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Tycho / on Fri, Mar 19 2004 at 8:58 am

That Ancient Rivalry

Penny Arcade reader Adam Fernandes was able to attend the Splinter Cell LA vs. New York event I mentioned a little while ago, and since it’s germane to what we’re talking about I decided to post it:

LA vs NY .....  a Splinter Cell story…

I left work early.. went home.. powered up the motorcycle.. and rode like the wind through the middle of crowded LA freeways to get to the “Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow”  LA vs NY exhibition game at Universal Studios’ Citywalk.

I waited with marginal anticipation toward the back of the line.  The crowd was made up of your usual band of computer game enthusiasts, namely young males in their late teens/early twenties.  Sprinkled in were some young females, older males, and at least one mom, who presumably was escorting her young son.  Somehow I doubt she’s a huge fan of stealth action games, but who knows - perhaps she was hiding some night vision goggles under her dress.

We were each handed an orange wristband and raffle ticket.  After waiting a little longer than anticipated they finally came out to announce they were going to let us in.  We then waited another 10 minutes before they actually did.

Finally the doors opened and we spilled forth unto the theatre’s lobby.  We had two choices; we could grab a seat in the theatre or play the game up on any of the 4 consoles upstairs.  Being a group of one, I opted to grab a seat, lest I be stuck in the back row corner trying to look around some 7 foot tall weirdo with a top hat on.  The only advantage to going alone to such events was the ability to take that last single seat in a prime location.  This is usually found between two males who are attempting to observe some kind of unwritten rule of men that prohibits one from sitting juxtaposed to another, friend or no.  Lucky for me, I’m past that particular stage in life. 

Unfortunately the front half of the theater is reserved for “special” people with green wristbands, while the first two rows are where the players are.  I take a seat in one of the first rows available for lepers with orange wristbands.  No need for me to squeeze in anywhere as there are two seats available.  I quickly toss my motorcycle gear in one seat and plop myself down in the other.  Nothing too eventful occurs for 30 minutes or so as the techs bring the audio and video online and we get our first glimpse at our “competition” in NY.

After some time and various antics from both crowds, two announcers come forth and begin their introductions.  The trash talking begins immediately, and the California crowd of 150+ is worked into a frenzy.  The games will be two-person teams playing five rounds of ten minutes each, with the opposing sides swapping between the two adversarial groups in the game: Mercenaries and Spies.  In between rounds various high-tech prizes would be raffled off, with everyone getting a grab bag at the end.

California won the coin toss and we selected to be the Spies.  The advantage for the spies were high-tech weapons such as tazers, flash bangs, chaff grenades, gas grenades, and the well known thermal / nigh vision goggles.  The mercenaries had lethal weapons, proximity mines, and sonar vision.  The spies only lethal weapon… sneaking up on your opponent and braking his neck.

The chosen field of battle: the Warehouse.  The crowd hushed itself to a whisper giving our players the ability to focus, but on each successful decontamination or paralyzing tazer hit the crowd would erupt in a cacophony of support.  When one of our players would be mowed down by enemy fire several members of the crowd would boo or hiss.  This, I realized, is probably what the Romans experienced in various coliseums across their empire.  The bloodlust of the group would increase during the course of the evening, broken only by moments of selfishness as everyone would check their raffle tickets to see if they were the lucky recipient of some high tech prize.

It was magical to see the game on the big screen, to watch as players were sent into seizures by jolts of electricity, to hear the crack of a spine breaking, or to see the new sonar vision.  This game was certainly a trend setter in visual effects, bringing us a level of detail other games wished for.  This latest version doesn’t disappoint.  Perhaps the best visual “effect” occurs when one experiences the business end of a flash-bang.  The screen actually displays a double image, and there is an acute high-pitched ringing from the speakers…  truly awe inspiring.

After they had raffled away the last item, a Kenwood home theatre system, to a teenage boy ( Is there no justice in this world? ) and the games had come to an end, they invited us to again partake of a little game play with the four consoles upstairs.  Not being a proficient console gamer I watched for a bit as others played and eventually made my way back downstairs to acquire my grab-bag of goodies.

The bag was a mix of typical marketing stuff but a few useful items were enclosed, such as 2 months of X-Box live for free (too bad I don’t have an X-Box) and $10 off at the UbiSoft store (too bad I already pre-ordered the game).  Hmm… maybe I can sell this stuff on Ebay.

Overall the experience was good.  The event was reasonably on time with NY having some technical difficulties at first and the players were a suitable mix of average and good.  Hopefully Ubisoft felt the experience was worth it and we can look forward to more of these events.

I’ll say this last part with the dignity and respect as one affords any worthy combatant on the field of battle… We smoked NY like a cheap pack of Marlboros:  LA 4 wins / NY 1 win.

“Digital Logic”

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