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Daily Grind: Splinter Cell Conviction Demo Ian's avatar
 
Im sam, and Im shooting guys.
Ubisoft must have had some sort of renaissance recently and discovered the lost art of making Splinter Cell games. I've been a long time fan of the series, and have played every game including both versions of Double Agent. While I'm glad they didn't go with the totally crazy Hobo-Sam Fisher version from 2007, I have been a bit worried about the direction they've been talking about taking the franchise in over the last few months. To boil it down, everything they've said has sounded like they are planning on making it more of a shooter than a stealth game. While I can see how a shooter will almost certainly have more general appeal these days, there are a million other shooters around so it would be a shame to lose the one thing that made Splinter Cell unique.

I'm please to report that yes there is some stealth left in the game if the demo is anything to go by, but at the same time you can get through the entire demo with relatively little problem just by immediately shooting everyone you come across. In fact it's probably considerably faster to shoot everyone. The only real reward for being stealthy is that you build up a way of making the shooting even easier, so it's clearly been designed with gun use in mind. My general play style for the previous games was to pick off the guards in each area quietly one by one without alerting anyone until no-one was left remotely conscious. I'm not sure if that's how I'll end up playing this game though.

Awesome: Mission Control

There are a lot of damn things mapped to the controls in this game! A quick warning to any shooter fans out there, pressing the left trigger doesn't do fine aim, it's not that much of a shooter. Left trigger attaches you to cover like it's a Rainbow Six game, and fine aim is on R3. It took me two play-through to get accustomed to the layout as they have made some quite non-standard choices. For example, reload is on L3, and crouch toggle is on left bumper, so you'll definitely have to rewire your brain for this one.

Boresome: Is this set to low detail?

I really shouldn't of played this game immediately after playing the first hour of God of War 3, as the graphical step down between the two is sort of shocking. I'm not expert or adept pixel counter, but I think this game isn't running in full 720p, as there are often some quite noticeable errant pixels and aliasing problems. While the closed environments all look fine and atmospheric, the external ones look pretty low detail especially if you look at the distance, or at the foliage. I admit that I'm probably not supposed to be stopping to admire the view in a stealth game, but that doesn't mean they can get lazy.

Awesome: Last Known Position

When you get into combat situation, your last know position is displayed by you leaving a ghost Sam Fisher behind which all the enemies will continue to shoot at. They will move in on your position until they get to it and can determine that you aren't there any more, at which point they'll go back to looking at you. It's a neat system that works and is shown nicely in the environment.

Boresome: Get Your Murder On

Sam's melee move now involves two bullets in the spine. Past games let you chose whether you kill or knock out the dudes you got the drop on. When trying to clear everyone out by stealth, I would be spotted by everyone when doing the melee move, but if I just shot the same guy in the head with the silenced pistol it would not alert anyone. I'll have to play around more with the full game to really get a feel for how much noise the various options make, but it looks like any way you do it, you'll be leaving a trail of corpses in your wake.

The Big Deal: Mark and Execute

I'm sorry but nothing about the "Mark and Execute" system makes any sense. If you don't know what that means, first you have to take someone down with melee which activates your ability to use mark and execute. You mark an enemy by aiming at them and pressing right bumper, you can mark up to three enemies. The marked enemies have a chevron over them, and if you can execute them from your current position the chevron will be red. When you are ready for murder just press Y, and Sam will automatically kill everyone you've marked. To be clear, there's nothing bad about the implementation of this system, it works fine and the people you want to have bullets in them receive their bullets on time. My problem with it is more theoretical.

Your reward for taking the stealthy approach is being given a way to auto kill a bunch of enemies? I would have thought that the people who are doing the stealth thing would probably prefer not to kill anyone at all. The patrol patterns seem to now include groups of people who are standing too near each other to take out easily using stealth, which are probably where you are supposed to use mark and execute. The problem with this is that there is nothing hard about just shooting them manually anyway. I was able to do my own mark and executes just fine with regular old fashioned aiming, I hardly need the game to play itself. It's almost like they are patronizing the stealth players who are clearly not to deft enough to shoot people with their own hands.

On top of that all of that, no-one has thought has gone into contextualising this ability in the game. It's just a game mechanic, a very mechanicish mechanic. This is highlighted in a weird made for the demo briefing video describing Sam's MO: "He's skilled at taking down multiple targets simultaneously. His standard MO starts with a hand to hand takedown, after which he marks his targets and positions himself to eliminate them." If you say it out loud, it just sounds more dumb. Apparently different weapons allow you to mark different numbers of targets. Yes, what gun he uses determines how many people he can shoot with it.

Awesome: Mission Control - Last Known Position

Boresome: Is this set to low detail? - Get Your Murder On

The Big Deal: Mark and Execute

I am still very eager to play through the full game come April, I'm just having a bit of the standard "Wah, it's not the same as the previous games!" reaction at the moment. Unless parts of the game are impossible without marking and executing though, I doubt I'll be using that stupid thing much though. Tags: splinter-cell-conviction, ubisoft