Splinter Cell: Conviction
No perfect formula exists for making a great game. Even a game from an established studio with solid concepts can sometimes turn flat during development. Sometimes to do a project right, you need a little extra time. Splinter Cell: Conviction went through such a trial, but it looks like the extra incubation time was well spent, because the game emerged at this year’s E3 looking like one of the most polished titles of the show.
In 2006’s Double Agent, Sam Fisher’s only daughter was killed by a drunk driver. In Conviction, new evidence surfaces that leads Sam to believe that Sarah was killed as part of a more elaborate government plot. The game starts with Sam looking for clues, hot on the trail of an arms dealer named Andre Kobin.
From the get-go, it’s obvious that Conviction is focused on delivering a brutal and fast-paced gameplay experience. The demo starts with Sam kicking one of Kobin’s enforcers into a public bathroom’s urinal. The other men in the room scatter as Sam’s opponent draws a gun, but Sam is faster than the man’s trigger finger and wrenches the man’s arm into an awkward angle. The stray bullet chunks into a nearby wall. A man on a toilet fumbles for his trousers as Sam throws the goon against the stall’s wooden door. In Conviction, most areas feel alive with activity. But Sam is focused on the man in front of him. His hand wraps around his victim’s throat as he barks, “Who killed my daughter?”
Sam’s gone rogue. He doesn’t have friends back at Third Echelon chirping in his ear anymore. In order to give players all the relevant information they’ll need, Ubisoft devised a novel projection system. As Sam interrogates his victim, several pictures of Kolbin flash across the walls of the bathroom. These are visual representations of the thoughts going through each character’s head. This projection trick is used throughout the game to direct players through the levels, provide contextual flashbacks, and accentuate dramatic moments.
Once Sam has the information he needs, he throws the man’s face through a porcelain sink, and we get to see how smoothly Conviction transitions from one scene to the next. The camera zooms in on the blood in the sink. With a snap it zooms back out, but now we’re looking at a painting inside an art gallery. The camera continues to zoom out, passing backwards through a keyhole until we see the outside of the building. This is Kobin’s mansion. The camera winds past several guards, down a nearby city street, and around a dark alley where we see Sam step into view and the controls are back in the players’ hands. The whole transition flashes by in a matter of moments, masking the game’s loads better than the elite super spy himself.
Being a lone wolf, Sam no longer has easy access to many high-end government weapons. However, he’s still a formidable opponent thanks to a few handy spy tricks. One new feature, called Last Known Position, displays a shadow in the last position where Sam was seen. While enemies are focused on his former location, Sam can sneak up behind guards and take them out with a variety of close combat takedowns. These hand-to-hand maneuvers earn Sam the opportunity to mark and execute targets. With this skill, Sam can queue up targets then execute them in quick succession. We see Sam look under a door, marking a light and a guard. After hitting the execute button, he kicks down the door and shoots out both targets in a matter of seconds.
Let’s just hope Sam doesn’t sneak past his fall release, because we’ve been waiting long enough to play what’s looking like one of the best games of the year.