(Unrelated note: Alan Wake is coming out on the 14th?! I thought Red Dead Redemption was going to be keeping me busy this month!)
In case you missed it, I posted a full review/rant of Splinter Cell Conviction early this week. The co-op of the game has a particularly interesting ending. I’d just like to talk about and share the experience I had with it.
If you aren’t interested in Splinter Cell, this might be worth looking at from a design standpoint, if nothing else.
Spoiler discussion – Only read this if you’ve finished the game or if you aren’t going to play it.
So, my co-op partner and I finished the final mission. As with all the other co-op missions, you both sit through a level intro FMV that masks a loading screen and then you play the level where it is all basic Conviction gameplay, with a few unremarkable twists. But after that final mission, where we got on a cargo plane and escaped, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
Suddenly the camera flies through the plane and cuts to my character; Archer. He’s washing his hands in a sink and looking in the mirror. It’s the first time I’d seen him without his mask. Since I was looking at Archer and only Archer, that meant that my co-operator was likely looking at Kestrel elsewhere – another first.
“Why aren’t you answering your OpSat?” a voice from Archer’s earpiece asks.
“I don’t have it with me. What’s wrong?”
“Where’s Agent Kestrel?”
“On the cargo deck, sleeping. Why?”
‘Oh no…’ I hear over my own headset echoing my feelings. ‘ I don’t like this at all.’
Archer steps out of the toilet into the cargo deck and draws his pistol.
I figured Kestrel has just been told by the Russians to kill me. I find out later that he found Archer’s OpSat, with Archer’s order on. It was self-defence.
I take cover behind a railing and start trying to figure out the layout of the area. I discover I have no gadgets, no sonar, no secondary weapons, no usual skills – just my pistol. Thoughts occur of finding some kind of Paragon solution to this – but it’s certainly just me versus him.
‘Why can’t they stay friends? They got on so well!’ I said thinking back on the hours we’ve just spent struggling through the final co-op levels, and on Archer and Kestrel’s own banter.
‘I know.’ He responds.
I move around and consider going down to the lower level, but decide against it.
‘Where are you?’ He asks.
‘I don’t want to tell you where I am!’
I try shooting some lights out, but the normal game hiding mechanics don’t work here.
‘I’ve seen you!’ he says.
I’m actually worried. This is clearly a situation without a restart or continue option. The game has actually got me fearing in-game death.
I decide to stay near that railing from the start and move my camera to cover all possible entrances. As well as hoping that door behind me doesn’t actually open.
Eventually, I spot him hiding behind a crate on the level below. I peek through the gap in the railing and start shooting at him. I’m hitting him, but probably in the leg or shoulder – it’s not doing much damage. All of a sudden, my screen starts to tint red. I can’t see it properly, but clearly he’s hitting me back. I un-peek and wait for my health to restore.
He’s still down there. I try to move to another side of the railing, but the stupid controls mean I end up hanging off the railing. I quickly drop to his level, swearing about the controls as he laughs.
I quickly take cover, and realise we’re now on opposite sides of a crate. I see him peek around the corner of it and I instinctively get up and run around the other side. It’s a risky move, but I saw an opportunity and had to strike. He too has started running but before this turns into a Benny Hill sequence, I manage to get close enough behind him to hit the the melee button. Archer grabs Kestrel and shoots him twice.
Then it goes into cutscene mode, Archer sits over a bloodied and groaning Kestrel, whose face I am seeing for the first time, says his final words.
Archer closes the deceased Kestrel’s eyes.
So to summarise it was pretty cool and very effective, all told. Makes me wonder why co-op games don’t try stuff like this more.
It gave me an idea for a game of the type having dual mission objectives. Imagine if, for example there was a mission objective that Archer was told to obtain, but Kestrel was told to destroy – without Archer realising it was him. Or something like that. Spies are just a goldmine for co-op genius.
By the way, the ending is much the same if Archer is the one who dies. I’ve also read that you can find the body of Archer in the single player campaign.
But it’s all about the way the game builds up a personal rapport between the players, as well as the fictional characters. It makes it difficult, shocking and emotional when the game forces you to turn on each other.
It was just powerful.