We were recently invited to a Splinter Cell: Conviction game event by Microsoft in Hollywood. While the event seemed to be a who’s who of Hollywood, check out our video of the event, the game was on display and ready to play in multiple locations throughout the club. Both campaign and co-op multiplayer were up and running but I was only able to try out the co-op during our stay.
I went into this event not having played any of the Splinter Cells beforehand but having heard of their much appraised reputation for being awesome stealth games. The co-op felt much like Rainbow Six: Vegas however with some minor adjustments to the controls. You and your partner are two different agents, one named Archer and the other escapes me, both tasked with infiltrating various locations to gather information, sabotage objects, or round up important people of interest. The amount of enemies present along with a low bullet tolerance make it extremely important that you work together to take out the enemies you encounter, and trust me, there are enough of them to share. You still have the ability to shoot out lights and confuse the enemy which comes in handy for those large crowds you tend to stumble upon.
While I understand that you are a specially trained stealth operative I doubt that means your shots and use of weapons is decreased by any means. Firing rapidly or multiple times will increase the spread of your fire ultimately demanding that you pick and choose your shots. However that is made difficult when the first shot you take is wide or misses the stationary target by a good two feet. This kind of problem has the potential to make the game’s more accuracy demanding tasks a chore. There is a way to combat this annoyance and that is to draw the enemy to you. You have a sonar device that enables you to locate all enemies in the nearby vicinity. You cannot keep the device on for too long however or you will have a nice view of snow thus demanding that you pay attention. When on the defensive you can keep track of where the enemies are much easier than just by telling where you get shot from. For the most part the AI is relatively smart about cover and knowing what kind firepower they have in their hands. Shotgun toting goons will try to get up close to you and blow you away while the auto wielding baddies will bounce from cover to cover trying to hit you with blind fire.
Another concession that the developers have given is having infinite ammo for your silenced pistol. This makes those wide shots a little easier to bear knowing that your clip doesn’t have a limit on it. If you decide you want something with a little more power and you pick up an enemy’s weapon you will find that it is not infinite ammo enabled. This is a nice way of keeping the player focused on the purpose and souls of the game, sneaking and being stealthy. As you go along you will have the ability to change your loadout with unlocked weapons and gadgets, making the way you approach a situation a little different each time. And how you approach a mob of unsuspecting goons is what will determine if you get killed or bag a few clean headshots to stop the party. If you attempt to go in guns blazing you will be met with missed shots and a new aero dynamic body. Having a partner that dies every few seconds is no way to enjoy a game. If your partner does go down you have sixty seconds to get to his aid before he bleeds out and dies. An interesting feature is the ability to play dead after being hit sufficiently to start the bleed out timer. You have the option to wait until the enemy turns his back then you can commence with the springing back to life to lug him full of holes. However you can’t seem to move yourself even though you have sufficient ability to aim in every direction. Also, once you rise from the “dead” you can’t go back to feigning death even though there are no enemies in sight. It would have been nice to have an option like this so you could hold down the fort or cover your buddy until he gets to you.
Like all sneaky shooters you have a cover system and the goodness of hiding up against things. This time the developers, Ubisoft, have decided to designate the left trigger as the cover/uncover button. Now you are not magnetically suction cupped to the piece of cover you happen to find in the middle of a fire fight. This frees up the ability to do quick maneuvers like rolling to the next piece of cover or simply moving around the same cover. Having a much more efficient system such as this made the game that much more enjoyable as I didn’t find myself getting gunned down due to my inability to leave my hiding spot.
The visual portion, pssh what am I saying, the game itself is good looking but it seems like it’s a bit rough around the edges, literally. Characters seemed to have a sharp edge to their clothing and bodies and didn’t seem to be as detailed as the environments. The locales are vibrant and detailed but seem to be lacking, “dark” feel to them. The places are pretty much well lit with little shadow to hide in and provide cover, the portion I played at least. Bullet holes are nicely distinguished on punished objects in the environment and the blood effects are rather nice.
From what I played at the Splinter Cell event I would have to say that Ubisoft has made a solid game and improved upon their much loved franchise. Those of you that are fans of the series will enjoy it for its still stealthy atmosphere and much improved upon systems. New comers will be right at home with a simple control system and not too harsh AI component. With the ability to play either by system link, split screen, or purely online, playing co-op is a fun experience. If you have a 360 this game is worth putting on your list and counting down for. The game is available Tuesday April 13th.