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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction: Hell Hath No Fury Like a SIGINT Ninja Scorned

Splinter Cell: Conviction was originally announced quite some time ago. At first, the concept was based entirely around Sam Fisher's new status as a fugitive, but the project suddenly and mysteriously fell off the radar. It remained an unknown until 2009, when it was re-revealed at E3. It turns out, Sam Fisher's fifth terrorist-hunting expedition was in no danger whatsoever. Instead, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal had spent their time constructing a bold and violent vision for the future of the series.

Conviction is a game that seeks to redefine the action/stealth genre while remaining a Splinter Cell experience at its core. After spending some quality hands-on time with the game's recently-released demo, I am confident that Splinter Cell: Conviction will live up to the hype.

Warning: The next paragraph contains spoilers regarding the Splinter Cell story. If you haven't played the first four games in the franchise, now is an excellent time to do so. You've got just enough time to get to know Sam Fisher and his business accomplices. It'll be important if you want to get the most out of Conviction's revenge fantasy.

At the end of Splinter Cell: Double Agent's first mission, Colonel Irving Lambert became the bearer of some terrible news: Sam's daughter Sarah was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Roughly three years have passed since Sam's mission with John Brown's Army, and apparently, the grizzled protagonist has spent all this time completely off the grid.

Sam has discovered that Sarah's death was not an accident. The demo opens as Fisher hurls an unlucky goon named Gramkos into a public urinal. In a controllable sequence, you drag him around by the neck to different parts of the bathroom, trying to get answers out of him. Depending on where you are in the room, you'll find unique opportunities to make Gramkos feel pain. His tongue isn't very loose at first, but once you smash the porcelain sink with his face, he opens up. Turns out, he works for an arms dealer named Andriy Kobin. Kobin is the man who killed Sarah.

Ubisoft wants gamers to exact Fisher's revenge on Kobin in the final release of Splinter Cell: Conviction, so before things get too spoilerific, the demo fast-forwards a bit. Sam is now in Washington D.C., specifically, at the Michigan Avenue Reservoir. A terrorist organization has locked down the place, and is using the complex as a staging ground for "Big Boy," an EMP bomb. In addition, a scientist is being forced to develop the weapon against her will. Fisher's got his work cut out for him, but he has the skills and equipment to bring the entire operation down.

Conviction features some innovative new mechanics, but things get really interesting when the "Mark and Execute" mechanic is explained. Lots of shooters allow you to spot your enemies and place dots over their heads (Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and again, Rainbow Six: Vegas), but Conviction takes this concept a few steps further. You can mark two enemies at a time, and provided you're in range, you can execute them with two lightning-fast headshots. There's a catch, though: you can't execute until you perform a hand-to-hand kill.

Fans of the early Splinter Cell games probably found the inconsistency of the enemy A.I. to be a source of frustration. Splinter Cell: Conviction gives players a way to visualize the enemy's strategy. If you're spotted, simply break the line of sight. When you have effectively hidden yourself, a silhouette of Sam appears. This is the Last Known Position, a visual representation of where the enemy believes Sam is hiding. It gives you a chance to set up traps and ambushes, and is a much-needed alternative to "Mission Failed. You Were Spotted Too Many Times."

Splinter Cell: Conviction wouldn't be worthy of its name if it didn't include gadgets. The demo gives you access to five. You've got your fragmentation and flashbang grenades, but the most interesting of the gadgets are the EMP grenade, the sticky camera, and the portable EMP. Sticky cameras have been around since the first Splinter Cell game, but Ubisoft Montreal has tweaked them for Conviction. Sticky cams have most of the capabilities of the ones from the first four games; they provide great reconnaissance information and produce noisy distractions. These sticky cams allow you to mark any enemies in the camera's line of vision, but they can also be detonated. The EMP-related gadgets allow you to temporarily disable the electronics in localized areas. This only serves to reinforce the notion that you are not hiding, but hunting.

If you are not a fan of previous Splinter Cell games, I still recommend that you download the free demo of Conviction on Xbox Live. If you're a fan of Sam Fisher, enjoy the demo and rest assured -- the wait is almost over. April 13 can't come soon enough.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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