Screen grab from Splinter Cell: ConvictionIn the cavernous main theater of Penny Arcade Expo 2009 developer UbiSoft showed off two of its hotly anticipated titles to an eager mass of hardcore gamers. First off, Splinter Cell: Conviction Creative Director Maxime Beland shared what his team said were ‘the values’ of Splinter Cell: Sam Fisher, tension/stealth, realism and excellence. Beland described Sam Fisher as a predator; a panther in particular. Sam is now a “new man,” free from the rules of his former agency, Third Echelon, and even from the pre-existing storytelling and gameplay structure. New features include “mark end execute,” where Sam can pre-target enemies or environmental objects from cover then perform automatic kills, and “last known position” when a detected Sam breaks his foes sight line, a ghostly image of Sam at that moment is left behind, allowing the player see where he is going to be looked for and set up an ambush.
Beland then demoed the bathroom fight/mansion infiltration that’s been shown in the trailers. Sam knocked the goon through sinks, urinals and in a move that generated laughs, into an occupied stall. After getting the info he needed, and seeing a movie of it projected onto the bathroom wall, the scene shifted to the mansion exterior, where Sam had no problem wiping the floor with its defenders, either by performing rail takedowns, or dropping chandeliers on them. In the final room, Beland showed off a new move for Sam, taking cover behind a meat shield, and then kicking his cover out a window to create an exit. Although the bulk of the gameplay shown had been seen before, each perfectly executed move elicited applause from the crowd, which was paid back with an exclusive clip for PAX attendees: Sam wearing the trademark three-eyed goggles (the question of their inclusion was until now unrevealed, but not exactly a surprise), and using them to see though the walls of a nearby building. The floor was then opened to questions.
-Co-op play? Can’t say exactly what it will entail, but it will be there.
-Sam’s de-aged appearance? Sam’s a little like James Bond, an ageless character that will, hopefully, continue on for decades.
-Why so many changes? It’s game #5 in the series, we wanted to mix it up a little, and not to shove stealth on the player.
-Can you play in such a manner that you can avoid killing? No, not all the time.
-Carryover equipment from the previous games? Less gadgets, but they fit better into gameplay.
-Is the old default gun back? Can’t say.
-What is there for the player that's new to the series? A faster pace.
-A question about how easy the game looked in the live demo? Beland laughed and said that he’s really good at the demo after playing so many times, “Realistic Mode” will deliver the challenge.
-How much does Michel Ironside [voice of Sam Fisher] kick ass? His enthusiasm for the game and the character really shows.
The stage was then turned over the to Creative Director of Assassin’s Creed 2, and after showing the E3 trailer, they debuted a new, R&B infused trailer that started with a flying display of Renaissance art, then showed Ezio stalking alleyways, then showing off some moves including riding on an out of control cart, diving into the water and performing double kills. He then demoed a pre-release build of Florence, and showed off how Ezio can now walk and casually pickpocket pedestrians for a handful of Florins each, which he then spent on poison with a shopkeeper. Taking on an assassination mission, Ezio climbed to the rooftops, showing off the new 90 degree turn objects that allow the player to turn corners while free-running. The new hidden gun was then used to dispatch a guard, a move that in the real game would summon the authorities, due to the noise. Tracking down the target, and blending in with a crowd to hide, Ezio then used the poison to drive his target’s guard berserk, who involuntary did the deed for him. As a joke, a scattering of coins were used to cause a little panic in the streets and drew civilians into the arc of the berserk guard, creating amusing collateral damage.
Screen grab from Assassin's Creed 2The scene switched to a hidden underground passage, which was accessed after a hired mercenary band distracted the guards. The passage was described as a little taste of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time style linear gameplay, part of 4-5 hours of mostly optional exploration for collectables that will unlock more story. There was only time for two questions.
-There are a lot fewer horses in narrow, watery Venice, what’s the justification for the piles of hay? Hay was more then horse feed, historically it was “the fuel” of the era.
-Swimming? Yes, sequels mean swimming, and it was briefly demoed that jumping in the water isn’t fatal