Interview: Splinter Cell: Conviction
Sam's lost his stealth suit, but he still walks like a cat. Ubisoft's Steven Masters chats convincingly about Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Ubisoft first trailered Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction in May 2007, introducing us to an older, scruffier version of super-assassin Sam Fisher, hiding out in beard and hood-top from his former bosses at covert ops outfit Third Echelon. Where previous Sams had relied on sinuous acrobatics and the contents of a tech fetishist's toolshed to commit murder at the behest of the federal government, this Sam was a cross-breed of Jason Bourne and Oscar the Grouch, preferring to throw a chair at somebody, mess up their hair and melt into the civilian mob rather than slink along a ceiling pipe. As fun as all this looked in motion, series fans were more than a little knocked off guard.
That was then, and this is now. Ubisoft Montreal has built the game up again from scratch, possibly because it was felt to be too similar to crowd-manipulating stablemate Assassin's Creed, and the result is something a lot more settled but no less appealing. Now hunting for answers after his daughter's mysterious death, Sam's reverted to clean-shaven type. He's still a rogue with barely a gizmo to his name, but his methodology is a lot closer to Splinter Cells of yore. Said methodology has seen a lot of streamlining, though, and the absence of political contacts with public profiles to uphold means Sam needn't bother with discretion if he's feeling grumpy.
Kikizo recently spoke to Steven Masters, Lead Designer on the Microsoft exclusive. Scroll down for details of panthers, "offensive packages", really cool sound effects, unpleasant interrogations and why the game isn't coming to PS3.
Kikizo: How have you found being lead designer this time round?
Steven Masters: Oh, it's quite an interesting challenge this one. I think we have a really great game here, a lot of great innovative elements. We're telling an amazing story, and bringing a lot of great new gameplay to the scene. So yeah, I think we've got a really great product on show here.
Kikizo: Conviction went pretty dark for a year or two after the first screens and trailers. Can you tell us what's been happening development-wise while you've been out of the public eye?
Masters: Absolutely. What we showed at UbiDays... We had a lot of great technology, some really great ideas, some really different and innovative stuff. It was very brave, the direction that was chosen back then. But the company felt that really it wasn't representative of what Splinter Cell should be, and we wanted to stay true to the roots of the franchise.
We wanted to have the light and shadow, the stealth gameplay, and while we felt that it was a very interesting and innovative product in its own right, it didn't really deliver on what Splinter Cell was about. So we had a lot of soul-searching, we came back to the drawing board and we thought "OK, we have to change a little bit and come back and deliver something better, that's more true to what Splinter Cell is."
Kikizo: But elements of that earlier project remain intact, right?
Masters: Oh absolutely, like I say we have some great technology, great tools. We have an incredibly dynamic environment here. In the civilian marketplace at the beginning [of the demo], all those objects are physics objects. If you grab someone and you're throwing him around, or having a gunfight, all of that's moving and it's breaking - it's an incredibly dynamic environment. And that's something that the team worked really hard on and have really delivered something amazing there.
Kikizo: So where does Sam stand on the moral spectrum this time round?
Masters: Well now he's left Third Echelon, and he's chasing down his daughter's killer, so it's a personal mission and he's out for vengeance, basically. So he's faster, more brutal and more aggressive than ever. He's really not going to be held back by anything - this is a very personal story. Basically, somebody's pissed off the most powerful secret agent in the world, and he's not going to be held back by anything!