Here at Gaming Nexus we cover news from all over the industry, but then again, no one would accuse our home town of Columbus, Ohio of being a nexus of gaming. For that reason we try to cover local events whenever they pop up, to keep our fellow Ohioans in the loop. I had the opportunity to check out just such an event last Friday, courtesy of Ubisoft.
Ubisoft has a PR program that sets up outreach on college campuses across America and Candada. Within the last year they started one at The Ohio State Univerity. Called Ubi @ Ohio
State, the new program is headed by the friendly and hardworking Jeana Howald, a student in her last year at OSU who also happens to be quite the gamer. Jeana sent me an invite to their Splinter Cell Conviction
launch party through the Ubi @ OSU
Facebook group and I covered the event late last week.
Aside from the college staple of free pizza, representatives were on hand from Play-n-Trade and VGMX, and they were staffing the swag table. They got wiped out of T shirts pretty quickly but I managed to snag a hat. Rogue Gaming, a local gaming equipment service that rents hardware to tournaments, parties and promotions, provided the kiosks and Xbox 360s for the event. I appreciated that Ubi was working with a lot of gaming businesses in Ohio to promote their new release.
Jeana had the retail version of Conviction up and running so I tried out the single player campaign first. In no time I was stealthing my way through a terrorist attack on an outdoor restaurant in Malta. After getting some info from a thug the old fashioned way I infiltrated a mansion to get a lead on the person who killed Sam Fisher’s daughter. The game definitely has a more fluid gameplay progression, making it easier to evade enemies if you are detected. This removed a lot of the trial and error of the previous games and made the gameplay move at a much faster pace.
This fluidity is a nice change but it removes some of the series’ trademark class. There are tutorial messages literally printed on the environment, adding to the Jason Bourne attitude and removing some of the guesswork that plagued the older games. Sam is more focused on getting the job done rather than doing it discreetly—he kills indiscriminately and indeed there isn’t a way to choose between lethal and non-lethal takedowns anymore. As reported he also lets bodies lie where they fall, making it easier for other guards to detect him.
Stealth takedowns are still the best way to go but your reward for doing one is a “mark and execute” move—you gain the ability to paint enemies and even environmental traps with the right bumper and Sam will execute them all with precise shots. In some instances your only choice is to kill squads of thugs who are actively looking for you. The gameplay is a lot faster and it makes Sam feel driven and a little reckless, but I still miss how you could stealth a level perfectly in the old games, avoiding detection and making it look like you were never there. From my first impressions I think this new direction is definitely a good thing for the series as it makes stealth a less frustrating stop-and-start experience, but purists might be unhappy with Sam’s more direct, less nuanced approach.
About an hour into the event Jeana hosted a Splinter Cell Jeopardy game, complete with the familiar question board up on the overhead projector. The game was kind of a slaughter and you could tell one team had a lot of dedicated Splinter Cell fans on it who really knew their trivia. Still the questions were interesting and were a good history lesson for a relative Splinter Cell novice like me. If they ever do Prince of Persia jeopardy I might stand a chance.
The Jeopardy eventually transitioned into a deathmatch tournament and I got my first look at versus mode in Conviction. In addition to the human players the map is populated with patrolling AI guards. Taking out bots is the meat and potatoes of building your score but you have to watch out for the other people playing—they’ll gladly kill you as well. As the tourney ranked up the AIs were set to be smarter and more relentless, separating the easy tiers from the finals. Jeana had some cool Ubi prizes for the tourney winners, with smaller prizes like gift cards being raffled off earlier.
Overall the event was a lot of fun and let me get some good hands-on and footage of Conviction. I also caught up with some college friends who were attending. Jeana was great and answered a lot of my questions even though she was obviously busy overseeing everything. I’m glad she and Ubisoft arranged this program on campus and I’m looking forward to what they have planned next. There will be a smaller launch event at the campus area Gamestop for the various versions of Prince of Persia Forgotten Sands, and another big launch party for Ghost Recon Future Soldier. If you’re an OSU student and a gamer, check out their Facebook page
and make plans to attend their next event. For an Ubi fan like me it’s great to see them doing stuff closer to home.