I will make you Fishers of men.
I am not—in that deep, reflective place that's honest enough to face Reality, cautious enough to evaluate all possibilities, and just dorky enough to attempt calculating one's chances against completely fictional characters—'afraid' of Solid Snake. If I suddenly, some-crazy-how, found myself athwart Snake's goals, he'd be wearily, jadedly big-picture enough to see my intentions and pass me by (or at least leave me harmlessly cold-cocked under a stairwell). I'm not afraid of Duke Nukem, because A) he's apparently never coming back, and B) even if he were, we'd get along famously, on a kindred soul/blowing stuff up/nudie-bar-buddy basis. I'm not afraid of James Bond—not even the Daniel Craig version, mind you!—because he's base-arrogant enough to wait for me to make the kind of stick-my-neck-out overture that, at least around a guy like him, I would never be dumb enough to make.
[image1]I am on some level, though, afraid of Sam Fisher, at least in his current incarnation. This guy would wait patiently, hunt you down, and real-world fuck you up forever just to be on the safe, statistical, tactically-realistic side... which is what I would do, put in his less-enviable-than-ever shoes. So, yeah—there's a dilemma for another article entirely.
Splinter Cell: Conviction gives us a Sam Fisher out from under the Third Echelon thumb—although probably not the way he would have wanted. Set a couple of years after the events of Double Agent, Conviction gives us a Fisher who has learned that his daughter's untimely demise was no 'accident', and has long gone all loose-cannon from the reins of Third Echelon (who are, naturally, after him). It starts out all about the circumstances behind his daughter's death, but of course it ends up with much more hanging in the balance; 'much more', in this case, translating roughly to 'Washington D.C.'
Does 'Conviction' refer to the catch-all term for the State's ultimate punishment of an individual for unspecified crimes... or does it refer to a single individual's unshakable determination to hunt down those guilty of unspecified State crimes? Eh? Eh?
Beyond offering a considerably more hardened, badass Sam Fisher—a feat in itself, arguably—Splinter Cell: Conviction introduces the brutally appealing “Mark and Execute” scheme. It works something like this: You literally 'mark' specified targets for death, prioritizing the need for and sequential order of their deaths within a specified area. Each successive foe that (oh-so-badly) needs to die is assigned a priority, depending upon which weapons you'll be using, and how/if you have modified said weaponry. It's not far off the mark to describe the works as a brutal kind of 'puzzle-based' gameplay, especially in light of tactical considerations such as creating temporary distractions for one guard... in order to set up the permanent demise of another.
[image2]Another new goody is the Last Known Location scheme. Once the enemy has lost direct line-of-sight to the player, the game generates a false-location shadow—in other words, a location where the enemy in question believes Sam to be. This is obviously one of the player's best chances to get all sneaky and flank-tastic.
Additional features allow players to conduct real-time, um, 'interrogation' of subjects... by brutally and creatively using the very environment and objects therein against said subjects. In keeping with the finest Hollywood traditions, Conviction employs a public/crowd scheme with which Fisher can evade pursuers by melting into a mass of milling NPCs. Furthering the seamless dramatic presentation, the game makes a point of projecting current mission objectives and guiding plot hints onto in-game walls and other surfaces—it keeps the player(s) on track, with a minimum of intrusion into the story.
Conviction's new cooperative campaign, estimated to clock in at six or seven hours, will allow players to assume the roles of Third Echelon agent Archer (no, not that Archer; now there would be yet another groundbreaking Ubisoft franchise!) and Russian agent Kestrel (working for the Russian equivalent of 3E). Essentially an immediate prequel to the single-player game, the co-op mode offers all-new cooperative attacks for Kestrel and Archer to pull off together, as well as opportunities for both to purchase new outfits, weapons, and other items with points earned within the main game.
Other gameplay modes will include Last Stand, in which one or two players protect an electromagnetic pulse device, while fending off successive waves of foes. The kicker is that if the enemies don't see your stealthy-bad self, they will concentrate on destroying the EMP device; this outcome can be avoided by making yourself noticeable and hence drawing their fire, during which instances—and only during which instances—the enemies will stop attempting to destroy the EMP, re-focusing their efforts on you. It's a tactical, damage-intensive balancing act that must eventually implode—explode, actually—but looks to be fun while it lasts.
[image3]Another mode, Hunter, tasks players with offing 10 enemies throughout a given map without being discovered. Kill them all and you've got an opportunity to pimp out your weaponry before continuing to the next game segment. It's a pure skill-upping experience, the prime elements of Splinter Cell: Conviction minus all that ancillary mucking about with motivation, story development, plot twists, and so on.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is slated to ship in April 2010—for reals, this time— and will be available for Xbox 360 and PC, is rated 'M' (for reasons that will quickly become all kinds of apparent) and will teach a new generation of would-be stealthy hunter/killers all there is to know about lurking in the shadows and 'getting their man'. Even if, in this case, the man in question also happens to the The Man. Monitor this frequency for GR's full review.