When Sam Fisher completes his annual company-mandated appraisal, you can imagine his line manager outlining one area for significant potential improvement: interpersonal skills. Fisher likes to avoid human encounters wherever possible, and when circumstances force him into situations that deal with people, they tend to suffer an immediate decline in consciousness.
In Conviction, his idea of a bedtime story was to give his daughter a tutorial in using darkness to stalk and kill her enemies. He's not, shall we say, a resident of Candy Kisses Canyon. He's certainly not the kind of person who should be leading a team of four mis-matched individuals, thrown together at a time of unprecedented global threat.
That's the new angle for Blacklist Fisher - he's no longer a desperate man hunting his daughter's attackers. He's an exasperated man struggling with a bickering team, when ten megatons of shit hits a gigantic Pifco fan. Who are these people? Isaac Briggs is a former CIA operative, a by-the-book guy who keeps forgetting that the Fourth Echelon doesn't have a book. Then there's Charlie. He's the bug-eyed comic relief of Blacklist, who brings a touch of Adult Swim humour to the room that America is depending on for its survival. He's a hacker of such skill that he got caught and arrested for it, and was quietly conscripted into active service. Finally, there's the familiar face of Anna Grímsdóttir - a face that we punched a couple of times in the previous game.
The threat they're confronted with is the Engineers - a "rainbow coalition of evil", according to game director, Patrick Redding. Twelve terrorists affiliated to global countries, reflecting the "post-ideological" nature of modern terrorism. A diplomatically non-specific collaboration of tech-savvy bastardry, united in their determination to bring an end to The Big Bang Theory. Or America's extensive military occupation. Whatever it is that people hate most about the place.
Before we chat about the missions, a quick reassurance to long-term fans: "killing in motion", a phrase that's been thrown about in earlier previews, isn't something that's mentioned in this demo. It's not a thing, like "Press X to kill in motion". It's a philosophy that underpins the action. It speaks of fluidity and polish, and really, it's pretty meaningless. When was the last time you killed someone without moving?
But that phrase created a sense of something worrying and new, like Sam Fisher had leapt out of the shadows and become some kind of combo-weaving man-Bayonetta. "One of the problems with the more stealthy aspects of the game, or even the more systemic aspects of the game," explains Redding, "is that it's hard to give a soundbite, video, or demo of that experience. It's something you get over a period of time." Having played it for a period of time, we can tentatively confirm that this is pure Splinter Cell.
Safe as houses
The first mission follows the first and only lead the Fourth Echelon have to the Engineers. An informant has handed himself into the authorities in Libya, and he's being held by the CIA in a safehouse. The plan? Snatch him quietly from the hands of our allies, spirit him into our mobile palace of righteousness (aka The Paladin), and use his information without the red tape of the CIA. If a mission against CIA operatives sounds potentially controversial, don't worry. Any qualms you might have about killing Real American Humans is quickly allayed when you find out that Those Bastard Terrorists got there first, and have taken your high value target to a nearby police station.