Ubisoft had originally planned to bring Sam Fisher out of the shadows in 2007, they even nailed down the cover of EGM at the time with a 4 page spread on the game. His look was completely different and the game seemed to resemble Assassin's Creed a bit too much, enough to cause Ubisoft to delay its release and due a complete reboot of the franchise. After playing the first couple of missions the game still feels very Assassin's Creed like however, due to it's brilliantly implemented Rainbow Six Vegas sytle control scheme and game mechanics I am now very much interested in the series going forward.
If you're a veteran to the Splinter Cell series odds are you'll not feel welcomed here. This is not Chaos Theory, Pandora Tomorrow, heck it's not even Double Agent and I kinda liked Double Agent. Conviction takes the series in a new direction. Kojima Productions listened to Metal Gear Solid fans and adopted the popular shooter feel ironically making stealth much more fun to play. You're no longer trying to hide bodies and waiting and waiting and waiting in the shadows. It's slightly more action oriented though not in a guns blazing sort of way and also without entirely sacrificing stealth. The pacing is balanced better thanks to the introduction of the mark and execute mechanic which finally lets you play Sam Fisher like the badass he is and not so much a clunky mess being controlled by an even clumsier gamer who's trying to come to terms with a control layout you'd think was set up to for a goat. Notice I said not so much of a clunky mess. Controls can always be refined and no one way is ever 100% perfect. Unless you're Hideo Kojima since wrong is simply not in his vocabulary. While some might say the mark and execute command is too much of a gimme you can only perform it once you've successfully carried out a close quarter stealth kill, however if you're skilled enough with head shots Fisher's silenced pistol packs a mean punch that lead to some very satisfying one shot kills. It definitely allows you to experiment by CQC'ing a guy then marking two targets and executing with Y, if timed and planned out accordingly you can effectively clear out a room in seconds. I hear playing brolo trains you for some of the more difficult missions that lie ahead in the bromance mode, or co-op.
Touching back on the Rainbow Six comparison, the one thing that's always bothered me was how the AI felt cheap. If you were discovered the enemies immediately knew where you were regardless of any attempts at distraction and they'd conveniently spawn right around the corner giving you a face full of controller chugging madness. The AI here is still as preposterous as ever shouting heavy handed lines about Fisher's skills then disregarding the dead body and the search after a few seconds. There is a benefit to this however in that the game is more forgiving of any fuck ups caused by unintended button presses. It's almost as if the game knows it's a game and punishes itself and not the player. Mission objectives are projected on walls and such which gives the game a nice cinematic touch that adds to an already slick presentation. It's quite obvious what Ubisoft was aiming for though I can't say much for the story itself. So far it's all very lackluster. Sam hardly shows any emotion during interrogation scenes like one in particular where I can't help but think "What do you tell a chick with two black eyes?" Ever heard it? Oh it's a good one. The gameplay has it's hooks in me though and that's all that matters at the moment.
All in all I'm getting a really good vibe from the latest entry in the Splinter Cell series. I'm roughly 2-3 hours in but I'm eager to see how it all pans out.
Oh yeah and picking up Conviction get's you an invite to the Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Beta that'll start up sometime this summer. :)