by Christopher Park
previewed on X360
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Fisher Scorned
Ever since its big re-reveal in this year’s E3, Splinter Cell: Conviction has been making huge waves as a complete overhaul of the strike-from-the-shadows gameplay the series based its first four installments on. Sam’s now a faster, leaner and meaner man, taking cues from the fast-paced Bourne films in just how Sam gets the job done. A lot more news has trickled down the pipeline since E3 and with a firm release date of 2/23/09, Splinter Cell: Conviction looks to be a complete change of pace and a return to form ever since Splinter Cell: Double Agent did not quite resonate with most Splinter Cell fans.
The biggest piece of news since its announcement has been the reveal of the game’s multiplayer modes. To sum things up succinctly: A 6-hour co-op mode that takes prior to Sam Fisher’s exploits coupled with a challenge mode that will pit players in six different challenges across six different maps. There is a distinct lack of news on any kind of Versus mode, which put two players as spies and two as mercenaries. It was a truly innovative mode when it was introduced in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and not hearing anything about it is slightly distressing. There is still a few months to go before Conviction’s release, so perhaps this is a case where holding your breath might actually be a smart thing to do.
Old Friends, New Enemies
Beyond just online modes, Conviction’s singleplayer game is what has been given the most attention through all the developer diaries and emphasis on Sam and what he will go through in the game. This is very much Sam’s story – after his daughter is killed in a hit and run, Sam’s gone rogue to seek vengeance. There is a greater, global danger surrounding the game’s narrative, as evidenced by the recent developer diary released a few days ago, but global perils aside, Sam is very angry and he is willing to do anything to find out who murdered his daughter. His search will lead him into the bigger picture of the game’s narrative framework. Just how big is something that remains to be seen, but Ubisoft has really been emphasizing the Conviction’s story as a pretty big deal, which is refreshing, considering just how hard it was to care about any of the events that went down in any of the previous Splinter Cell games.
It also sounds like it is going to make for something less grounded and less believable, in terms of authenticity. While the first three installments of Splinter Cell existed in some realm of plausibility, expect Conviction to completely jump ship on that aspect, forgoing something vaguely connected to the real-world and instead, something much more in the realm of thriller. For a more recent frame of reference, notice the jump from Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 as far as plausibility goes. Whether this is good news or bad news is entirely up to you to judge, but it looks to be a much more personal tale.
There will be some familiar faces, like Anna Grimsdóttír making a return. Grim was an invaluable voice in Sam’s mic, always offering assistance and even asking for assistance when needed. Now, as chief technical advisor of Third Echelon, the shadow branch Sam worked for, Grim gives the orders. And, as shown in the recent developer diary, she has gone from affable to creating an air of animosity around Sam.
Mark and Execute
Change is afoot everywhere and as much the game’s story is radically different, the gameplay houses just as much change. The game’s tagging system has been shown off quite a bit, allowing Sam to tag a handful of targets, to either quickly take out guards or shoot down lights. It allows for Sam to breach into rooms ready to kill and with Sam’s new found dexterity, thanks to the increase in mobility the controls offer, he is a much more dangerous man.
If this has not been clear enough, Conviction is changing practically everything about Splinter Cell in gameplay and in story. It is flipping tables, redoing, retooling and revamping everything the series established itself on. All the trailers and all the information trickling dashes hopes of a completely non-lethal route, something that always presented a unique challenged in previous Splinter Cell entries. Change is scary, and while there was huge potential for the series to stick to its main gameplay tenets while taking advantage of the technology present today, it is an admittedly ballsy and brave move to go into such a more action-packed and streamlined route, even that might alienate fans who have stuck to the franchise since day one. But hey, the game still has the series’ trademark nightvision goggles, so if all the change scares you, you can always look to those for some solace.