Sam Fisher's mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.
February 12, 2010 - I'm a longtime Splinter Cell fan and have played all the games. That means the very good (Chaos Theory) to the somewhat bad (Double Agent). I barely recognize the new game. Gone is the trial-and-error stealth mechanics, the slow speed of a cautious Sam Fisher and the over-abundance of cool tech. Splinter Cell Conviction is a completely different game that, honestly, could be billed as a brand new franchise. All that's recognizable is the hot-headed Sam Fisher out for vengeance. Other than that, this is a whole new ballgame.
After playing through the introductory level -- which is similar to but more expansive than the E3 2009 demo -- I couldn't be more excited for the April release of Splinter Cell Conviction. I won't rehash the gameplay mechanics, which we've talked about in detail over the past year. Instead, I'll focus on what really matters -- how the experience feels for a seasoned Splinter Cell player.
I won't lie; it's a little rough to play Conviction at the outset. The design goes against everything I've experienced in stealth games for the past decade. If you can't shake off the ghosts of stealth games past, you're going to have a lot of trouble surviving in Conviction. But after a few rough minutes, I managed to catch on and tackle a very different kind of stealth game.
The first 20 minutes of Splinter Cell Conviction feel great. Zipping from cover to cover, staying in the shadows, moving quickly and silently all feel natural. Every piece of gameplay works fluidly. Though you hold down a trigger to take cover, you never "stick" to cover as in Gears of War. This allows for easily maneuvering and popping from one piece of cover to the next. From cover, you're nearly invincible. Headshots come easily, you won't get hit if you stay low and you can quickly grab and take down any enemy that gets too close. That's because Sam Fisher is a bad ass. Even if you're only moderately skilled, if you stick to cover and stay in the shadows, you're going to end up looking like a trained killer.
Everything Sam does is at double the speed of previous Splinter Cell games. He moves faster than most action characters, dispatches enemies quickly and never slows down to admire the scenery. And yet, this is still a game about stealth. If the color bleeds out of the screen and becomes black and white, you're hidden. If everything is in full color, you're out in the open. Not having to read a meter or look for an exclamation point over someone's head does wonders for maintaining a steady flow to the gameplay. That you can so quickly and easily disappear turns Sam into a predator, stalking from the shadows and leaping out for one instant to strike down his prey.
I've heard some concerns that the Mark and Execute gameplay might make things too easy. Taking an enemy down with a stealth melee attack fills your "marks" which you can then use to tag enemies and objects. When the mark above them turns read, hit the execute button and they are guaranteed to be taken down. This doesn't make Splinter Cell too easy. There are usually more enemies than you can tag and taking out two dudes while another guy is standing next to them is an easy way to tip off your position. Remember, the idea is that Sam Fisher is a trained killer, one of the world's best and should be able to take down enemies with ease.
The only letdown of the demo are interrogations. While you can move your interrogation subject around the environment, you can only interact with them when signaled on screen. You can't bash someone's head into a wall mid-sentence if they aren't telling you what you want to hear. While the rest of Conviction moves fast, the interrogation scenes are slow and even frustrating. You want to toss a guy through a door, but can't until prompted following their lengthy dialogue.
Overall, Splinter Cell Conviction has me pumped. It seems to be worth the long wait. April can't come quickly enough.