I had a problem. I had to complete the Splinter Cell Co-Op campaign, but my co-op buddy was gone for the weekend. So be it. I turned on the game and prepared to wield two controllers.
Let me take you back to last Friday, when I decided to — ugh — work from home so that I could finish the co-op campaign of Splinter Cell: Conviction.
I had finished the solo campaign on my own and had found a stolen moment here or there to network my review copy of Ubisioft's game to that of MTV's Russ Frushtick. But Friday was the last day we could play and a certain lawsuit (and dinner plans) was causing just enough distraction that I knew we wouldn't finish.
I struggled to figure out how I would finish the co-op campaign, something I felt I had to do before I would run a Kotaku review of Splinter Cell Conviction.
But on Saturday morning I began to try the impossible: playing the game's fourth chapter with two controllers, clearing co-op on my own.
Wireless controller in hand, I placed a second, wired Xbox 360 controller next to me on the couch and was immediately confronted with the foolishness of my endeavor. The fourth chapter begins in zero-tolerance phase. The co-op characters, an American and a Russian spy, presumably controlled by separate gamers, would have to sneak through a loading dock full of tractor trailers, get inside a warehouse filled with guards and activate a device. If either of them was detected and an alarm was raised the mission would be terminated. In other words, I failed when I tried to sneak the American through while leaving the Russian standing behind.
So I had the Russian hide under a truck while the American sneaked through. The American dropped some bodies. That made the enemy alert and passage tougher from the Russian, who I took control of once I got the American into the shadows.
I kept failing the mission, until, well, I got them both through. The secret was to play it as if was two successive single-player runs through that challenge.
My strategy did not work during the next part of the co-op campaign. That's when the controller-juggling began. Picture a man trying to drive two cars at once, stretching to reach both steering wheels with a foot on each accelerator. Kind of hard to do.
Instead, I found an exploit. I could move one guy ahead and not worry too much if he'd get caught in a stranglehold or even shot prone. Those moments trigger countdowns, seconds ticking before oxygen is lost or life drifts away. But during those moments, I realized, the man in trouble was actually safe. As soon as he'd be in that predicament I grabbed the other controller and either sprinted over if I needed to kill the choker, or crept over if I needed to merely revive my other guy.
Sometimes, though, during the choking bit, my non-choked guy would get shot. At these moments I became as fleet with hands as a pianist. My second guy, shot, would go down prone. But Conviction lets the shot character sit up and fire. The choked character, meanwhile, standing but being throttled, can elbow the choker to make a kill-shot from the other player available. So imagine me activating the distraction elbow on one controller, then having the prone guy sit up with the other controller and fire a shot at the choker. THEN... I would resume control of the guy who was being choked, dash over to the now-sitting shot guy and revive him. And then I'd have to figure out how to run both guys to the shadows.
It wasn't easy.
My solo co-op skills improved as I played, but the end of the fourth chapter defeated me. To those who have reached it, know that I was able to deactivate the turret on my own, but I could not get both guys to the plane. I tried for two hours.
Then I hit the game's playable epilogue, and, without spoiling what happens, just rest assured that I was able to clear that part on my own.
Bottom line: You can play much of Splinter Cell: Conviction's co-op campaign on your own, split-screen with two controllers. But it's really unwise.