Conviction was one of the titles at Ubisoft that I actually didn't hold out much hope for, fearing that the series was becoming tired and flawed as it plunged so quickly into its fifth instalment.
The version of Conviction that we got to see definitely didn't do anything to really wow us. Granted, it was a pre-alpha version that the developer told us was about three weeks behind its latest work on the game, but to be honest it still didn't show us anything ground breaking.
The preview we were treated to started with Sam Fisher at a newspaper office, handing some information over to a friend. It was immediately obvious that the team, who are the same group that previously crafted the first and (some would say) most excellent in the Splinter Cell series, were trying to take Sam in a new direction.
Gone is the skinhead look that Sam was last seen sporting in Double Agent and replacing it is what we affectionately call the new 'Spy-Hobo' look. With long black hair and a thick beard, Sam now creeps around sans night vision goggles and wearing a leather jacket with hood.
"We've seen Sam as a spy," The demonstrator told us as he pointed out some of the more subtle changes, "and as a double agent. Now, we see Sam Fisher as a fugitive from Third Echelon, his previous employers."
As a fugitive, Sam must try and prove his innocence in what we were assured promises to be a gripping story of betrayal and redemption. However, because Sam is now a fugitive, he cannot rely on the high-tech gadgets and shadow-filled environments that he is used to.
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"For Sam, the best weapon is now the environment", we were told as we watched Sam duck under desks and pick up chairs and computers to pelt pursuers with as he fled the newspaper office. The developers have spent around two and a half years working on the new tech and, even at this early pre-alpha stage, the attention that has gone into the animations is obvious.
There were some very obvious glitches we got to see, mostly involving Sam fighting hand to hand and effortlessly flinging full grown men over cupboards. However, the animations of Sam picking up dozens of objects in his environment were nearly flawless, and we saw some rather inventive uses of the interactive environment. Using desks to barricade doorways was one thing, but being able to steal a mobile phone from a civilian as a distraction was something altogether more impressive.
That said, when you get down to it the ability to pick up some objects and throw them about isn't exactly groundbreaking and even the use of new crowd technologies in the game felt borrowed from the Assassin's Creed team, who conveniently work in the same building as the Conviction developers.
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There were a lot of promises bandied around regarding Sam Fisher's upcoming espionage extravaganza, but promises aren't enough to pique our interests just yet. As the demo went on more and more flaws became apparent and our incessant quizzing revealed a number of issues with the intended game design.
The simplified controls for example sounded like a great thing at first, with a button for each 'mood' so that X may be a stealth action, Y an aggressive action and A would be a casual action, such as picking up a box. Thinking about it a little more made us realise that the game may be a bit too simplistic however and that this, along with the inability to attack civilians or kill unarmed police because of Sam's morals (a globe trotting spy/assassin with morals? - Ed) may do more to restrict the gameplay than to refresh it.