Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction Multiplayer Hands-On

We take a look at a mission from Conviction's co-op campaign.

We've already seen some pieces of the single-player campaign in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction--a reboot of sorts for the Splinter Cell franchise that reworks some of the old elements from the series and introduces new ones, such as the mark-and-execute feature as well as new storytelling methods. This approach and many of those features carry over to Conviction's multiplayer modes, which Ubisoft Montreal's game director for multiplayer, Patrick Redding, says is an extension of the single-player experience and not just something that has been tacked on. "We started working on multiplayer around the same time we did the major course correction on Splinter Cell: Conviction. We really wanted to avoid a situation where multiplayer was just an arcade mode that lived in a little bubble off to the side and people jumped into it when they were done with Sam Fisher," he says. "One thing that was really important for us was the idea of having a storyline for multiplayer. There's actual integration with what players are doing in the game and [other things] going on in the Splinter Cell universe. We're extending the experience in a few different directions."

Redding says that a big part of that experience is the fantasy of being one of the world's best special agents, moving in and out of the shadows to complete missions with utmost efficiency. But Conviction brings something a little different to the table by exploring what happens when you remove the rules of engagement. What happens when a special agent can do whatever is necessary to get the job done? "You can take that guy off the leash," he says. "You can say 'no more rules of engagement,' unleash violence on your enemies, slip back into the shadows and disappear. We wanted to make sure we were retaining that same fantasy and keeping it consistent into the multiplayer experience. All of the tools for doing that work really well when you can take two players, put them together, and say, 'OK, you guys are going to multiply out the effectiveness of all these mechanics by working together to dominate and take out the AI.' That meant co-op was going to be our focus." There are two major aspects to the co-op experience in Splinter Cell: Conviction. The first is the two-player co-op prologue to the game's single-player experience that takes place a few months before Sam Fisher's hunt begins. "Rather than saying we're going to take a few maps from single-player, a couple of Washington DC locations, and let two players play through them on an alternate path, we said 'no,'" says Redding. "We're committed to having a fresh location that's distinct and provides a bit of backstory and context to what Sam's dealing with, but it's also unique and specific to co-op." There are four maps in this co-op prologue set in the former Soviet Union, and the entire mode has its own set of unique characters (including its two playable agents) not found in other portions of the game. Redding says that these maps provide about an extra five to six hours of content with each map taking about an hour and a half to two hours and individual sections taking about 20 to 30 minutes. This mode also has three difficulty settings to accommodate a broader spectrum of players.

Archer and Kestrel spring into action.

The setup: Third Echelon--Sam Fisher's former employer--receives word that a group of warheads have gone missing from Russia's arsenal and are going to be sold to the highest bidder. Since Third Echelon can't simply send an agent into Russia without potentially provoking a massive incident, the secretive division works with its Russian counterpart to have its own agent, codenamed Kestrel, accompany the American agent, codenamed Archer. "We have these two agents who are ostensibly working for rival organizations," says Redding. "They don't really trust each other and they don't really like each other. They don't know if they can depend on each other at the outset, but over the course of these four missions--and at the same time players are also getting used to the gameplay and working with another player--you can feel that relationship evolve. Both of them are experienced spies with interesting backstories that help fuel that tension."

In our hands-on of one co-op map, we join Archer and Kestrel in an old bunker located deep beneath Moscow that would have served as a transportation system in the event of a nuclear attack. The two walk through an initial tunnel before reaching a wall with large white letters projected across a certain section instructing the two to breach it. This projected text effect is the same as the one shown in the single-player campaign that delivers information such as your location or mission objectives. Once through the wall, the two make their way to a train station where a large train car is parked, blocking the view of their arrival from the guards patrolling on the other side.

At this point, there are several ways to approach the situation. Both agents can run in with guns blazing, but ultimately, that only makes things more difficult, because the guards will call for backup. The most effective solution is to briefly split up and try to take out guards (quietly) on either side and head toward the stairs near the back of the platform. As Archer, we take the high road and climb on top of the train car while Kestrel goes to the left side to take out a guard by grabbing him and snapping his neck. By doing so, Kestrel earns a token for the team that enables them to perform a mark and execute on enemies. Since we're on top of the train, we can mark an enemy for Kestrel to take out by pressing the right bumper on the Xbox 360 controller--a small arrow appears over that enemy's head indicating he's marked, and it will change from white to red when in range of your weapon. If they're in proper position, Kestrel and Archer can perform mark and kills at the same time (you can see which enemy the other player has marked and vice versa), which is especially useful if you're presented with multiple targets.

As the duo makes its way past the first set of guards, Kestrel sticks to the left side of the platform while we hit the right side, jumping on the wall to perform an Assassin's Creed-style, yank-over-the-railing stealth kill of a guard standing nearby. Kestrel does the same, pulling an unsuspecting schlub through the window of a small room off to the side. They then make their way to the back of the platform and toward some office space and their final objective for the mission, the interrogation of Major Rebko--a former high-ranking member of the Russian military who may know the whereabouts of the missing warheads.

Stealth kills are your friend.

But before getting to that point, we get a glimpse of a few other notable gameplay features of the co-op mode. When one player makes it to a checkpoint, a video projects itself on the wall that basically gives you a live feed of what the other player sees. This gives you an idea where the other player is (if he hasn't reached the checkpoint) and could prove to be useful if neither player is especially communicative. Additionally, both Kestrel and Archer have access to some pretty useful gadgets, one of which is sonar goggles. This incredibly useful item not only aids your vision in a dark room, but also gives enemy locations through walls, so you can turn them on inside a room and plan your assault accordingly. Another useful gadget--and one not entirely dissimilar from those that appeared in previous Splinter Cell games--is the snake camera that can slip underneath doors and give you a quick peek at enemies that may be on the other side. What makes this device slightly different from previous incarnations is that it grants the ability to mark targets, so you can theoretically breach the door and immediately perform a kill. Finally, in addition to EMP grenades, Kestrel and Archer have EMP backpacks that send a burst of EMPs to nearby electronic gadgets--namely lights and cameras--knocking them out of commission. These EMP blasts can even take out individual flashlights held by guards patrolling the area.

Of course, in stealth missions, any number of things can go wrong, but Kestrel and Archer have options. If either member of the team gets gunned down, there's a brief window of opportunity to run over and heal your partner, and if firefights get too intense, you can always try to grab a guard and use him as a human shield to help clear out the room. In fact, in this particular map, you can even hold a guard in a choke and walk him through the metal detector to get through without setting the alarm off. You may also run into a situation where an enemy grabs either Archer of Kestrel. If this happens, the player being held can time a well-placed elbow to the enemy, giving a quick opportunity for the other player to take a shot on him while he's dazed.

Conviction gives you more than enough information if you're ever in danger of being detected--color saturation changes depending on whether or not you're safely engaged in stealth, and whenever someone spots you, a meter appears above your head, indicating how much time you have before you can slip back into the shadows and remain undetected. You can also make extensive use of a feature called "last known position." Whenever you've been spotted and attempt to move out of sight, a silhouette appears onscreen. This silhouette remains as the enemy comes and investigates where he last had sight of your position, opening up potential opportunities to spring a surprise assault on your would-be attackers.

Ultimately, this all means that a slow and methodical approach makes things much easier for Kestrel and Archer, but the prologue isn't the only multiplayer mode where this strategy comes in handy. Splinter Cell: Conviction offers a separate set of multiplayer types known as Deniable Ops missions. "[These] are four game modes in addition to the story mode, but in three of the four modes, you can play in single-player or co-op," Redding explains. "The modes are Hunter, Last Stand, Infiltration, and Face-Off. These are playable in six maps--four of the maps are the same maps we're using in our story so you're able to go back into those maps and try them out in different ways. Then we have the two exclusive maps that are specific to Deniable Ops."

The last known position feature can help you fake out the guards.

Hunter is an elimination mode where you jump into a particular zone and have to kill everybody. Infiltration is a stealth-focused mode where if you are detected by AI enemies and various security devices, the match is over. Last Stand is a survival mode where you have to defend a designated object from being destroyed, and while you can use stealth, a better method for victory is to use distraction and pull enemies away from the object. Face-Off is described as a spy-versus-spy-style mode where you find out who's the best superspy, but it won't merely be a one-on-one affair--enemies will also be patrolling around the map. "You've got hostile AI running around and your opponent player running around," says Redding about Face-Off mode. "Even though it's kind of a hazard, you can also use the AI to mask your own movement or use it to sniff out the location of the other player."

Ubisoft Montreal also wants to reward avid players of both the single-player and multiplayer campaigns. Therefore, Conviction includes a series of challenges that let you earn points to use in the Persistent Elite Creation System where you can upgrade various pieces of equipment that are unlocked. "If I have the MP5 submachine gun, I could add a silencer, or a scope, or a stock to it," says Redding. "[All of these things] affect the gameplay characteristics of that weapon. Similarly, I can personalize my avatar's appearance in the game by adding different skins, uniforms, or camouflage to it--most of which are there for aesthetic expression. There is a gameplay element to it. By altering my accessories--there are three levels of accessories--I can increase the amount of ammunition I can carry as well as gadget capacity and armor." This is a separate element from Ubisoft's uPlay feature, which also awards points for completing certain objectives in the game. Look for more on Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction before it hits the Xbox 360 and PC on February 23.

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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Discussion

149 comments
Trickz909
Trickz909

dosnt look like theres gona b mercenaries vs. spies...wak!! looks pretty crazy tho!

cknight91
cknight91

Is there going to be a vs. multi-player mode? Like spies vs. mercenaries?

FearXecutioner1
FearXecutioner1

The main of highlight of this sequel is multiplayer and the looks of it they nailed it.

raven98030
raven98030

They did good with this one best one yet

fox3796
fox3796

@lincolnhenry I had trouble playing on the gamecube, (Chaos theory.) But I've tried the demo for conviction, and i'm very impressed at how well the tutorial works. Don't worry, you'll be pulling people out of windows in no time.

Saajko
Saajko

This game is so good looking I just hope in the future they would/could bring it to PS3. *sigh* but those are slim chances...*sigh*

jmartinez1983
jmartinez1983

Yep, I'm sold with solid coop. Hope the competitive multiplayer is also up to snuff since Double Agent's was so good.

DJslinky
DJslinky

gonna b sick!!! can not wait!!

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

I reckon theres a strong chance of Split Screen, as almost all the TC franchise allow Split Screen (R6:Vegas 1&2, GRAW 1&2, SC:Chaos Theory MP)

kornogaphy93
kornogaphy93

i have a pretty good feeling Co-op is gonna be sick

rouch696
rouch696

I always want a game to play with my friends, we're sick of playing Gears of war 2 and Vegas 2, i hope this game will be awesome with co-op camp slit-screen.

siamack_t
siamack_t

man...fantastic! I always looking for co-op games to play with my buddy. and you know what? this game gonna make a hell of a weekend for us! ROCK 'n ROLL!!! hooooooooweeeeeeee!!!

LynQ
LynQ

looking great

Nightmare1171
Nightmare1171

t loooks amaizing ,, but i want to know something... split screen ??? i hope it does

Zathic
Zathic

Looks awesome :(

plasmachief
plasmachief

While a completely spy focused multiplayer is a cool idea, I am going to miss Spy vs Merc. There was nothing quite like seeing something move in the shadows only to be grabbed from behind two seconds later... or pulling a merc out a window. Wish they had included that game mode as well. Chaos Theory had it right. It had a great single player, and awesome coop campaign, and spy vs merc was fantastic. A perfect triple play.

Sausageroll_78
Sausageroll_78

Its either this, mass effect 2 or army of two 2, but i'm, going to be honest i have a thing with buying games so i cant stop and wait, :| this game better be worth the wait, it pains me to wait this long :| i've waited so long then they delay it then no its out :D BE GOOD!

lincolnhenry
lincolnhenry

Is the control scheme for Splinter Cell games difficult to get used to? Also, I've never played a splinter cell, is it easy to learn?

alehodr
alehodr

i have great expectations for this game ubisoft please don't disappoint me

jenguando
jenguando

A welcome addition to the xbox 360's awesome arsenal

jimmae1990
jimmae1990

I'm pumped about this new Splinter Cell, although I'm hoping the new action-focus won't pervert the splinter cell experience, that it DOES add to the Tom Clancy Universe...

firehawk998
firehawk998

are you a bad enough dude to introduce a guys head to a papaer shredder ? I cant wait for this game.

USArmySniper529
USArmySniper529

This is going to be my new FAVORITE GAME EVER!! I already pre ordered the Limited Edition!!!

athenian29
athenian29

@airshocker I will acknowledge that Thief is different, but mainly due to the viewpoint (first- instead of third-person). It still played a major role in the founding of the genre. Come to think of it, I think I have a Thief 2 disc lying around somewhere that I got from my dad recently (he was digging through stuff and found it). Maybe I'll check it out and see how it stands up.

Serentor
Serentor

yay, glad to hear the comeback, im sure it will be a good one =) good job ubisoft ^^

gedbyz
gedbyz

This is awesome!!! I think it might be the second coming. That's what she said.

THRILLHOE
THRILLHOE

Man this looks great! I was over with the old SP. I loved them but it was enough. this is something that will def spice up the franchise.

Cabaji_Ec
Cabaji_Ec

its looking very good, but i kinda liked it the first idea...i really was hoping to play with bearded homeless sam fisher,...OH yeah he was homeless, he was dirty..he was.......angry...., but this is good looks more like george clooney action movie...more handsome and stylished....well....UBISOFT...make the homeless sam at least like xbox live arcade game....jojo....i wanna throw garbage...

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

The original Thief was the first game of its kind to use real-time lighting as a method of evading enemies.

airshocker
airshocker

@athenian29 Thief doesn't compare to either Splinter Cell or MGS, which were the only two games I was using as reference to the stealth-action genre. Thief was entirely different and was one of the best games, back in the day. It can't be compared to newer stealth-action games. Maybe when Thief 4 comes out we'll be able to do that.

DoomSky
DoomSky

Split-screen is in the game and supports all game modes as far as I'm aware.

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

I'm paying VERY careful attention to this game again after this article If the co-op element of this game ships as split-screen, this will suddenly become a "first day purchase" for me

heatproofsean
heatproofsean

did they say the adversay mode is only spy vs spy like on vanilla xbox... i hope they dont make the online MP crap like last time :S

vaultboy_ninja
vaultboy_ninja

This is just multiplayer story which is a pretty good idea.

microsoft167
microsoft167

WHERE'S SAM? I kind of wanted to see him in action in this movie. If I but the game, I'll get it for SAM, not these agents no one's heard of...

ForceRecon198
ForceRecon198

This game is going to be the bomb. End of story. It WILL kick butt.

Bishop0411
Bishop0411

Is this gonna be split-screen coop as well

Agentmorph
Agentmorph

Is there any Free running/Parkour in it??

knoetgen
knoetgen

If you are thumbs downing this game you are a biased PS3 fanboy end of story. This game really does look great how can you deny that? There is no reason to hate this game its not even out yet so how can you thumbs down positive comments about it, because from the video it looks great. Give the game a chance.

Otoribashi
Otoribashi

@ gizzy82: for your info, I never used auto aim in MGS 4. And I didn't say that slow aiming is bad, I just thought that they're going for an action approach this time around which I thought was a bad decision, increasing the sensitivity a bit won't hurt them though. I liked the first SC and I didn't get Pandora Tomorrow, but after that it failed to interest me 4 some reason. I hope this one is better because apart from marking your enemies and projecting videos on walls ( which looks good but doesn't have anything to do with gameplay ) I don't know what the fuss is about ...

kamizuka
kamizuka

i would hate to have a TPS game as sneaking, because you cant look all around you. i hope you have radar to fix that

5Jedi5diah5
5Jedi5diah5

looks good but not creative enough...

Gooshnads
Gooshnads

@thenephariouson i did not know that but i mean people forgot about chaos theory's coop everyone's like OH WHAT A NEW CONCEPT!!!

athenian29
athenian29

@airshocker Everybody who played Thief back in the day. *backs away* But leave me out of it - I haven't played either!

airshocker
airshocker

Whoever doubted Splinter Cell is the best stealth-action game?

sensei_hEnRY
sensei_hEnRY

co-op prequel campaign looks awesome! It will have splitscreen right?