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

A choke hold is a great bonding experience. Not between you and the man who’s holding a gun to your head – there’ll always be a tragic, longing awkwardness in that relationship – but between you and your fellow player, the guy flitting from shadow to shadow, circling around to spring up behind your captor and snap his neck like a bony pencil.

Or maybe, if he’s got one of his execution moves prepared, your friend will poke a hole between the eyes of the guard with Bauer-like aloofness. For these situations Splinter Cell Conviction needs a Manly Hug button, because when one spy helps out another, the mutual appreciation for one another’s usefulness is almost tangible.

We’re playing the third map in Conviction’s co-operative campaign, Yastreb Complex, a small part of a five-hour long prologue to the events of the single player game. The two-player campaign is a game in itself, taking in new locations and seen through the luminescent goggles of two new characters. The story goes that Third Echelon notices that three Russian EMP bombs have vanished, and must jump into bed with their Russian-counterpart, Voron, in order to track them down and save the world. It’s James Bond in spandex with big thigh muscles.

Enter Archer, the green-goggled Fisher-lite character, and his soon-to-be best pal Kestrel, who, as a Russian man, has to wear the red goggles. Despite their chromatic differences, the two eventually become the best of friends, crow barring doors open together, planting C-4 charges for simultaneous detonations, and marking and executing entire rooms of people at once.

Above: Russia takes silver in the 500m exploding hurdles

Gone, as far as the Yastreb Complex level tells, are the vaguely erotic acrobatic moves of Chaos Theory (the phrase “use me as man-rope you mucky cow” may never be heard again) and arriving are the well-phrased mechanics of Conviction we spoke about in our last preview, tuned for two players.