Splinter Cell Conviction Demo Impressions
I was really taken by surprise when I played the demo. I was doing things I didn't think I would ever be doing in a Splinter Cell game, and I was having a lot of fun doing it. The gameplay was very satisfying, and gave me the kind of rewarding experience I have not had in a long time.
At the forefront of the gameplay changes is the new mark and execute system. This system is essentially a scripted action sequence you can make Sam do to other enemies. You mark an enemy, hold the Y button, and Sam will raise his gun and make a cinematic kill for you. You must perform a hand to hand kill to get this ability, and to be able to perform your mark and execute you must have all enemies you marked in visible sight and in range. Now I know what you are thinking, the system sounds too automated, and would make the game easy. Well I can definitely say it doesn’t, and in fact actually enriches the gameplay. Mark and execute brings a new layer of strategy to the Conviction that has been unseen in previous Splinter Cells. Instead waiting for an enemy patrol to come by while waiting in the shadows, you will now be carefully analyzing the environment. You will be looking for who you want to mark and execute, where your next hand-to-hand kill is, when the perfect moment is to pounce, and what you escape route is after you have unleashed you attack. The developers of Conviction called this gameplay loop P.E.V., or prepare, execute, and vanish, and PEV sums up the gameplay of Splinter Cell Conviction to a tee. You are going to be hiding in the shadows, planning your attack, and when you think the moment is right, you show yourself and unload a barrage of bullets. The final major addition to gameplay enters into the vanish aspect of this loop. Once you have been detected, and you break line of sight with the enemy, a ghostly figure of Sam appears at his last known location to the enemy. This tells you that the enemy doesn’t know where you are, and it tells you where the enemy will be concentrating their efforts of finding you. This truly lets you play with your enemies the way a cat would play with a mouse, due to the fact that since you know where they are looking, you can flank or ambush them as you see fit. If you are killed it is no longer because you made too much noise, but rather it is because your strategy could have been better. I could write for days about how well this new gameplay for Splinter Cell works, and still wouldn’t do it justice. It is a ton of fun and adds a new layer of depth unseen in other Splinter Cell games.
The environments of the game are just as excellent as this new gameplay, giving players countless options on how they want to move about the environment and take down the enemy. Each scenario in the demo had at least two points of entry, and another dozen ways to move around the environment. This makes the gameplay feel like you are playing in a mini sandbox. You can be creative in the way you want to take down your enemies, and every time you replay that same scenario, it is going to feel different.
The final bit of gameplay I wanted to mention is that there is no HUD, and the developers work really hard to immerse you in the game. Like Double Agent, there is no need for Night Vision Goggles, but instead of having a light on your back, Conviction bleeds the color out of the screen when you are hidden in the shadows. This is a quick way to know you are hidden, and works much better than the failed system of Double Agent. I’m not 100% sold on this new system yet, but it worked well in the demo. The developers also try to eliminate any need of looking through an objective menu by actually projecting the objectives onto the environment. If you need to infiltrate a building, the words “Infiltrate” will be visible on the building to let you know what your objective is. This immersive tool is not only used for objectives, and some of the cut scenes actually are projected onto the environment while you play, or interrogate somebody. This system is both innovative and genius, and greatly adds to the immersion of the experience as a whole.