Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: USA, NY
Splinter Cell: Conviction, will "improve your kill-rate to 90%" when used in real lif
Former U.K. police officer and expert marksmen Paul Castle discusses why the Combat Axis Relock system he created, Sam Fisher's primary gun stance in Splinter Cell: Conviction, will "improve your kill-rate to 90%" when used in real life.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction, which is now available on Xbox 360 and PC with an iPhone version currently in development, features a number of innovative design choices that impact how the game is played. One element in particular, though, stands out because of the story behind how it was created: the way Sam Fisher holds his gun. While that may sound like a dreadfully boring gameplay feature to explore in an article, professional triggerman Paul Castle -- who devised the gun stance for real life combat -- would disagree. After all, his Center Axis Relock stance saves lives.
Center Axis Relock (C.A.R.) is the brainchild of former British police officer and trained S.W.A.T. team member Paul Castle. He's trained in the use of hand guns, shotguns, and chemical weapons. He's trained with Sub Machine Guns, long-range weapons and is a certified instructor in less lethal munitions and a master instructor in tactical explosive entry techniques. Castle's resume of deadly skills reads like the bio for an action hero. But his reasons for creating the C.A.R. system and teaching it to law enforcement and military personnel for more than 15 years is heroic.
Even after hours of exhaustive training in West Virginia, Paul Castle calls me with a charge in his voice, excited to discuss his life's work. Castle didn't work with Ubisoft Montreal directly on the development of Splinter Cell: Conviction, though. His Canadian stepson and fellow expert marksman Jeff Johnsgaard introduced the C.A.R. system to his friends on the game development team. According to Castle, he only became aware that his system was included in Splinter Cell: Conviction three months ago.
Castle explains that there are both technical and personal reasons for the C.A.R. system's development, which continues to evolve to this day. But According to Splinter Cell: Conviction lead designer Steve Masters, the decision to have Sam Fisher employ the C.A.R. system was a stylistic choice above all else. "It's a really pretty gun stance that nobody's seen in video games before. The C.A.R. system makes Fisher's movement during the Mark and Execute sequences possible too."
Over the last few years the system has seen steady growth in the public eye, something Castle says he was hesitant of when he first developed it.
"I've kept it pretty quiet," Castle says. "It's one of those things that worked so well, we didn't really want it to get out into the public domain before law enforcement and the military had a chance to learn it." Now the owner and operator of the Sabre Tactical Training Resource & Research, Castle first refused to teach civilians the C.A.R. system, but says the current "state of the world" prompted him to develop a nonmilitary version for public consumption.
"Most cops can't hit anything in a gunfight," Castle tells me, clarifying that it isn't an issue with training but with the reality of a moving, shooting target. According to Castle, his system was developed to ensure the survival of law enforcement and military personnel, if they are ever in the position to use their weapon.
"The latest statistics to come out of the F.B.I. about law enforcement shootings is that 54% of all police gunfights occur within six-feet and the hit-rate anywhere on the target is literally 18%. The kill-rate is 5%," says Castle. "What works well in a gun range can be fairly effective on the range. But when stuff gets real, those tactics fall apart. Utilizing the C.A.R. system increases both the hit-rate and kill-rate to 90%."
The public perception of how gunfights work is completely based on action films. "There's a difference between the real world and the reel world," says Castle. "In actual gunfights, it takes multiple direct hits to the center mass to down an enemy combatant."
As realistic as modern video games are, the real-world scenario described by Castle doesn't necessarily make for an exciting video game experience. "Realism can be bad for video games," Splinter Cell: Conviction lead designer Steve Master tells me. "We aim for realism when possible, but we're okay with going 'Hollywood' where it's needed."
Although he underwent years of training and conditioning, the expert marksman admits many of the traditional training methods are inherently flawed. "I started jumping out of helicopters and airplanes and blowing s**t up in the 90s. I wore 60-pounds of body armor and a lot of tactical equipment with a respirator on in a big black ninja suit. What I found was the stuff I was trained in didn't work. You just can't hold your weapon in real combat. What they train you to do on the range is ineffective."
Castle says that the professionals who have completed his course -- SEAL Team 3 operators, Navy Special Warfare units and other Special Forces -- agree that the system "really, truly works." Some disagree, criticizing the C.A.R. system and calling it potentially dangerous because it promotes a bladed stance, which exposes areas less protected by body armor, as well as the positioning of the weapon close to the shooter's body, which some believe breaks many basic gun safety rules. "Why are these people criticizing a stance if they've never been trained in it?" Castle asks, but then answers his own question. "The answer is that they are jealous and afraid that people will lose faith in what they do." According to Castle, most detractors of the C.A.R. system are competitors who cannot make the same accuracy and speed claims that his system can. "If the Weaver and Isosceles gun stances are so good, why is the hit-rate so awful?"
When using traditional body armor types, the vest is placed over a person's head with an overlapping layer placed over the side-ribcage and fastened to the front of the vest. "The side of the body is the only part of the body that has double the body armor." Castle explains. An inflection in his voice makes it clear he's had this conversation far more than he'd like. "Half of the cops shot dead are shot in the head. Body armor is not the savior of a cop, it's a back-up for good tactics."
In Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam Fisher is able to clear rooms of multiple enemies quickly and accurately using a single clip. While it makes for exhilarating gameplay, Castle points to it as being based purely on action-movie ideas.
"The bottom line is bullets don't work. That's a fact. I could show you video of someone with 17 or 30 bullets in them and they are still fighting the cops. Shot placement is everything," Castle explains. "If you walk into a room and shoot five people in the head they'll go down, but if you aim for the body, it could take 10, 12, or 15 rounds for them to go down." While Castle agrees it makes for a fun experience, allowing players to feel like a highly-trained soldier, it would be extremely difficult for even the best trained marksman to stalk prey like Sam Fisher does in Splinter Cell: Conviction.
The appearance of Paul Castle's system in Sam Fisher's latest adventure is one that Castle is extremely proud of. He's glad more people are eager to learn how the C.A.R. can save their life.
"I have spent the last fifteen years of my life trying to reach as many people as I can to train. As a result of this game coming out, you would not believe how many cops and soldiers have emailed me saying 'What's this C.A.R. system all about because we've seen it in Splinter Cell and want to know how it works."
For Castle, the most important thing is ensuring the survival of the men and women who protect our streets and our interests abroad. Although he's an expert marksman, he admits that a weapon isn't the first line of defense. The mantra of Sabre Tactical Training Resource & Research is "You'll only need a gun, until you need one badly." And to Castle, helping save the lives of brave men and women with C.A.R. is the most important thing he's done in his life.
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