X10: Splinter Cell: Conviction hands-on

There you are, old Sam Fisher, minding your own business at some unknown cafe when the waiter brings you a cell phone and Bluetooth earpiece, compliments of the caller. It's Grim, it's Third Echelon, and it's the end of his vacation. Some thugs have managed to upset his vacation -- now we know why he's always carrying 12 rounds and a pistol.
As far as we can tell, this Splinter Cell: Conviction demo is what's best described as the tutorial level. You're given instructions on how to take cover -- for the Xbox 360, that entails holding left trigger to activate, and then pressing A to move to whatever barrier you're aiming at next -- and what the various lighting effects mean. When Sam is hidden, the world is painted in black-and-white. Threats and key objects remain covered. It's a great effect and never grew tiresome throughout the demo. That said, at this point in the narrative we're given a flashback to Sam putting his daughter to bed, which is a good time to notice how melodramatic and unnatural the dialogue feels.

We've talked about interrogations before, and again there seem to be a problem in the lack of control given to you. In the two featured moments, you simply press B at certain points when told to do so. The scene completely stops until you do, and it always ends the same -- you punching your suspect until he's unconscious. (We can't help but recall Andrew Ryan's rather choice words, "a man chooses, a slave obeys.") It's a neat way to make a cutscene feel more engaging, but in being more malleable they could have been more meaningul.
Another previously discussed feature we should bring it up again is the "mark and execute" command: it's really cool, and vital to a winning strategy. At one point, we hung from just outside a window, grabbed an enemy and threw him to his death. After that, we snuck through a lobby, used a car mirror to gaze under a door, mark our targets, and then burst through with the execute command. Wholly satisfying and, thanks to the slick implementation, not at all frustrating.

Aside from the questionable dialogue, this demo once again proved that the sneaking, firefights, and overall pacing of Splinter Cell: Conviction is incredibly rewarding if you pay attention and play well. And isn't smooth execution exactly what Sam Fisher is all about?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.