Yesterday at E3, I got to follow up on one of the highlights of the Microsoft press conference, the return of Sam Fisher in Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell Black List. We got the chance to speak with Scott Lee, the Art Director for the game, and check out an extended walkthrough of the demo footage shown on stage Monday.

Sam is now in charge of Fourth Echelon, and the gameplay is more overt than ever before. Sam is a murder machine, exercising the game’s new priniple of “killing in motion” every time he sets his eyes on a marked man. That’s right, the Mark and Execute system introduced in Conviction is back and more brutal than ever. Sam vaults over cover, twists and turns before annihilating every foe in sight… unless he doesn’t want them dead.

That’s where the new interrogation system comes in, posing moral choices to players. Letting a captive live to wake up with a bad headache or meet the wrong end of Sam’s knife.  To state that this game is bloody and violent would be a gross understatment. Thankfully, Sam has some new tricks up his sleeve with a UAV at his disposal to rain down death upon the unsurmountable odds.

Sam’s bag of tricks is deep, with the agent slicing through thin fabric to sneak up on unsuspecting foes. He can also roll between cover, bash through doors and confuse and conquer with the use of breaching charges.  Still, watching the entiire thing, something didn’t seem quite right.

Sam looks better than ever, but he sounded… off. I followed up with Lee to confirm and get an explanation. The voice of Sam Fisher since the series’ inception on the Xbox, Michael Ironside, has passed the torch to friend and co-worker Eric Johnson. It was a hard decision, but a mutual one, according to Ubisoft.

The studio has developed a new motion capture technique that records movemets, musculature and voicing all at the ame time. I’m surprised that the recording couldn’t be recorded over top of the motion capture actor’s work. It leaves Sam feeling younger than he is. When I first saw the game, I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a prequel because of the change.

Thankfully, once you get used to the new Sam, the game comes together. Stealth fans will have to detatch from the oldeer iterations of the series that limited your alarms and bullets. Sam is hunting down the bad guys before they can do any more damage to the targets on the Black List.

Splinter Cell Black List arrives in 2013.