Pretty much since I was a child, video games have been full of jerks. Donkey Kong? What a prick. Super Mario Kart? Full of jerks. I wasn't that familiar with the expression "climb a wall of dicks" when I was 10 years old, but if I had been then I would have directed it in Princess Peach's direction almost as often as I burst into tears because she pipped me to the line on Rainbow Road.
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"Fisher? You'll pay for what you did to Robertson! Hear me, Fisher? This won't end like it did at the airfield!"
Sam Fisher is an angry man. For years he's been doing a pretty angry job, murdering from the shadows under the auspices of neo-con morality, but he's always been ready with a snappy putdown as he slips a knife around the jugular of the enemies of freedom. To a certain extent he's still up to that - "It's a good job all your training paid off," he tells a young man as he separates his vertebrae - but the new Sam Fisher is a furious one, motivated entirely by his own vengeful reasons.
It's okay everyone, the nastiness and xenophobia is all over. America and Russia are videogaming friends again. All these years of digital conflict, and suddenly it's all resolved. Splinter Cell: Conviction's multiplayer features a US agent and a Russian agent working not against each other, but together for the common good. Is this a videogaming first? Probably not, but I'm going to say it is anyway, because I like making grand statements. For instance: cats are smarter than monkeys. Baked beans can cure leprosy.
Much has changed since Sam Fisher retreated into the shadows under cover of nervous write-ups at Ubidays 2007. He's had a haircut, for a start, and he's bought some clothes that fit, including Jason Bourne's sweater. He's also, to judge by the opening sequence of the first playable press demo - a mash-up of the opening two levels of the game proper - relocated to the flashback bathroom where Craig, Daniel Craig popped his double-oh cherry in Casino Royale. But the most important thing for fans will be that he's found his old feet. Conviction is unmistakeably Splinter Cell. The goggles have gone, but Sam is still there, sneaking around and doing unbelievable things under cover of darkness.
The instruction booklet for Splinter Cell: Double Agent describes 29 different actions Sam Fisher can perform. There are individual sub-sections later on dealing with hacking, safe-cracking, mine assembly, email decryption, and bomb-defusal. Overall, the game uses every single button on the Xbox 360 pad several times over.