The Agency: Covert Ops
Following in the footsteps of the flawed gem Planetside, The Agency is an espionage-themed MMO that blends the salty grit of your average shooter with the smooth concoction of your World of Warcrafts and Everquests.
Players take on the role of a spy, customising their look, feel and faction - either ParaGON or U.N.I.T.E. These factions differ in that Paragon is the rough-and-ready paramilitary group, with little or no finesse but a pragmatic, get-the-job-done attitude (think Jason Bourne). On the other hand U.N.I.T.E. are your classic Bond or Joanna Dark spies specialising in high-tech espionage, gadgets, and the art of deception.
"We really wanted to bring the FPS market to MMO players. While you have to slow it down to make it a playable and fun to everybody, a headshot's still gonna be a headshot," said Matt Wilson. The Agency's creative director.
Unlike most MMOs, you don't pick a class. Before any given mission, you pick a particular load-out, hence the horrible SOE-coined you are what you wear'.
"When you create a character, you're really just choosing what side you're on, what you look like, and whether you're male or female. Once you're in the game, you can start off as any role and switch it out at your field office before the mission," added Wilson. "Inside those roles, as you gain experience, you can branch out - a support character can be a field medic who heals people, or a field tech that deals with mechanics." The idea is that one player can be a variety of characters depending on how or when they play - if you want you can play that combat character with your friends, but your solo play is almost totally based as a stealthy stab-them-in-the-dark type. Lethalities are the games' special skills that set The Agency apart from your average online FPS.
"The main thing is that weapons and gadgets are critical to the game, but your own skills are too. Stealth players get a cloaking ability, and we want to drive those skills to support each other, quips Wilson.
Bonding It Up
Much like Battlefield Heroes, The Agency will also include abilities that are useful for the entire team at once, such as a Combat Ops ability that allows the entire group see enemies through walls and spot enemies. The games' missions, from those that I played, seem hinged upon a narrative.
The mission I played centred around a mansion in a snowy mountain range, where the worlds' socialites and greatest minds had been lured under the pretence of a huge party. In reality, it was the work of Dr Kessler, an evil genius who planned to install mind-control chips in their brains and use their influence to rule the world. Enter myself - a stealthy lady and my butch support-focused comrade Agent Steve Kramer, (a designer on the game) to bring some U.N.I.T.E-style justice to the proceedings.
An agent sent us on a mission to sneak around the back and take photos inside of the mysterious devices hanging over seemingly every awning. As we did so, Kramer powered down a laser wall just long enough for me to sneak up and pop a bullet in a guard's head. However, before I could appreciate my victory, the wall powered back on, passing directly through my character's breasts and bringing (as you'd expect) a horde of desperate, sweaty NPCs into the path of my bullets.
Kramer threw a martini bomb - a root-style spell-like attack that freezes an enemy in place - while I mopped.up the crowd of guards, gaining experience but failing the sub-objective to not set off any alarms.
At present, The Agency has a satisfying weight to gunplay, both in its FPS and third-person modes, and the team obviously gets what a good shooter needs, even with the slight re-balancing necessary to add MMO-style skills.
As we snuck inside the party, we slipped into aliases (see Alter Egos). photographing the mysterious devices. At this point, I used my shapely feminine wiles to distract a guard as Kramer grabbed the last one - for which we both received an objective credit - and we snuck upstairs to the top of the mansion to meet with our contact.
In the classic spy movie style, as he sought to tell us Dr Kessler's dark secret the wall exploded at the behest of the villain's helicopter-borne rockets.
As we vaulted off the side of the building, the mission came to an end, and I internally applauded the demonstration. After what felt like a hundred demos involving killing the same old cockatrices in the same old fantasy environment, I was left confident that a genrechanger is on its way. We'll report in the moment we have more.
Download The Agency: Covert Ops
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP