After teasing us with the carefully scripted Splinter Cell Conviction E3 demo -- for the umpteenth time -- lead designer Steve Masters commented on the game's current status as a "March quarter" release today at Ubisoft's "Holiday Preview" event (we'll be celebrating well into 2010, you know). Masters echoed CEO Yves Guillemot in saying, "really [the delay] was just a decision to allow us to polish up and really deliver the experience that the fans are looking for."
"Right now we're about to hit alpha -- literally this week," Masters confirmed. "So that means the levels are largely complete, and now it's just time to polish them up and get them looking really great, and playing really well." The current (and what better be final) iteration of the fifth Splinter Cell game has been in development for roughly eighteen months, according to Masters.
On the topic of platform exclusivity, the designer continued to tiptoe along Ubisoft's party line when it came to discussing the apparent arrangement with Microsoft. "I can't really go into the details there. All I can say is that we're really exploiting the full power of the Microsoft console here, and Microsoft has been tremendous in giving us a lot of support and really helping us to utilize the full power of the 360," Masters offered. "I don't think that we're ever gonna go to the PS3. But I can't confirm or deny it."
As for Project Natal and the future of the Splinter Cell franchise? "I would love to use Natal. I think there are a lot of very cool possibilities with that -- everything from doing outrageously interesting educational stuff to really-involving video games." Did he say, educational? Ah, so that's what exploring Milo is all about ... and here we thought it was just outrageous. "I've only had a very quick demo with [Natal]. I haven't had any serious, in-depth hands-on, but I know Ubisoft has been working with it."
Finally, Masters fielded our most pressing question ... Who would win in a fight: Sam Fisher or Jack Bauer? Masters emphatically declared Fisher the clear favorite given his superior sneaking abilities. But if the match-up was limited to a 24-hour time frame? "Bauer does have tremendous bowel control," Masters conceded. "I think that might be the tipping point in this battle."