Talking point – The Splinter Cell
The Splinter Cell series has undergone a rebirth of sorts. Gone are the days when you spent hours tracking your prey to engulf them.
The Splinter Cell series has undergone a rebirth of sorts. Gone are the days when you spent hours tracking your prey to engulf them. The new Sam Fisher is fast, lethal and brutal, and can kill an enemy and vanish without a trace. Here's a chat with Maxime Beland, the creative director and driving force behind Splinter Cell Conviction.
Why scrap the earlier design of the game? How painful was it to discard something you worked so hard on?
Our creative teams knew they had to make an enormous impact with this fifth installment, so publisher Ubisoft gave us the required time for it. We retained such great tools as an amazing lighting engine and the dynamic environment, and focused the gameplay more around the strengths of Splinter Cell including lights, shadows, athletic moves and gadgets.
What made you change the way the game plays? Why move away from the conventional Splinter Cell style?
We wanted to give the "ruthless elite agent" fantasy to the player and focus on intelligence in action. SC is not and will never be a skill-based shooter; it has to incorporate tactical elements.
Meanwhile, we realised that gamers enjoy innovative gameplay and fast-paced action. We wanted to bridge tactical elements with the action and pacing that would resonate with players. Gameplay elements in Conviction encourage you to learn your surroundings and utilise strategic positioning while being free to run into battle.
Are you still using the Unreal engine? Don't you feel it's aged?
Splinter Cell Conviction uses a custom engine called Lead based on the Unreal 2 engine. The engine has been fully customised to meet all the special requirements of a "Next Gen" iteration of the Splinter Cell genre.
Has the Assassin Creed series proved as an inspiration for Sam Fisher's new feline avatar?
The change in Sam's look simply fits better with the new direction of the game. He's not a fugitive anymore, he's a man on a mission; he is not in Third Echelon anymore, he is on his own investigation. He now works for himself, and is tense and mean. He's always been dangerous and it hurts him now when he rethinks the choices he made earlier.
Comparisons have been drawn between Sam Fisher and Batman (Arkham Asylum). Your thoughts on this.
People are always looking for comparisons in order place things on a mental map. Sam's a rogue agent, so the Bourne comparisons come out. Sam's a video game character who's old enough to buy his own beer, so the Solid Snake comparisons come out. They're really mainly signposting more than anything else. But taking it down to a level that basic is a real disservice to what's unique and interesting about each character.
People have complaints about the SP campaign being too short. Paying so much for a five-hour game seems steep. How do you justify this?
The entire single player campaign mode lasts about 7 to 8 hours on the normal difficulty setting, and a couple of hours more on realistic. The co-op story can be played across 4 different maps and lasts about 4 to 6 hours on the normal difficulty mode. Playing on the realistic difficulty level is going to take longer to complete.
What's next in the series?
We can't talk about it! It's top secret!