Sunday, April 18, 2010

Let us get Sam Fisher Straight

Now, I'm a video game player. I don't consider myself a hardcore gamer that plays Warcraft for endless hours. In fact, I don't consider that type of player a game player. It's more like a social networking thing. Similar to Facebook or even Second Life. The Sims may fall in there, but I consider that a game. Like some folks out there I like to buy into some hype. I have favorite games and even series of games. One of those may be Tom Clancy branded games.

I've played many a Ghost Recon (all of them I think), plenty of Rainbow Six (Rouge Spear, Vegas 1 and 2) and a bunch of Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. I'd challenge most anyone to say they have actually played that many. Sure they have heard of them... but I mean PLAYED them.

I'm somewhere near the tail end of Splinter Cell Conviction. At least I think it must be. From what I have read the game only takes 7 hours to complete... or is it 6, or even 5. There seems to be some confusion on that in the shaky Video Game Media. I say that because I'm not sure the game has actually been played by many of the reviewers of the game.

I try to refrain from reading much about the game before it comes out. After I get it though, I enjoy reading a few review on it. I like to find out if I'm having the same experience as others. Having said that, I'm kinda frustrated. There are not many reviews out there where I feel like the reviewer has played the game. They touch on the main points like; "It's a different game, Fisher is out of Third Echelon". Yes, he is, but for goodness sake, to harp on how this game ventures off the tried and true Splinter Cell formula is completely false. It seems like every review starts there and ends there with lots of fluff (from a couple hours of gameplay) in between. Sometimes it seems the reviewer may even be only playing the demo.

I'm here to say this, make no mistake, this is a Splinter Cell game. It even expands upon the trade mark goggles.

All that said, let me talk about the game for a second. The look and feel of the game is very Chaos Theory. Albeit, maybe not as well done in set pieces. Chaos was cutting edge on the Xbox in terms of graphics and stealth gameplay. Conviction is not cutting edge on the 360. They remove a lot of the gadgets at the start and the graphics are run of the mill Rainbow Six Vegas stuff. But it is fun. It looks like a SC game, it feels like one, it plays like one. Even one, dare I say it, of OLD. Trip a camera... game over. If that isn't old school SC gaming I don't know what is.

Another thing that burns me is the references to the TV show 24 in reviews, yeah, I've seen a few episodes. But for the sake of Pete, Sam Was around before that dumb show. If anything, 24 is like SC. I have yet to find a reviewer that looks at it that way. We'll chalk that up to playing games longer then most.

Okay, I got back on the reviews of games... Back to Conviction. It has a new mark type system that I don't find myself using that much, but like when it is there. Doesn't ruin anything. The screen turns to black and white when in the shadows and places a type of ghost image when you are spotted. Both good improvements. The BW shots are bold and a kind of thing I'm impressed with. It sort of says that it isn't interested in showing off a kind of awesome graphical show that maybe some other games try to hard to do. It's a bold thing to do to turn everyones expensive 50" HD screen to BW. I like it because it is about gameplay. I could have gone for better visuals, but they seemingly went with what was working in other Ubisoft Tom Clancy games. Not spectacular, but still serviceable.

The game has a very non-SC scene early in the game set in Iraq. It is a type of Ghost Recon / Modern Warfare moment that it actually treats very well. I found myself liking the mechanics of it better then MW2. The cover system is solid.

Another thing worth mentioning here is the very long development time with this game. Something like four years. I remember seeing early shots of Sam with shaggy hair and animation demos with him using objects around him as tools. None of that is there. That must be a game that the suits at Ubi killed. A sort of Assassins Creed version that didn't come to fruition. I have not doubt that the power struggle between that game and the one that came out was the reason for the delay. I even have a friend request from a Ubisoft employee on Facebook to prove it. About a year or so back one of the employees read a review I made on this very, non-read, blog. I think she was hopeful that a fan may stick with the franchise. I don't know. Nice lady from England I think. Needless to say, all the shaggy haired Sam pics you see of the game are, well, from a game that wasn't released.

So if there is a story here, it's this. Conviction is a game that was going to be something completely different but turned out to be very much the right kind of Splinter Cell game. Game Over alarm fails, cool new sonar goggles and all.

Only complaint... not enough funny Ironside back and forth quips with his handler. Enjoy this Clancy game for what it is, because maybe the next go round we might just get a reloaded/revamped/prequel/re-imagining of the story.

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