I played through the Splinter Cell: Conviction demo at least three times on its highest difficulty setting. I keep having to remind myself that this is a demonstration of a product still in development, an appetizer if you will.
Initially, I had written a post on my Twitter page about my disappointment with the demo. What once was a game where the challenge lied in getting the objective done without a single alert, like you were a ghost, has become The Fisher Identity. I thought if Splinter Cell: Conviction featured Matt Damon instead of Sam Fisher and had “Bourne” in the title, I’d probably be more interested in the final product. Because it is none of this, I instead wagged my finger at it. Hooray for double standards!
We have to embrace change sooner or later. Change for Ubisoft Montreal meant taking a game that was slowly paced and, for the most part, a calm experience and changing it to something with a faster tempo. The music is not the mysterious and ambient soundtrack of Amon Tobin. It’s on the level of Harry Gregson-Williams or more along the lines of John Powell. After a cheesy intro about what a superspy Fisher is, the game opens with him beating the life out of a man in a public restroom. Then you learn the controls, and you see what’s the same and what’s different.
Conviction is a different game because the circumstances in its universe are different. Fisher is no longer under orders from a higher authority, and because part or all of the story involves solving the murder of his daughter, we see a Fisher with nothing to lose after the JBA mission from Double Agent. It doesn’t seem like you’ll be penalized for putting a bullet in the bald skulls of every henchman in sight. In fact, a new “mark and execution” system practically encourages it. If you take a guard down with your bare hands, you earn the points needed to execute this move, where you place tags on three enemies, hit a button, and Fisher automatically pops them clean. I’ll say one thing: manually firing a weapon has drastically improved from its predecessors, it would seem.
Your famous trifocal goggles are only equipped with a sonar detector. It will send a sonic wave that highlights the presence of enemies in a distance. From there, your actions are your own.
It seems like Conviction will be a fast-paced action game that will still encourage the sneaking around, which seems a bit downplayed in this episode. If you’re successfully tucked away in the shadows, the screen will have a grayscale filter initiated. I’m hoping this is an option, because I find it incredibly distracting. If the game is going to tell me I’m good in the shadows, why not just bring the light meter back?
I’ve let this demo settle in for a day now, and I wish the series had gone a more substantial direction after four years in development hell. I also believe it was the long wait and the public troubles the development has endured is why the negative reaction is stronger than it might otherwise be. I’m not displeased that this is the route the franchise is going, but I’d also like to enjoy Conviction the same way I enjoyed Chaos Theory, and I hope that’s possible. If anything, I’m hoping for a cooperative demo, but with the game’s release about three weeks away, that’s doubtful. That mode might be what still puts a copy in my hand on April 13th.