Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
E3 2009: Splinter Cell: Conviction Preview: When Stealth and Combat Collide
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There are certain things that you see at E3 (or any trade show for that matter) that you are subjected to over and over again that after a while, you tend to get sick of. For me, that game was Splinter Cell: Conviction. This by no means is a slur against the title itself because it seems to be shaping up quite well, but having to sit through the same mission from a supposed sandbox title played the exact same way 3 times on 3 separate occasions (MS & Ubisoft Press Conference, and a developer walkthrough), things tends to get a little old ... and fast. Rather than discuss the walkthrough in detail, because chances are you’ll have seen it already, I’m going to focus on the new gameplay features and style, with Steve Masters, Lead Game Designer, on hand to answer some of the more awkward questions I threw at him.

So Sam is back, I mean Splinter Cell wouldn’t be Splinter Cell without him, and thankfully, despite the rumours, Michael Ironside returns to voice him. This time however, he’s on his own and on a personal mission of vengeance. He’s faster, more dynamic, and more of a machine. Stealth is more of an option in Splinter Cell: Conviction and not so much as a necessity, but after watching the walkthrough many a time and hearing tales of woe from others who’d seen a different route taken, I think it’s still safe to say that it is essentially still a stealth title but with more combat orientated set-pieces mixed in.

Splinter Cell: Conviction features many new features; the first, and possibly the biggest of all, is the new “mark and execute” function that Masters noted they were building the whole game around. It allows Fisher to effectively mark targets before busting in and triggering the final execute command, which will initiate an automatic response from Fisher to take out those marked targets. This isn’t limited to just marking people either, as players can mark items like lights as well if they so wish.  Masters noted that it’s meant to be used as a strategic tool and effectively places the “power of Sam Fisher in everyone’s hands.” First things first, this new mechanic cannot be used all the time and once an execute order is issued, in order to use it again, it must be recouped by performing a close combat takedown. The amount of “marks” you get as well depends on the weapon you’re using, with the shorter range weapons having more marks (the shotgun had 3 marks) than the longer ranged weapons (the assault rifle had 2); however they are currently balancing this, so it may change from now to the release. The first thing that ran through my mind was obviously, is this going to be too easy for Splinter Cell veterans? In my opinion, I think so, but Masters had this to say regarding that;

“No ... it is putting a lot of power in your hands, but it’s really a tactical tool, you don’t have access to it all the time, you have to go in and earn it. So by doing a hand to hand kill, you unlock it. The AI is extremely aggressive right now ... and when we put it through the play-test and stuff, people took a long time to get used to it ... so yeah, it makes you powerful, but that’s the goal.” Okay ... not really answering the question, but you get the point, right? Right? Us neither.

Masters admitted that the combat orientation “has changed the game quite dramatically” but on whether he thought it would still appeal to the long standing fans of the stealth series, Masters commented that they were “staying true to the roots.” Furthermore he noted that “you still have all the stealth tools and stealth options; you can bypass all the guys, create distractions and get through the other areas and completely stealth your way through the levels ... it’s difficult, but you can do it” Surely a clear indication that the series isn’t leaving its roots behind completely, it’s just broadening its horizons. Is this the new Ubisoft strategy, as we recently saw Prince of Persia go from a hardcore platformer to a relatively easy adventure game? Either way, the stealth is still there ... but now if you want to punch your way through, you’re more than welcome to, but to me, that doesn’t really seem very “Splinter Celly.”

Other notable additions to the series include things like; no loading times with the title featuring seamless transitions from mission to mission, and a new innovative story telling mechanism that projects flashbacks, new mission objectives and possible targets on to the scenery you’re immersed in. These two aspects mean that the gamer is always fully immersed in the story and doesn’t have to keep dropping in and out of loading screens and cut scenes that break the experience up. Definitely an effective tool and one of the more impressive features that we saw on the show floor in general.

Then of course there is the “last known position” mechanic, so when Sam enters darkness and his trackers lose sight of him, Sam’s last known position will be indicated by a grey silhouette so that he can effectively use that to play a game of cat and mouse with his prey. The AI did seem a little dense here in all honesty, but there is a good 6 months to straighten that out and tweak it to become a little more intelligent than just – “oh, I know, I’ll run into the dark after that armed assassin!”

Worryingly for me, for a game that bills itself as a sandbox title, showing the same route every time in each of the three demonstrations could be seen as an indication as to how weak the sandbox aspect of the title really is. It almost says “go this way, it’s easier,” but of course, you’re not locked into it, so we’re not letting that concern us too much at the moment. That point aside, Splinter Cell: Conviction is currently shaping up to be one of the great titles of the year. With its innovative story telling methods, seamless mission transitions and it’s general look (and feel), it surely means that Sam Fisher is certainly heading back to form (although, he’s rarely out of form). Whether the mark and execute feature is destined to make the title a little too easy for Splinter Cell nuts remains to be seen and only time will tell how that pans out. In the meantime however, we can sleep soundly in our beds tonight knowing the great franchise is finally within touching distance after a few rocky years of uncertainty.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is currently slated for a fall 2009 release on Xbox 360 and PC.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 17
Comment #1 by Mr Jonnysniper
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:22:23 PM
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Forum Posts: 141
Comment #2 by GOG909
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:24:33 PM
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the takedowns remind me of the bourne conspiracy game :P

Forum Posts: 108
Comment #3 by GuitarGuruXXX
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:24:47 PM
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This is a must buy!

Forum Posts: 7
Comment #4 by Chigawa
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:31:42 PM
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I cant wait for this, it looks awesome :)

Forum Posts: 11
Comment #5 by Sulkybarbecue
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:34:25 PM
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^ agreee

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #6 by ZOMBiCUS
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:53:17 PM
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defiantly sounds to be worth the 20 year wait

Forum Posts: 21
Comment #7 by Olliezilla
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 06:55:40 PM
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Agree with other guys, looks sweet..

Cant wait :D

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #8 by Epic Gamer Will
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 07:13:43 PM
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i loved all the other SC games and this should be even batter

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #9 by TwiceAzzNice
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 08:01:00 PM
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The game is gonna be good can't wait.

Forum Posts: 237
Comment #10 by blitz7287
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 08:05:17 PM
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This game looks ace. seen that e3 vid and it left me wanting the game

Forum Posts: 478
Comment #11 by Veteran
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 08:58:01 PM
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This game looks class, I didn't really enjoy Double Agent, the spy missions were gay.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #12 by xBLAKx SAVAGE
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 09:01:57 PM
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believe it or not ive never played a splinter cell game before . but i might pick this up

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #13 by doomsayer123
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 09:16:51 PM
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this game is gonna be awesome

Forum Posts: 178
Comment #14 by Blue Thunder28
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 10:10:35 PM
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Forum Posts: 47
Comment #15 by RevyLover
Thursday, June 11, 2009 @ 11:03:54 PM
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I am in the firm belief that you sometimes need to re-invent a series including its core gameplay to keep it fresh. I am glad to know that the new Splinter Cell will still have the old school mechanics that made the series great, but also enough new material and gameplay styles to keep it up to date. I will definitely be picking up this title this fall.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #16 by DeadlyCobraz
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 12:44:17 AM
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Splinter Cell is about stealth pwning and generally just feeling the power of a trained assassin and I love how Sam Fisher got his vengeance on and just wonna kill, slaughter and mutilate, so I don't care how "sandboxy" it is. For me there's no doubt, I'm buying this.

Forum Posts: 561
Comment #17 by MakoBallistic
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 01:24:03 AM
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if it still has the expert difficulty setting then i fail to see how it could be too easy, but a lot of sandbox games dnt have an option to change the diff so who knows, either way im getting it.

and @15 - i agree.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #18 by RVG667
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 03:35:32 AM
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this game looks nice! i want it

Forum Posts: 28
Comment #19 by sinderPL
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 03:42:57 AM
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I hated the way you had to do something in double agent to unlock new gadgets like not killing anybody for the whole mission

Forum Posts: 414
Comment #20 by KingSigy
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 04:38:41 AM
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Sandbox is cool, but I still want to know what happened to hobo Sam. The original trailer had you flipping tables or God's sakes, where the hell did that go? Ah well, I guess Ubisoft thought that was too far off of the original series. This does look good, but definitely too much like Double Agent to have me getting my hopes up. Damn you hype!

Forum Posts: 32
Comment #21 by link667
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 06:59:19 AM
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i hope they dont focus too much on the combat because it wouldnt be a splinter cell title without stealth like!

Forum Posts: 91
Comment #22 by dazzadavie
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 10:04:35 AM
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One of the best games to come out of E3 this year, cant wait for it! Loved all the SC games.....One thing though did you really see a play though at the EA Press Conference????? Now that would of been funny

Forum Posts: 35
Comment #23 by Porta1980
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 11:43:55 AM
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i had absolutly no interest in this till the e3 vid and now i can't wait it looks awesome!!!!!

Forum Posts: 6
Comment #24 by DevilDog7856
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 11:46:09 AM
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Looks sweet!

Forum Posts: 30
Comment #25 by crunchb3rry
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 07:40:02 PM
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Mark & Execute sounds cool. Probably going to be an achievement for each level you beat using only an automated Sam. Can't wait for this game, it's the only Tom Clancy series that doesn't have plots and voice acting that is hokey as shit. Scott Mitchell is a douche.

Forum Posts: 8
Comment #26 by holyoz
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 07:53:33 PM
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love the splinter cell games this one looks good i like the action stealth approach reminds me of the bourne movies and 24

Forum Posts: 398
Comment #27 by ReD S1X
Friday, June 12, 2009 @ 08:22:01 PM
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I agree with with #25, Scott is a windbag. Go Sam!

Forum Posts: 1491
Comment #28 by ThePumpkinKing
Sunday, June 14, 2009 @ 02:34:16 AM
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Too bad that if Hollywood ever made a Splinter Cell flick no actor would ever be able to do Micheal Ironsides, or the character he's created, the justice it deserves.

Forum Posts: 52
Comment #29 by EthanHunt
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 @ 06:36:09 PM
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Fisher looks great! I'm so gonna get it!

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #30 by Ozziekebab
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 @ 07:59:26 AM
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Hooooly shit. I have been waiting for this game for sooo long! Cannot wait. Sam is insanely bad ass in this one.

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Game Info
Ubisoft Montreal


US April 13, 2010
Europe April 16, 2010

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