You know when you're fully immersed in shadow, because the colours fade from the screen into high contrast black-and-white, crisp and clinical. While this is a tremendously useful visual aid, it's a bit of a shame that Conviction looks like it will suffer from Arkham Asylum syndrome, obscuring much of the visual splendour of its engine by forcing you to spend a lot if your time under a restrictive camera filter.
When you're not in shadow, Conviction is quite the looker, the ubiquitous Unreal Engine 3 providing the whalebone corset for the pretty party dress of the superb lighting effects to sit upon. At its best, when mission objective movies are beamed onto the environment, or during the set-piece interrogation sequences, Conviction continues to impress with its cinematic credentials. Ubisoft's justifiably proud of the seamless nature which the Zombieland-esque projected text and movie objectives provide, and we're even told that they wanted Conviction to be a game 'without any camera cuts' - further evidence of the influence of film.
There's an interesting seesaw balance to Conviction, provided by the excellent 'mark and execute' system which allows you tag enemies for quick, automatic dispatch. The marks for these executions are awarded for melee kills, stealth or otherwise, so smooth progress is often a matter of judging who to get close and personal with and where to utilise the sudden-death tools which their deaths provide.
Sneaking into a Nissen hut full of soldiers in the last level of the demo, I'm forced to plan ahead and decide who is close enough to cover to be manually extinguished, and how I'm going to take enough men out for the remainder to be marked and executed. Slipping between the materiel and boxes behind the group of five, I'm able to use the cover indicator to position myself exactly where I need to be, putting the hurt on the two rearmost men as I work forward.
As I strike from behind the second crate, however, I'm spotted as a soldier turns to talk to his comrade - indicated by a simple radial arrow growing towards the man who's seen me, turning red as the penny drops. Luckily the M&E system allows you to tag targets before you've earned the marks to deal with them, meaning that a quick tap of the Y button sees two more opponents slipping off the mortal coil. One left, then - 20 yards away across a well-lit concrete apron. I'm back behind cover already, but he's seen me - his understanding of my presence indicated by the ghostly mirage of my last known position.
Previously this would have been anathema to Fisher, cover blown, operation compromised, plausible deniability alibis already fired off to relevant sources. For Conviction, though, even being seen can be used to turn the tables to your advantage.
Being a military professional, my mark calls for backup before he begins to investigate, so I know more troops are on the way to spoil my day, but that doesn't mean I have to let him get away with it. I fall back, staying under cover of darkness, until I'm offered a new perspective on the shining phantom of my previous position. Muggins the guard edges up to it, confident of taking down the man who wasn't there. Before he has time to realise I've done a Jordan and moved on there's a new hole in his skull and no one to spill the beans to his colleagues in the evil army.