Eyes-on at E3 / Splinter Cell: Conviction

Perhaps I was rubbed the wrong way by Splinter Cell when it first came. To me it just looked like a stupid secret agent cash-in with Tom Clancy’s name attached to it. However, as the series progressed I think pretty much everyone played at least one of the games at some point and they are for the most part solid action/stealth games. When Splinter Cell: Conviction was first revealed everyone got a glimpse at a strange, homeless-looking Sam Fisher. Pretty much it was the equivalent to what Max Payne’s look has turned into with Max Payne 3. But then the game was scrapped and sent back to the drawing board and not much was heard about it until E3.

Me and my esteemed colleague, Charlie Suh, were fortunate enough to get a private demonstration of the Conviction demo that Ubisoft was showcasing at E3. The first thing you notice about the game is how absolutely stunning the graphics are. The opening scene takes place in a public restroom and it really conveys the grit and grime with the detailed textures in the room. Sam is trying to extract information from a local thug about who killed his daughter. The player can use the environment to beat on the guy until he talks. When he finally cracks we get our first look at the thing that had people buzzing about at E3. In lieu of text popping up on your hud summarizing the information the thug has just told you, images and words are projected onto the walls in the game itself. It’s an amazing technique to keep the player in the game and it looks like it’s being implemented perfectly here.

After Sam gets his info he heads out onto the streets towards a mansion where his next target is. Here we see how players monitor their stealth levels. When Sam is hidden and in the shadows the entire world, save the characters on screen, go completely black and white. It’s a little disorienting at first to see all of the color in the level just fade away, but it works, and like I said before, it keeps the player in the game. As Sam shimmies across a bridge railing where a guard is posted, Sam grabs the guard from behind, tossing him off the bridge where the man then falls into a dumpster, which then slams shut. Awesome. With the coast clear Sam can pop up and grab some a mirror from a car to use in his next exciting trick.

With the mirror in hand, Sam can peek under doors to see what’s on the other side and then mark certain targets that he will automatically shoot once he opens the door. I’ll try to explain better. If Sam looks under the door and sees two guys he can mark each guy so that when he opens the door, the game automatically has Sam shoot those guys in the head. Now in order to be able to do this Sam must acquire “execute points.” An example of this would be, when Sam is inside the mansion there is a point where he is climbing along some pipes across the ceiling. He marks two guys to instantly kill, but he has no execute points. Fortunately, just below him is a guy, so he drops down on the guy and kills him. This gives him the execute points he needs to finish off the other two guys, and an instant later it’s done.

Perhaps the thing that I personally liked the most was this new system where an outline of Fisher is left as an indicator that that is the last known place the enemy believes he was. Example: you’re fighting a punch of guys and you throw a flashbang in front of them and decide to flank them to your right. When you move you will see a ghostish looking outline of Sam Fisher because that is the last place the enemy saw him. So as they continue shooting at this area, you sneak around them and give them a double dose of death (abbrev. DDD, patent pending).

It’s good to see the Splinter Cell franchise return with what looks to be a surefire winner. Just with the improvements I’ve listed above I think this game will be great, but I know there will be more. If you are a Splinter Cell fan then you’ll remember awesome Mercs vs. Spy multiplayer mode from some of the older games. I’d love to see all these additions put into that, as would probably anyone else who’s played the game before.

Look for Splinter Cell: Conviction to hit store shelves some time this October.