E3 2009: The Five: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
The Skinny: Sam Fisher's gone rogue. When clues point to a vast conspiracy responsible for his daughter's death, Fisher -- who became a one-man national security initiative over the course of four Splinter Cell games -- finds himself at odds with his former handlers at the Third Echelon spy agency. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction stepped out of the shadows at E3, and more details emerged.
1. The new Mark and Execute ability lets Sam tag bad guys in his field of vision and then dispatch them quickly with the press of a button. You'll be able to mark enemies at any time, but the quick kill only becomes available after you earn it in close-quarters combat. The emphasis on speed and action is a big example of how the game's developers want to move away from the more ponderous tippy- toe stealth of previous games.
2. No more Third Echelon means no more Mr. Nice Guy. Improved environmental interaction allows Sam to brutally torture his opponents in order to obtain information, slamming their heads against walls, doors and urinals. The break with his former employers also means Sam's gotta improvise. Instead of a light meter indicating the level of shadow, now the color drains from the screen when Sam becomes invisible. Another low-technology element has Sam breaking off a rearview mirror from a parked car and sliding it under a door to see the enemies in another room.
3. Last Known Position: When fighting from stealth, a translucent silhouette of Sam remains in the last place enemies saw him. They'll direct their aggression at that location, allowing players to attack from elsewhere. That same improved environmental interaction means that Sam can clamber over more of the levels than ever before, allowing him keep enemies guessing.
4. In limiting the number of momentum-sapping cut scenes, Ubisoft Montreal's come up with some slick narrative tricks. Objectives get projected on the walls of the environment, leading Sam to his next task without breaking the game's flow. Cut scenes unfurl the same way -- so when Sam gets crucial information, a flashback plays in the background even as players retain full control of Sam.
5. Maybe the biggest surprise about the fifth Splinter Cell game is that it's an Xbox 360 and PC exclusive. Granted, exclusives nowadays tend to mean that said titles will wind up on other platforms in about a year, but Conviction's exclusivity still came across as a surprise in an era where publishers try to maximize profits on big franchises by placing them on multiple platforms.
The Crispy Forecast: Sunny with a high probability of shadowy conspiracies. Conviction's kept gamers waiting for a long time, but from what we've seen, all that extra percolation time will pay off.