Originally announced in early 2007, Splinter Cell Conviction – the fifth in the Splinter Cell series – has had something of a shaky development. Originally due out towards the end of 2007, the game has apparently been through a number of redesigns since that initial announcement. In fact, so little was said after the game was originally announced that people started to believe it would never come out. Yet here we are, March 2010, and the game is almost upon us. The Newb Review recently got hold of the Xbox 360 demo to take it through it’s paces.
After the events of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, gruff, old-age super spy Sam Fisher is on the run from his former employees, government agency Third Echelon. Without their backing, Sam is forced to rely on less high tech methods of infiltration. For instance, early in the game, rather than using his usual spy camera to peer under doors, Sam uses a bit of broken glass he procured from a car’s wing mirror. The demo features two levels from the game, the first level being an interrogation from early on in the game, and the second level taking place later in the game, when Sam has a bit more equipment.
In the first scene you take control of Sam in a public toilet, interrogating someone about the death of his daughter. By interrogate, I of course mean beating the shit out of him until he talks. Certain parts of the toilet are interactive, such as the sink or toilet door, and pressing B will cause Sam to use the interactive scenery to aid him in getting answers. Press B near the sink and Sam will Slam the guy’s head clean through it, while Pressing B near the toilet door will cause Sam to throw the guy through it. Whenever any information is given to you it is stylishly exhibited on the walls, as if a large projector were beaming the events for you as a visual aid. For instance, when the name of the person responsible for your daughter’s death is revealed, a picture of him appears on the wall, along with a few details about him.
After the interrogation is over, the demo jumps forward a few levels – in order to avoid spoilers apparently – to a level that shows us just how much the actual gameplay has changed since the last game. In previous Splinter Cell games it could be argued that you would be better off avoiding confrontation all together. Head to head conflict would, more often than not, lead to a swift death. Conviction is a very different animal – you are actively encouraged to kill everyone you come across. Having said that, Sam is by no means invincible, and death is easily achieved. In order to be successful in defeating your enemies, you have to be crafty.
The main new combat feature is the Mark and Execute tactic. Successfully taking an enemy down silently, with your bare hands, fills a bar which means you will be able to perform a quick kill on an enemy with your gun. By aiming at the enemy you want to take down and pressing the right bumper, the enemy is marked for death. The demo only has situations where up to two enemies can be marked at a time, but the mark and execute metre appears to have three slots, which suggests that perhaps you can mark three at a time. Pressing the Y button performs the execution animation, in most cases a few quick headshots with your silenced pistol.
As well as the pistol, Sam has access to Sonar Vision goggles (think of Batman’s goggles from towards the end of The Dark Knight) that allow him to see through walls, an EMP device that disrupts computers, and machine guns. Using this equipment, as well as your wits, you must breach a warehouse, rescue a captured scientist, and disable an EMP Bomb. There are multiple paths you can choose to take. Rather than taking a side entrance, I chose to climb up a drain pipe and enter through an open window. Once on the upper floor of the warehouse I was able to watch the enemy guard patrols and work out the best tactic to get through the warehouse unscathed.
If you are unfortunate enough to get spotted, then you had better run. If you try and stick around and fight then the chances are you will not survive. Fortunately there is a new gameplay mechanic that will aide you in evading your foes. If you manage to leave the enemy’s line of sight then a silhouette of Sam appears where the enemies last saw you. With this knowledge you can rethink strategies with ease.
While you are given plenty of opportunities to use the Mark and Execute move, I found it just as easy to line up headshots with the silenced pistol from the shadows and take out most of the guards that way. This is primarily because the enemy intelligence is, at times, comparable to the career of Lindsay Lohan: non existent. However that does not take away from the fact that executing enemies from the darkness is incredibly satisfying.
Overall the demo is fairly short considering it’s file size (1.2 gigabytes), but it exhibits the changes made to the franchise in a positive light. Much like The Newb Review Game of the Year: Batman Arkham Asylum, Splinter Cell Conviction is successful in empowering the player, while at the same time punishing you if you mess up.
Splinter Cell Conviction will be released on the Xbox 360 on 16th April, and on PC on 30th April. Look for a full review at The Newb Review around that time.
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