The spy MMO shooter is now in its third year showing at the Sony Online booth, but we were finally treated to a hands-on demo. While last year's demo showcased the spying and storyline aspects of the PvE side of the game, this round highlights the PvP multiplayer that made the Unreal Engine such a contender.

The demo takes us to the streets of Venice, where spies attempt to capture a submarine. That said, there wasn't anything particularly sneaky about these spies -- it played like any other online deathmatch shooter. The game is said to feature "the usual modes you'd find in multiplayer shooters" in addition to the previously shown PvE element. The level design wasn't anything special either; fighting in catacombs dates back to the early days of the Quake series. Two other locations have been announced with others on the way: the Hong Kong locale should provide some variety, and a newly imagined well-off Havana will add a bit of creativity.

It is perhaps the special abilities of the various character classes that set this game apart on gameplay. Players can choose from five classes: Recons are the quick sneaky type that can scan for enemies through walls, Commanders heal all nearby troops within a certain range, Suppressors just generally barrage their enemies with firepower, Gadgeteers work their magic on defense platforms and demolitions, and Assault personnel can generate a shield bubble around themselves. Each character can charge up their special ability just by doing whatever it is they do best.

This being an MMO game, there are of course some persistent elements. Skills, gadgets, and weapon upgrades carry through between rounds and get better as you play. Players will also be able to customize their characters' appearance, as well as the textures applied to weapons and armor.

There isn't much on the PvP side of things to set The Agency apart from other shooters, aside from the obvious fact that it's one of the very few that isn't based on some variety of army troops. In addition, the game doesn't look all that different from last year, so it's a wonder why they keep pushing back their target release date. By the time it's released in 2011 (assuming it's not pushed back some more), there just might not be any novel thing left about this game.