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

He's not hiding anymore

Ubisoft had never intended for anyone to play Conviction%26rsquo;s E3 demo, so it%26rsquo;s easy for us to completely break it within about four minutes of starting the game. We%26rsquo;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 %26ndash; while a forced cut-scene makes him invincible. Let%26rsquo;s try that again.

The Splinter Cell we%26rsquo;re playing isn%26rsquo;t the one we saw in 2007 %26ndash; Tramp Fisher, strolling around in broad daylight, finding cover in plain sight, and using crowds to hide. It%26rsquo;s from the ashes of that project the new Conviction has risen %26ndash; 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.

%26ldquo;We presented the game at Ubidays in May of 2007,%26rdquo; says Ubisoft%26rsquo;s Andr%26eacute;ane Meunier. %26ldquo;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%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s Ubisoft saying %26lsquo;let%26rsquo;s give this another go; let%26rsquo;s not release something that people don%26rsquo;t like%26rsquo;.%26rdquo;

The tiny level demonstrated at E3 is a mash-up of the game%26rsquo;s first two levels. It begins in a public toilet where Sam interrogates one of Kobin%26rsquo;s thugs, moves on to the streets surrounding Kobin%26rsquo;s mansion, proceeds into the mansion and climaxes with a raid on Kobin%26rsquo;s office. Kobin, an arms dealer, drove the car which killed Sam%26rsquo;s daughter but since arms dealers don%26rsquo;t often carry out random hits on random girls just for the laughs, Sam has bigger fish to fry. He%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s miniature sandbox and went out of our way to play the game as %26lsquo;wrong%26rsquo; as we possibly could. Instead of dragging the mansion%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s new stealth meter %26ndash; a brief warning when an enemy agent clocks you. It%26rsquo;s fast, deliberate, and is accompanied by a sharp audio spike %26ndash; an unmistakable %26lsquo;run away quickly!%26rsquo; 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 %26ldquo;went through every possible situation with that mechanic,%26rdquo; but Conviction has found space to explore new territory in the shadows. %26ldquo;We%26rsquo;ve tried other things and maybe we%26rsquo;ve proved him wrong a little bit,%26rdquo; says Andr%26eacute;ane. %26ldquo;We didn%26rsquo;t really try to redefine the light and shadow in itself, but more the way that it%26rsquo;s presented to the player.%26rdquo;

%26ldquo;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%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;re stealthy not because you%26rsquo;re hiding, but because you%26rsquo;re hunting and you%26rsquo;re about to do something awesome.%26rdquo;

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