Thursday, 9 July 2009

Hype-Pipe: Splinter Cell: Conviction

Stealth Action is my favourite genre of game and I've pretty much done the ins and outs of all of them except for completing Metal Gear Solid 4 on Big Boss difficulty but there’s a reason for that……..cue drum roll and fanboy backlash…….. IT BORED ME!!!!!. Yeah you heard me. Now don’t get me wrong I've loved the Metal Gear Series since I first played it on the PSone and I was that much of a fan I forked out an excessive amount of money to buy a PS3 just to play MGS4. Yes it had the production values of a Hollywood blockbuster but after a while it started sinking in that this was just a tarted up last generation game. The controls were the same, the HUD was the same, it had the same outrageous plot, the stealth was the same, the action was the same, Christ even the boss battles were rehashes of the best from the series and by the end of it much like Old Snake I was drained and had enough……but luckily for me there was still a reason to be excited about the genre in the form of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction.

For those of you not into your Splinter Cell games, the first 4 games focused on Sam Fisher, a operative of the NSA, and one that is extremely athletic and a master of stealth. What made Splinter Cell different from MGS was how the stealth worked; in MGS it worked on a Line of Sight system but what Splinter Cell did was give you a much more realistic Light/Dark system which allowed you to make much more use of the environments. For example, if you had a corridor with an enemy you couldn't pass and didn't want to trigger an alert, then shoot out the lights making you undetectable, perform Sam’s infamous wall climb leg split and wait for the guard to pass under and carry on your merry way.

It was with the last game that the Splinter Cell series started to move in a different direction taking a much darker tone in its storytelling. After Sam Fisher’s retirement to spend more time with his much loved daughter Sarah, he is informed that she has died in a hit and run with a drink driver and a much darker and angrier Sam returns to work for the NSA as a double agent working with terrorists. By the end of the game Sam finds out that his daughter wasn't killed accidentally but was brutally murdered and somehow the NSA is involved, leaving him with no choice but to become a fugitive and go after those responsible at any cost.

Splinter Cell Conviction was first announced in 2007 and the footage shown then was that of a game completely different game from what we were accustomed to. The footage and screenshots showed Sam Fisher donning the hobo look and being chased by the law using force only when necessary by using whatever was in the environment as weaponry such as chairs, tables etc. And that was it. Several months later a delay was announced and nothing more was ever shown until E3 this year.

The footage shown of Conviction at E3 clearly showed that the game has had a massive overhaul, no longer is Sam a bum on the run, he's clearly still on a mission of revenge and more bad-ass than ever. The gameplay demo impressively opened up with Sam interrogating a man in a toilet using Krav Maga, a fast and fluid Israeli-developed hand-to-hand fighting style in which you learn to win at all cost by using your environment. After Sam is done running the man’s head through a porcelain sink the demo continues on and the first thing you may notice is that there is no HUD except for an ammo count. The mission objectives appear on the environment instead of popping up on the screen. There is no longer an indicator showing you if Sam is hidden or not, you can now tell when you are hidden when the visuals go black and white only leaving your targets in coloured textures. Another new feature is the Mark and Execute System, use stealth efficiently and you are rewarded with a skill: when Sam is infiltrating an area you can mark the enemies (a small circular orb appears above the target) tap Y and Sam breaches a door or window and unleashes a mixture of shooting and hand to hand combat that so far we are only used to seeing in movies (or Rainbow 6). At one point in the demo this is demonstrated by Sam infiltrating a room and taking a man hostage as a bullet shield, he proceeds to throw him out of a window only to follow him out and shimmy across to flank the men at the other side of the room and all this happens within seconds, I kid you not. It has been stated that the single player campaign will feature no breaks or loading screens. Cutscenes and flashbacks will all interweave with the gameplay much like the objectives do when they appear on buildings or walls, this will allow the story to play out with a pace not seen in previous games.

It is quite clear that Ubisoft is trying to redefine the stealth action genre, they have obviously sensed that people have grown bored with the same mechanics and have created a much more fast paced and fluid style of gameplay. They want you to be able to control a bad-ass and they've succeeded. Check out the video below to see why this was my hit of E3.


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