Have you gotten bored of the Splinter Cell series in recent iterations? I know I have. Ever since the revolutionary original on the Xbox, the series (for me at least) has been a precipitous decline of complex controls, convoluted storylines, and baffling multiplayer. By the time Double Agent came around, I had lost so much interest in the series that I passed by the copies on the shelf with nary a second glance.
Believe me when I tell you that Splinter Cell Conviction pulls a complete 180 on the formerly stagnating series.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is cool to like Splinter Cell again.
The demo began with a poor sap being thrown against a urinal in a dilapidated bathroom. Faster than you can say, "guh", Sam Fisher has the guy a choke hold, demanding to know who killed his daughter. This is a darker, more angry Sam Fisher who is free from the constraints of working for the government. He's on his own and he's out from revenge. From here, the cutscene continues, but the player gains control of Fisher at the same time. From here, you get to choose where Sam will toss the target into next. Want to smash the porcelain off the urinal with his face? Do it. Want to toss him into an occupied stall? Laugh as the occupant panics and swears he hasn't seen your face. Or, you can go to the old standby and introduce his face to the mirror at a high velocity. All the while, the intro credits are rolling and interestingly inserted into the environment.
In fact, lots of things are cleverly instituted into the environment. Flashbacks, mission objectives, and important tidbits are all inserted into the environment instead of simply being superimposed as a bulletpoint. It gives the game a neat visual style. Even how well you're hidden is shown by the level of saturation in the colour scheme. The more unsaturated the colour scheme is, the more invisible you are.
Unlike past Splinter Cell games, all is not lost if you are detected. Sam Fisher is a certified killing machine this time around, and is every bit as nimble as Ryu Hyabusa in the Ninja Gaiden series. Sam can shimmy quickly from ledge to ledge, and has a plethora of ways to eliminate his targets. My favourite way was to pull an unsuspecting sucker off a balcony to a falling death.
There is also a mark and execute system that is quite interesting. When you manage to stealthily kill someone, you gain points in order to commit these actions. Once points are saved up, you can "mark" targets from outside of a window, under the crack of a door, or hanging from the ceiling. Once marked, the system allows you to quickly take out your targets in the order you set forth, emphasizing Fisher's lethality.
Sam also has a huge arsenal of hand to hand combat moves, such as snapping necks, taking hostages, and punching people out like Van Damme in his heyday.
All of this action takes place in an open world setting, in which you can tackle your objectives in any way you like, from running through the front door, guns blazing, to using stealth in any way you deem fit. In the demo, we saw Fisher climb a metal pipe up the ceiling, and taking out 5 unsuspecting henchmen by dropping a chandelier on them.
The stealth system has a unique wrinkle to it too. When Fisher is spotted and then runs from his pursuers, the game will leave a silhouette of Fisher behind. This is the location of his last known whereabouts. Therefore, you will know where your enemies will be going to look for you. This will allow you to try all sorts of neat strategies and techniques to get the drop on your adversaries.
Overall, Splinter Cell is back, with a vengeance. Expect ten to twelve hours of action packed mayhem that would make Jason Bourne green with envy. Conviction will be released on October 20th exclusively for the Xbox 360, and later on the PC.