Tag Archives: Ubisoft

Splinter Cell: Conviction

It’s rare to find a game that’s gone through as many delays, redesigns and overhauls as Splinter Cell: Conviction has and still turns out to be any good – it’s not called ‘development hell’ for nothing – so imagine my surprise to find out just how good this game is. My main complaint is that it’s not Chaos Theory, which remains one of my favourite games ever – I lost an evening to it just the other day – and while I can forgive that because very few games are that good, the fact that it doesn’t try to be is my problem.

I guess it’s the same thing that has happened to Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six, both once unflinchingly realistic and now barely recognisable near-future Hollywood blockbusters of games. I’m still waiting for a ‘proper’ Splinter Cell in the vein of the Xbox games, because both Double Agent and Conviction have tried to do something new. Sam Fisher has slowly changed from a Solid Snake knock-off to his current form as an amalgam of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. Not the most original character, I’m slowly realising as I type this, but regardless, the series has always been a favourite of mine and now it’s barely recognisable.

But taken on its own merits, I had a brilliant time with Conviction. It was a short time, admittedly – seven hours or so by my estimation, without starting on the co-op campaign – but I stand by my conviction (sorry) that I’d prefer a great 6-7 hours to the same thing stretched out to fill 12 or more. I was satisfied by the end of it.

So it’s not bad; it’s just different. There’s no non-lethal option here beyond avoiding encounters entirely, so it’s far more of an action game, and indeed some sequences, whether a foot chase through Washington DC in broad daylight or a straight shooting sequence in Iraq, simply would not work within the framework of the original trilogy. As long as you can forgive the fact that this is not your usual Splinter Cell, but rather a new take on the same story that’s a good game in its own right, you’ll find an interesting experience. Really there’s nothing, least of all the official Bourne or 24 games, that makes you feel like such a hard bastard.

Regardless of your opinion of Splinter Cell old or new, I guarantee that you will crack a smile when you get the drop on a room of five enemies, mark four of them, and then quickly follow a headshot on the fifth with a tap of the ‘execute’ button to take down the others before they can react. It’s incredibly satisfying when it works like that, and even without the impetus to push for perfection in your playthrough that always pushed me through the previous games and the best in the genre, it’s good to finally have Fisher back.

Now let’s just have a proper new one, okay, Ubisoft?

The Assassin’s Creed Cop-out

Assassin's Creed 2: Altair in Space!

First, a warning: if you haven’t been paying attention, this post could spoil certain aspects of Assassin’s Creed for you. In any case, rest assured that the ‘twist’ discussed here occurs minutes into the game, so put the pitchfork down.

And so, here we go. As you probably know if you’ve been following the development at all, the 12th Century setting of Assassin’s Creed takes place within a futuristic setting, exploring the idea of genetic memory. Expect a plethora of sequels set in various time periods (World War 2, here we come!) throughout the next couple of console generations.

As one of the early standard-bearers for this generation, Assassin’s Creed had a lot of hype behind it. And really ever since that showing at X06, when we saw an early version of the game looking and playing like most finished games at the time, it’s looked like one of those truly ‘next-gen’ games from the start. But what I liked it for more than anything was that it was doing something different in its setting. When it seems like every game is either a space marine shooter with a main character named like a Steven Seagal character or a fantasy epic, a game based on a relatively unexplored period of history was a breath of fresh air.

More like a hot blast of arid, desert air…

Maybe it’s understandable given development costs nowadays, and that coupled with a notoriously conservative industry (creatively speaking) means that working outside the comfort zone is even more of a risk, but it was the Third Crusade setting that first attracted me to the game simply because it was something that I hadn’t experienced in a game. And the overarching sci-fi elements wouldn’t bother me if they were limited to some kind of level hub or as justification for a sequel, as if they needed one.

But no. Areas between missions are truncated as the memory gets ‘skipped’; the HUD is all cool blue futurism; digital interference appears during holes in the memories. And that’s just what I saw in the first few missions. It’s like they got cold feet and considering how secretive they were about this plot element – a few public slips aside – I find it inexplicable. Sci-fi fans aren’t going to know about it and those interested by the history behind it, like me, will find it obtrusive and unnecessary .

I hope now that embargoes are up and the secret is out we might get some serious interviews on why this decision was made. I just can’t fathom it. Why would you make a game about genetic memory and keep that fact secret? Surely it’s an interesting enough concept to feature prominently. Why would you spend years showing a Prince of Persia-meets-Hitman game when most people are going to walk in and get something completely different? There’s no indication on the box that it’s anything other than an historical adventure, and thanks to the aforementioned embargoes it’s not mentioned in any of the reviews. Someone who hasn’t been following the development certainly won’t know about it.

As I said, it’s not going to impress the history buffs (because they won’t want it), and it’s not going to impress the armchair scientists (because they won’t know about it). Sci-fi games are the ones pushing the big numbers so far this gen and Ubisoft seem to be trying to tap that demographic by the back door. Ultimately, will they please no-one by trying to please everyone? We’ll have to wait for next month’s NPDs, I suppose.