesn’t matter if you are actually playing something else as long as you get rewarded for it.