It created a strange little mini-game where the agents tried to shoot down the bomb-carrying lackies before they reached the pillars, but they also had to be careful not to shoot and thus detonate the bombs too close to the pillars. In one case, a team member intentionally detonated a bomb as he sacrificed one pillar for the lives of several gun-toting bad guys. In another instance, a character was able to disarm a bomb already affixed to a pillar with only moments to spare.
The goal of the scoring system, Milton told us, was to make the game truly solo-able. Any single character should be able to achieve at least a bronze in a mission if he does it correctly. Yet, a well-armed team can go in for a gold and reap the rewards that go with it.
It also adds to replayability. Just like Guitar Hero, they fully expect people to go back and do missions over just to upgrade their score and achieve the next level of loot.
To date, SOE has only shown off two missions, both pre-captured to video and edited together. What is clear in both cases is that these missions all have much more in common with single-player FPS games like BioShock than they do MMO missions. Enemies react, knock over tables to take cover and shoot back. They don't just mill around in a well-decorated room while people pull them off one at a time. There's a certain irony that a game in a spy genre famous for stupid villains would create the most intelligent MMO bad guys.
They promise three distinct lengths of missions for gameplay purposes, cleverly named short, medium and long. The longest of which can last over an hour, while the other two are accordingly more manageable.
The world itself was surprisingly interactive, some of it just for fun and some of it with more meaning. As part of the "you are what you wear" system, players sometimes need to dress the part, which means a tux or a fancy gown. In these situations, their health is replaced with their cover, and the more the bad guys stare at them, the more cover they lose. If it gets to zero, it's blown and guns come out. It also ticks away faster the more quickly the player moves around. So, if a player with a gatling gun comes running into a cocktail party, it won't take the guards long to realize he's likely not there for crab cakes. If the same guy wears a nice suit and mingles appropriately, he might just make it to the door on the far side of the room.
That's not foolproof though, so they added some neat touches. For example, if someone really seems to be suspicious, it cannot hurt to go get a drink. It'll allay their fears and slow the cover bleed, but it might also make the vision a bit blurry.
They also added unexpected touches, such as Q*bert machine that actually plays Q-Bert. Sony owns the rights, so why not? Milton even mentioned that while some may just play Q-Bert for fun, it is entirely possible that some Q*bert obsessed operative someday may not talk to someone who hasn't gotten a certain score in the game. Or, maybe it's just mindless diversion. Who knows?
The Agency Moments are another core piece of the puzzle for this title. Milton told us that the true key to these is that people will want to do them just because they're fun. Sometimes they'll be integral to the mission - such as a dramatic escape - and sometimes they'll just be a cool cut-scene that tops things off. Regardless, they're going to be over the top.
The first mission, previously demonstrated, saw two agents jump on a carousel and fire at their enemies as it spun. In the latest one, one agent chased a get-away truck full of explosives, tossed a box in the air and shot it, which set off a chain reaction that ultimately blew up the truck and the surprised lackey inside.
The former had the advantage of knocking out enemies, while the later was purely cosmetic. Still, others will even be interactive and require mini-games, such as those in God of War or other similar titles. These can be single character in-engine scenes or involve a whole group. The real key according to Milton, though, is that players will always want to activate them, if only to see what happens.
Players start the game in one of two established agencies: "ParaGON" or "U.N.I.T.E.". Each has its own distinct stereotype. The former is for gun-totting, brute force maniacs and the latter for surgical subterfuge.
The game is being developed for both the PlayStation 3 and PC, but with an emphasis on the simplicity of the console controller. They have yet to reach a decision on whether the two platforms will cross-pollinate, nor were they ready to unveil any specifics about integration with the PS3's "Home." At this time, they have worked to keep the game open to any business model and hope to choose the one that offers the lowest barrier to entry. There is no timetable for the game's release.