Splinter Cell: Conviction: demo impressions

Short and sweet. Not words that gamers like to associate with demos, but to be fair, they can’t all be like Darksiders and Just Cause 2. However short as it is though, the Splinter Cell: Conviction demo, just released on Xbox Live, makes up for it by being sweeter than 12 sugar packets liberally sprinkled over a slab of milk chocolate.

We’ve seen the videos and heard all of this talk about marking and executing, fisticuffs and rage fuelled trips to the loo, but is it anywhere near as smooth as Ubisoft want us to believe?

The first thing that will strike Splinter Cell veterans is how much the interface has changed. It seems that when Sam left Third Echelon, he also seemed to leave behind the scroll through action menus that laid out all of his options when interacting with items. There are still context sensitive actions, but they are now mapped to face buttons and considerably less fiddly.

Forget shooting from the hip, Sam shoots from the elbow

It all seems to be part of this new streamlined edition of Splinter Cell which has made everything a lot simpler, but still manages to hold on to important stealth mechanics. The slightly simplified control scheme is essential because, as we’re sure you can assess from the trailers, Sam Fisher is pissed off. He is angry and likes to react fast to take people down, something that the clunkier control schemes from the rest of the series would have severely hindered. Whereas previous outings have been punishing unless you avoided conflict, Conviction encourages violence and often forces you to make some split second decisions. You don’t always have the luxury of lurking in the shadows to make the perfect plan.

Mark and execute was something that we were originally quite sceptical of. In a blood stained nut shell, it basically lets you mark out up to three enemies, before a single button press lets Fisher take them all out in an instant flurry of suppressed gunshots. It sounds like super auto-aim and a really dumbed down way to skilfully take down guards. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

"Why can't I ever do hugging right!?"

It actually works brilliantly and allows for some interesting ways to silently take down an entire room. In one section of the demo we were unsure how to clear such an area of three guards from our elevated vantage point. Using mark and execute, each unfortunate enemy was tagged for death before we leapt over the railing into the middle of them and watched as Fisher dropped the room in three taps. The system is brilliant, allowing for Jack Bauer like super reflexes, which would be impossible inputting manually with the thumb sticks.

Last known position is another useful tool in Sam’s inventory of stalking and ambush techniques. Should you get spotted it’s no longer a case of insta-fail, game over, bullet sodomy that the series is semi-famous for. Instead a rather ghostly projection of yourself is plonked down where the enemy last saw you, and they will suppress the area with gunfire and attempt to move in on you there. This gives you the opportunity to slip out and counter ambush their ambush attempt, allowing for some nice distraction and deception gameplay that really helps open up your options in a pinch.

The cover system is nice and reactive as Sam will hurl himself in to cover when the left trigger is held down, giving you even more freedom as you don’t need to fumble any other buttons to detach yourself from a surface. A Gears of War style tap of the A button lets Sam move fast between bits of cover too, making it easier to close in on and escape from guards without being detected.

We thought Sam went too far when he made this guy sniff the puddle of wee

Aside from the expected sleuthing and killing that the main game will consist of; at the very start of the demo we also get a taste of the interrogation scenes. You’ve probably already watched a video of the brutal interrogation in the gents where some poor sod gets his head punched through a urinal, but here you get to play it out, moving between different objects to break the guy against. Really it’s just an interactive cut scene, but it’s satisfying in the same way the God of War quick time events are; just a bit more realistic.

The total play time may only come to 15 minutes, but can you really expect more from a demo? It perfectly showcases all of Mr Fisher’s new tricks and makes it very easy for you to look totally awesome pulling them off. There’s just slightly under a month until we get it here in the UK on April 16, but we can guarantee you will want to run through the demo at least twice, just to build your anticipation to trouser soiling levels.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

9 comments

  1. alex c /

    splintercell is just another boring grey shooter game. ok it has stealth, but so do lots of games, check alpha protocol for somehting much, much beter, and renasaunce of fate is climbing the charts .!!! gooo SEGA, LOVE THEM.

    and….

    worldwide charts ps3 has 15 games in the top 40. xbox only has 11 games in the top 40. thats this week alone,

    aaannd

    console sales, ps3 brought home a score of 60,000 higher than 360, this week alone.

    aa’a’and 5 PSP games in the top 40. yep’ the tides are turning,

    aaaand..

    MOTORSTORM 3
    Twisted Metal 4
    Ace combat 7
    The mark of kri
    Starhawk
    SSX
    Uncha 3
    Resistance 3
    Killzone 3
    God of war 3
    Gran turismo 5
    Grand theft auto 5
    syphon filter 5
    The last guardian
    Agent
    infamous 2

    all exclusive even ssx an ea game?!!! real news , better believe im not joking either

    aaan’d thats not it, thre’s more on the way at e3 kids. peace.

    also, can i add, HEAVYRAIN AND MODNATIONRACERS are the truth…!!!!!!!!!!!!!! played the beta and now i need it more than a monkey needs a banana.!!!! all the games mentioned are forthcoming, exclusives.

  2. madMAD /

    @alex c

    Hey Kid are you brain dead?!?

    Go out and start looking for some girls!!!

    And keep an xbox for your free time, your are still in time!
    You do not have to justify yourself if you have made the bad choice buying a ps3!

    Ok?

  3. Lovecipher7 /

    This game is amazing you just have to play it for yourself and see. One of the best games to date on xbox

  4. blu-ray for 360 /

    Blu-ray or much cheaper(and I mean much cheaper) HD drives to store games on.
    M$ is a greedy corporate cunt of a company whose employees spend the money you give them on drugs, guns, whores, and killing little kids.

  5. The Truth /

    I’m a PS3 player, and have no interest in the 360, but Alex c you’re such a troll. It’s sad that I have to be associated with a loser like you.

  6. FRANKO /

    why the f**k every game review or anything about games has to become fanboy war??? i’m tired of morons shitting on console they don’t have.I have both systems and i’m playing them both regularly and they are great! BOTH of them!there is no one reason why everybody shouldn’t get ps3 and 360 if it’s possible.

  7. Alymon /

    Demo was fun, but I feel like it moves too far from what Splinter Cell was before. The stealth mechanics seem pretty absent. I know Fisher is supposed to be pissed off and no longer part of Third Echelon, but the game felt more like a 3rd person action/shooter than a stealth title.

    I’m kind of hoping that the demo gameplay is not really representative of the rest of the game. Sort of like how the Double Agent demo focused on a later level in the middle of a warzone and was less about stealth, but then the full game was more classic Splinter Cell action. Maybe Ubisoft chose this particular part of the game to try to appeal to an audience outside it’s core fan base.

    Either way, I love the series and the demo was still fun, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I still plan to buy the game next month.

  8. Aidan /

    love this demo, played it loads. There is still quite a bit of stealth, but hardly any compared with previous SC titles. Its a bit like Arkham Asylum, but more brutal, and less about using your fists.
    btw, Alex C, you need to grow up. I am an Xbox owner, I would like a ps3, but I cant afford 1 right now, theres no need to be so fanboyish. You’re probably just bitter because this game isn’t gonna be on ps3… you have no idea how childish you sounded just then.

  9. steven g /

    I just played it. Its great, hopefully itll be sustained. I noticed that some of the areas, especially outside are needlessly blocked by invisible walls, i’m thinking of the street as you approach the building.

    Its very much like the recent Batman game and I loved that. The mark tool is similar to the batarang functionality – and the game looks similar too.

    I have high hopes for this. Possibly the first sam fisher game I buy….

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