SAMPLES > Splinter Cell: Conviction (demo)

Sam Fisher seems to be synonymous with espionage bad-assery and general stealthy coolness. His bleak and comically dark comments to counterpart Lambert via earpiece lent the series an air of black humour which, much to its disadvantage, made it a little difficult to take the Third Echelon infiltrator seriously.

Conviction marks the fifth game in the Splinter Cell series and about the eight-billionth title to get the nod of approval from author Tom Clancy and his planet of money.

Upon loading the demo one is greeted by the Unreal Engine logo. Immediately, at least one of your eyebrows should rise slightly in questionable contemplation.  Aside from the fact that there is an unending slew of games powered by the Unreal Engine already, it feels as though (from the offset) that Conviction has lent much of its game play specialities from the Gears of War school of gaming. It’s an image that cannot be shook when playing the demo.

The demo opens with an interrogation in a public bathroom; an interactive cut-scene where Sam Fisher demands answers from an unknown man being thrown around the stalls. This grim introduction is a big departure from the cool, hidden interrogations that many fans are used to in previous titles. Fisher has evidently taken a turn for the worst which is obvious from this one part.

He questions the bloody and broken man about the mysterious death of his daughter in the last game (Double Agent). His influence seems less graceful than his previous technique of restraining the culprit and putting a pistol to their temple.

The game kicks in with in-tutorial game play; something which is a welcome break from the previous games which take the player through a training course.  Unfortunately this is where the Gears of War-esque tactic comes through strongly. Conviction favours the duck-and-cover system that is ubiquitous with current generation third-person shooters.

The light and sound sensors have also been given the boot. Fisher can hide in shadows still but it’s only made clear that he’s totally concealed when the screen turns black and white. Again, it all feels a lot more grim as though it’s going for the ‘realism’ niche that often ruins a game and turns it from an enjoyable piece of a fantasy to a vague attempt at filmic art that can be picked limb from limb by pretentious critics.

Control-wise it’s sloppy. The crouch system causes Fisher to move in a sluggish fashion. And with enemies crawling about the facility it becomes a race to the next waist-high wall to take cover. The aim control allows the player to move from one cover to another (or to another side) depending on where the cross-hair is aimed. This seems like a good implemented technique until you realise you could easily select the wrong part if there are multiple hiding points about.

Conviction allows for the quick removal of enemies (in cold-blooded violence of course) as well by utilising a manual kill when an enemy comes within close-range of your hiding spot. Killing manually awards you with pistol-kills. This method allows Fisher to target enemies with his pistol and execute them in expert fashion with the Y button.

It feels a little like Ubisoft are gunning for a more shoot-em-up style of play here. Enemies are easier to pick off from around corners and with the reward system in-place there is a sense of a departure from the true espionage/stealth approach that we’re used to. Gun kills primarily should be a last resort. However, this could be just more evidence of how Fisher has gone rogue.

Enemies are just as stupid and vocal as ever. And in flanking guards curious about my presence it’s difficult to maintain a sense that you are truly hidden from them. The areas are not thick with shadows that could easily hide Fisher. So it seems as though there is a genuine feeling that the enemies are not the most articulate you’ll come across. Killing them almost feels like an act of mercy.

Having said that there is nothing wholly un-likeable about the game. As a fan many people will feel this instalment has distanced itself from its predecessors and newcomers may not relate to Fishers change of character and his more violent outlook.

Initially it does appear that the story justifies Sam Fisher’s much more misanthropic perspective, so there is forgiveness there. But one can’t escape the feeling that – what with the change of stealth tactics in favour of more upfront violence – whether the protagonist could have been swapped with any generic hero and be given a different title. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t feel like a step forward for the Splinter Cell series.



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