I got the chance to see the Splinter Cell: Conviction demo play-through three times before my appointment with UbiSoft and it never got old. Revealed back in 2007, Splinter Cell: Conviction has seen a complete overhaul in terms of style and look. This isn’t the shadow-sulking secret agent from the first three games or the shaggy agent on the run seen in the fourth. This is a completely new take on the series.
Conviction picks up two years after Double Agent with Sam in deep cover. He is still on the hunt for the man who killed his daughter, making his quest a personal one. Over the course of his hunt, Sam discovers a deeper conspiracy that will take him around the world and may possibly bring him back to Third Echelon. I asked if this meant Sam would get his signature three-mode goggles back, but I was given the E3 requisite response, “No Comment.”
While they weren’t able to answer all my questions, I was able to get a good look at the game’s underpinnings, which UbiSoft reps were more than happy to show off. The most striking element of Conviction is the visual style. The game looks great, but really shines in its presentation. One of the main gameplay focuses is to always keep things moving. To support this, all mission briefings are offered during load screens. The demo mission was introduced with a fly-through of the environment, offering a look at what to expect and a quick explanation of what to do when you get to that point in the level.
Additionally, all in-game text and movies (like flashbacks) are projected on the walls. The technique is similar to Fringe or North by Northwest and looks phenomenal in-game. The presentation was enough to evoke a “How are they doing it?” discussion on the way to the LACC and was the first thing I asked when I sat down for my demo session. Everything is handled with the game’s engine, including projections.
Conviction is still a stealth game at heart, but UbiSoft is taking it in a different direction than past games. Sam isn’t backed by the government, affording a certain level of freedom in how he handles situations. He doesn’t have to hide bodies (you can shoot your way through the entire game if you want) and can use more brutal interrogation techniques. During missions, Sam can grab enemies and beat information out of them with chokes, headlocks and just plain tossing them around the room. Once finished, Sam can knock them out or kill them. Of course, the lack of support also means he doesn’t have access to cool gadgets, so you’ll have to MacGyver a few tools together from things found in levels.
Stealth is still a central gameplay element. Sam can run, climb and hang around levels. UbiSoft is employing a bit of style for stealth sections as well. When in the shadows, the level gains a grainy, desaturated look. All non-important elements fade out, allowing you to focus on important elements like mission goals and enemies. Coupled with the projections, this gives Conviction a very unique look.
Stealth is also aided by a pair of new moves -- Last Known Position and Mark and Execute. If enemies notice Sam, he has a few seconds to break their line of sight. Doing so causes a white outline to appear, indicating the last position he saw you. The enemy will walk to that area, giving you a chance to escape or plan an ambush. Mark and Execute allows you to mark unsuspecting targets and, once marked, Sam will auto-aim and fire. If you would rather not kill, you can also mark valves, barrels and lights to cause distractions.
Splinter Cell: Conviction’s new direction was one of E3 2009’s better surprises and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on the final game. Conviction ships in the Fall for the 360 and PC.