Again, though, this is still Splinter Cell. You may get away with the odd frontal assault, but you're better off going with stealth wherever possible. Pipes have always provided Sam with a way to get a height advantage over his foes, and from what I've played there'll be plenty to climb up in Conviction. By combining Take Downs, well-aimed shots to the head and death from above (leaping onto a enemy below you), you can clear out a group of enemies in a fraction of a second. You'll screw up now and again, but being spotted isn't the end of the world.
Another new mechanic introduced in Conviction is what Ubisoft calls Last Known Position. If an enemy spots you, but then loses sight of you again, they'll head to the last position you were visible. The game shows this by displaying a Sam Fisher marker, and you can use this to your advantage. As long as you stay hidden, it's possible to lure enemies to that location, allowing you to circle around and take them out from behind. Of course, with large groups of enemies it's not always a great idea, but at times you can use the environment to help you out. Certain objects in the game world can be used as traps, with the opening stages featuring hanging statues and aircraft engines as tools of death.
What's abundantly clear is that Ubisoft has invested a lot of money into Conviction. There's a level of production quality (even in this non-complete build) that is rarely seen. I'm not totally convinced by Sam's new appearance (his bearded look in the original Conviction reveal suited his character more), but his model is unquestionably technically excellent. The game's levels are incredibly detailed, packed with incidental objects and people, the lighting is superb, and the animations are excellent, but it's the in-game mission objective and information system that gives Conviction a look like no other game I've played. Mission objective are projected onto buildings in the environment, while story background is often seen via videos overlaid on walls, mirrors, and the like. There's a slight concern that much of the game's visual splendour will be lost due to the frequent loss of colour, but even then it has a superb visual style.
Conviction looks set to be one of the Xbox 360's big console exclusives on its release next month. On top of the meaty campaign, the game will offer a suite of competitive and co-op multiplayer game modes, which could make Conviction the complete package. With Splinter Cell being the only quality stealth series on the market that's grounded in reality (Metal Gear is science fiction), a move to a more action-oriented experience set off alarm bells in my head. For some hardcore fans the new combat options may not still well, but from what I've played they suit the series and Sam's character exceedingly well.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is due for release on Xbox 360 and PC on April 16.