I remember when Sam Fisher was a good guy, the kind of hero you could take home for tea with your mum – provided that she wasn’t some form of international terrorist. Nowadays he’s one of those morally-ambiguous Jack Bauer types; you’d still call him a hero, but largely because he’d snap your arm off and force the wet end through your face if you called him anything else. He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know.
We learned this lesson during our first encounter with Splinter Cell: Conviction, back at E3 in June. Since then we’ve gone hands-on with the game, but it’s only now, with the advent of the Tokyo Games Show, that Sam has emerged from the shadows once more. While Ubisoft’s premiere showed Mr Fisher hotly pursuing the man who killed his daughter, this second demo finds him dealing with a larger, far-reaching conspiracy. The exact details of this threat have yet to be clarified, but it has something to do with a possible EMP (electro magnetic pulse) attack on Washington. At any rate, it’s a decent excuse for Sam to sneak into a military base, murdering dozens of people as he goes.
The demo kicks off in fairly classic stealth fashion, with Fisher creeping along a road outside a fenced-off compound at night. As he nears the entrance to the base, he ducks behind a crate – while crouched, Sam will automatically stick up against any suitable object. This handy cover affords an opportunity for a bit of eavesdropping on the nearby guards, but sooner or later the player has to go on the offensive. How you do this is up to you: you could use one of your gadgets, grab a guard to use as a human shield, or just stand up and go Rambo. Naturally, the latter is a risky strategy, and my clumsy efforts had all the military prowess of a blind man with kippers for hands.
Happily, Ubisoft’s Alexandre Parizeau was on hand to show me how it should be done. With casual skill he snatched one of the guards and used him to soak up a few incoming rounds before neatly returning fire with lethal precision. After dumping his meat-shield, he then skulked off into the shadows, triggering the game’s new Last Known Position mechanic. Since the last remaining bad guy was now unaware of Sam’s location, he focused all his attention on the last place he’d seen him – a spot now represented by a ghostly white outline. As the panicking guard blasted away at nothing, Parizeau carefully flanked him and then snatched him from behind. Time to ask a few questions.
As anyone who saw the video will attest, the bathroom interrogation scene was one of the best bits of Conviction’s first appearance at E3: a gleefully violent interlude that saw Sam beating seven shades out of some poor bloke in a public toilet. This second “discussion” was carried out in exactly the same way: the player drags their victim over to an object of interest and then hits a button to make Sam do his thing. The animation here is particularly brutal – you’ll see Fisher knee his new friend in the balls, kick his legs out from under him, and smash his face against a wall or nearby vehicle. Eventually the guard will tell you about a scientist inside the base – someone who’s going to be snuffed out as soon as the bad guys have finished whatever it is they’re doing. In a last effort to get even, the soldier then attacks Fisher with a knife. Bad move. Same takes the knife and stabs the thug through his hand, nailing him to a tree stump.