We’re at the Sony Online Entertainment booth on the E3 show floor as SOE’s Kevin O’ Hara takes us through a demonstration of the new MMO/shooter hybrid The Agency. We’re shown a mission which involves infiltrating a Swiss chateau owned by Das Kommittee, a shady organisation which has made it onto Unite’s shitlist.
At the beginning of the game you must choose between two factions: Unite, which O’ Hara tells us consists of suave Bond-style spies with the flashiest gadgets or Paragon, a mercenary organisation which values firepower over charm.
Before the mission starts, we see a world map screen which acts as a hub, and you’ll need to choose your class before taking on your objectives. Each class has its own unique abilities and O’ Hara tells us that the combat class has superior weaponry, the stealth class has low-noise tools while the support class has the heavy gear, in this case a Martini-shaker bomb.
As O’Hara’s playing the game in co-op, he chooses the combat-specialist Agent L, while his co-op partner opts for the stealthy femme-fatale, Agent Indigo. Their first objective is to hook up with an NPC contact, Ian Ceidman who informs them that they will not be able to gain access to the party without credentials, meaning they’ll need to find another way in. At the rear of the building Indigo spots a security panel and hacks into it via a brief button-matching mini-game in order to take down the laser defences. Then both agents drop into a crouching stealth mode, as the security guards react to both sight and sound, and Indigo neutralizes a couple of guards with what appear to be knockout darts. However, Agent L is spotted and a couple more guards converge on their position, he takes too many bullets and dies. However, O’Hara explains, if your character possesses the appropriate skill, you can revive downed colleagues and Indigo does just that before they make it into the chateau.
At this point, they both transform into evening wear, which means they are without weapons, and make their way through the party, following the radar at the top of the screen towards their first piece of intel. O’Hara tells us that it won’t simply be a matter of picking up an item, and Indigo must search for the intel using her camera, as well as framing the shot perfectly to complete the objective. Some security guards have a red eye icon above their head meaning they are watching our agents and so O’Hara utilises one of his operatives – NPCs who are acquired by the player throughout the game and can be traded like cards – to distract a guard in order to photograph the intel and make to their contact’s secret room. Once inside they are confronted by Das Kommittee’s Dr Kessler and the game switches into the action FPS mode. The combat seems fairly fluid and despite dying a couple of times (“I need to get better at the game,” says O’Hara) he makes it to the end of the mission and is awarded a silver medal. He would have got the gold, he says, had the guards not been alerted early on.
What we saw seemed like a natural combination of FPS and RPG elements and the co-op nature of the game will undoubtedly be a draw for many players, as will the purely action-based PvP instances which we were not able to see today. What was most interesting was that O’Hara was playing the PC version of the game while his colleague was playing on the PS3 (which didn’t seem to look as sharp or run as smoothly). However, cross-platform gaming has not yet been confirmed for the final release, due to the age-old balancing issues concerning mouse vs. controller gameplay.