For me, the selling point of MMOs is the huge, open world; a world full of other actual human beings who I can interact with and who can interact with me (almost like real life!). So when I snuck in some time with The Agency at Sony Online Entertainment's E3 booth this year, it was hard for me to shake the feeling that I was playing an Unreal Tournament-style, Ijji.com shooter (one powered by a modified Unreal Engine 3, no less) rather than an MMO. Sure, the Deathmatch trappings of my demo didn't help, but neither did lead designer Rory McGuire's explanation of how the game's Player vs Player works.

Essentially, interactions with other players are instanced into online multiplayer matches (30 players max), as seen here. The results of these battles are said to be reflected in the game's hub world -- locations can be taken by "U.N.I.T.E." or "Paragon" in multiplayer and those locations will show up as belonging to one of the game's two factions. From what I played, however, I'm not confident that what I've come to expect from an MMO -- the feeling of being in one huge world with other human beings -- is present in The Agency. In fairness to developer SOE Seattle, what was being shown at this year's E3 was strictly multiplayer (as in I didn't get to check out the hub world). The bit I did play reminded me of Shadowrun -- and I mean that in the nicest way possible. As someone who actually enjoyed the addition of buffs to FPS gameplay in the otherwise not so fantastic final game from FASA Studios, it's hard to not initially enjoy similarities found in The Agency. It's harder, unfortunately, to ignore the game's simplicity after a few more moments. Buffs are limited to three bindings (teleportation, among others) and didn't have the same game-changing effect that similar abilities did in Shadowrun.

Furthermore, aside from my aforementioned issues with how basic it is, "killing" someone requires a headshot. This component seems to add strange specificity to an otherwise frantic experience, making the game feel oddly disjointed. The freneticism of multiplayer certainly doesn't seem to jibe with the game's spy theme either -- in fact, everything I played felt distinctly "twitch" in nature. And though James Bond is wont to flip out and fire a submachine gun every now and then, I didn't really get much of a "spy" feeling from my time with the game.

I've played The Agency two E3s in a row and have yet to see any of the Bond qualities that SOE has been touting since the game's announcement. With no release date in sight, however, I'm still hopeful that the folks at SOE Seattle sort out the seeming disparity between what they believe their game to be and what it actually is -- an Unreal Engine 3-based twitch FPS with a hub world.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.