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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction – hands-on

Ubisoft had never intended for anyone to play Conviction’s E3 demo, so it’s easy for us to completely break it within about four minutes of starting the game. We’re standing in a room, surrounded by armed men emptying round after round into Sam while he clutches bad guy Kobin by the throat and soaks up bullets like Robocop – while a forced cut-scene makes him invincible. Let’s try that again.

The Splinter Cell we’re playing isn’t the one we saw in 2007 – Tramp Fisher, strolling around in broad daylight, finding cover in plain sight, and using crowds to hide. It’s from the ashes of that project the new Conviction has risen – still running on that heavily modified Unreal Engine 2, and still using a few of the same physics tricks, but with everything else thrown out and a new game built on the remains.

“We presented the game at Ubidays in May of 2007,” says Ubisoft’s Andréane Meunier. “We listened to a lot of criticism we were getting and we found that we had strayed away from the core Splinter Cell values, so people didn’t recognize Splinter Cell anymore. We went back to our core values, which are the stealth and the gadgets and everything that people know and love about Splinter Cell. It’s Ubisoft saying ‘let’s give this another go; let’s not release something that people don’t like’.”

The tiny level demonstrated at E3 is a mash-up of the game’s first two levels. It begins in a public toilet where Sam interrogates one of Kobin’s thugs, moves on to the streets surrounding Kobin’s mansion, proceeds into the mansion and climaxes with a raid on Kobin’s office. Kobin, an arms dealer, drove the car which killed Sam’s daughter but since arms dealers don’t often carry out random hits on random girls just for the laughs, Sam has bigger fish to fry. He’s there to interrogate, not kill the man.

It was a demo built to be played just one way, in live hands-off demos. The world has already seen the demo played to perfection, so we looked for new ways to mess with Ubisoft’s miniature sandbox and went out of our way to play the game as ‘wrong’ as we possibly could. Instead of dragging the mansion’s guard over a wall, we walked straight at the frigger. A white ring appeared in the center of the screen and began rapidly shrinking; in public or in shadow the ring is Sam’s new stealth meter – a brief warning when an enemy agent clocks you. It’s fast, deliberate, and is accompanied by a sharp audio spike – an unmistakable ‘run away quickly!’ alarm.

Back in 2007 the former Project lead Dany LePage told us Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory had taken shadow stealth as far as it could possibly go; that they “went through every possible situation with that mechanic,” but Conviction has found space to explore new territory in the shadows. “We’ve tried other things and maybe we’ve proved him wrong a little bit,” says Andréane. “We didn’t really try to redefine the light and shadow in itself, but more the way that it’s presented to the player.”

“Our creative director felt that waiting was not empowering. People would tell me you can stay in the shadows, leave your console and come back later and you still won’t get detected (in Chaos Theory). What he wanted was to feel like a predator; like a panther. He wanted what he called Active Stealth. You’re stealthy not because you’re hiding, but because you’re hunting and you’re about to do something awesome.”

15 comments

  • mentalityljs - August 21, 2009 1:47 a.m.

    @ lovinmyps3: I remember what the "old" Conviction was suppose to be like, LordEvan88 made it sound like the "new" convicion was gonna be like it's predecessors. I was simply saying that the "new" Convicion WAS gonna be different than it's predecessors, that's all :)
  • FreekinIdiot - August 18, 2009 2:08 p.m.

    I cannot wait for this game! Reading/watching footage for Conviction makes my cohones swell...not that i get a boner for Mr Fisher, it just seems a lot of testoserone has gone in to making this look awesome.
  • Seabread - August 17, 2009 4:13 p.m.

    2007 Conviction sucked ass. This reimagining will be way better, not least because of all the neat little things they've added, like projected images/cutscenes, Mark and Execute (so pleased this has to be earned otherwise it'd be too easy) and last known position. I hope they ensure plentiful use of the interactive interrogation sequences.
  • CH3BURASHKA - August 16, 2009 6:33 p.m.

    IMO this was a great direction for the game. Even though it's not out yet, I have a bad feeling about its sequel (which I hope won't happen). After this game, he'll probably find out why his daughter was killed, and won't be able to go back to any US organization as an agent. What next, then?
  • PurplePancake - August 16, 2009 6:35 a.m.

    This game looks awesome!
  • FETALJUICE - August 15, 2009 5:28 a.m.

    I love the new direction Conviction currently has. I was skeptical of 2007's Conviction style but all of that is obsolete as this is clearly the better way for Conviction to be played like. I'm a huge Splinter Cell fan and I can't wait until this is released. Its a goddamn shame it got delayed til 2010. *sigh*
  • mentalityljs - August 15, 2009 3:44 a.m.

    @LordEvan88, It says you can "choose" to play it the old way, like the originals, but it's not forced! Stealth and hiding in shadows isn't neccessary in Conviction, it's more of an advantage tool to plan your attacks. It WILL be different depending on HOW you choose to play it!
  • GREmLiN324 - August 20, 2009 7:34 p.m.

    Man i think there needs to be a fight between Sam Fisher, Jason Bourne, and John Mclain
  • RaIdEn - August 17, 2009 7:05 a.m.

    oh this is going to be fun >:D
  • TheCatInTheHat - August 16, 2009 6:38 p.m.

    This game is great so very great it's just so great it's making my head ache its wonderful in every way i'll be playing it everyday It's doing things never done before it's knock knock knocking on the gaming heavens door The story line looks intriguing so good, it makes me feel like singing That is all I have to say this is TheCatInTheHat saying Have a great day
  • lovinmyps3 - August 15, 2009 9:07 p.m.

    @mentalityljs He's talking about the Conviction shown in 2007 not the old Chaos Theory formula. It was drastically different in 2007 and nothing like this or the old Splinter Cells. You can find some videos on YouTube of the 2007 Conviction.
  • wkdtkd - August 15, 2009 12:10 p.m.

    I wanted to play as a hobo... :(
  • sixboxes - August 15, 2009 4:02 a.m.

    the original gameplay for Conviction wasn't so much "new" as it was "Assassin's Creed starring Sam Fisher as The Homeless Unshaven Dude Standing in for Altair". From the look of the videos they're accomplishing exactly what they're hyping - "active stealth"; taking that "hiding in shadows" mechanic beyond what they thought they could. It's got my attention big time. All they had to retain from the early Conviction work is Sam in civvies and I'd have been sold. They did and I am.
  • LordEvan88 - August 15, 2009 2:15 a.m.

    I'm not a Splinter Cell fan, however the old Conviction from a few years back intrigued me because it looked like some company was finally going to take a risk and do something unique and different rather than releasing the same game again. Well, so much for that.
  • bron1417 - August 14, 2009 8:02 p.m.

    im a splinter cell fan and yes i cannot wait for this game!! take your time ubisoft make it a good one.

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