'Splinter Cell' returns with conviction. Featuring a revived Fisher, you will take on your former employer with fulminating cadence. Things are a little different this time around, with Sam dropping his goggles to becoming a savage hunter without remorse. In this new approach to a classic franchise, the time for sneaking is over, or is it?
After Ubisoft poured its heart and soul into its new disciple of stealth 'Altair,' they have finally put the final coats of polish on the original shadow-creeper, 'Sam Fisher.' The highly anticipated 'Splinter Cell' series finally returns, although as you might have heard, "Fisher" isn’t the old lock-picking, creaky floor watching agent from the past. Sam is a new man, a hurt, desperate soul who is out of the anti-terrorism game... or at least so he thinks. ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ takes Sam on a emotional driven ride that ties in with the death of his daughter, and his absence from the ‘Third Echelon.' This darker theme has enough gusto to interest a completely new group of gamers, while satisfying the old 'Fisher' vets with its merciless take on corruption.
This reviewer falls into the category of an old 'Fisher' vet. I have proudly finished every ‘Splinter Cell’ adventure that has come along, going way back to the series debut in 2002. Even with all the gameplay and graphical advancements, the core mechanics and story driven objectives have always been honourably consistent. This is true in ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’, and even though the gameplay has been substantially altered from the pervious editions, the narrative is still as strong as ever, and the action is extremely gratifying. Actually, since the storyline is a little more personal, I found myself enjoying ‘Conviction’ tale as much, if not more, than the previous titles. Poor Sam, your turmoil gives me pleasure.
In a switch up from the previous editions of ‘Splinter Cell’ games, Sam will be fighting outside as much as in. From introductory level, 'Merchant's Street Market', to other notable levels like 'Washington Monument,' and 'Lincoln Memorial,’ Sam is out in the daylight which is totally opposite from what we have grown accustom to. That doesn’t mean that ‘Conviction’ doesn’t have its share of cramped corridors because it does.
Outside in the sun, 'Conviction' plays out as an exercise in path finding and cat-and-mouse manoeuvres. Like pervious games, the A.I. can be intuitive, and in same right, downright forgetful and dumb-- until you bump up the difficulty. With the difficulty pumped up, you have to be much more cautious as you sneak through the maze like levels. This is when ‘Conviction’ starts to live up to the ‘Splinter Cell’ brand by providing a strong challenge for even the most hardened stealth vets. ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ isn’t as easy as some other media outlets made it out to be. In certain aspects regarding a few of the new features I would agree, but I wouldn't go as far as saying the entire experience is easier. ‘Conviction’ has it moments, and some sequences are downright irritatingly fun! Needless to say, I reloaded a lot in ‘Conviction.’
As you can see ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ isn’t your average ‘Splinter Cell’ undertaking, a lot has changed. The main shift in ‘Conviction’ is the emphasis away from stealth. Sam is now free to unholster his weapon at any time, unlike the previous ‘Splinter Cell’ games that frowned upon killing and even discouraged it. Gone is the old motto - if you kill someone, you are restarting. There are no more knockouts (well, Sam will knock you out and then drive a bullet in you to make sure you’re done,) no more tried-and-true method of dragging bodies to cover your tracks... Sam is a straight up badass, unregulated and free... although, I don’t see why all the features where removed, since a few of the old standby's like body dragging would have been handy. I know ‘Ubisoft’ wanted to stress the point that this is war, and Fisher simply does not care, but was this level of sacrifice necessary? In doing so it kind of feels like the care is gone from the craft.
In the other hand, allowing the gamer more freedom to fire on the enemy opens up some new ways to play the game, however, this doesn't mean it is always the best option. Firing on enemies with, or without sound suppression will always be the risky way to go, even when you are armed with a sub-machine gun. First off, Sam cannot absorb too much punishment before he falls to the ground for the classic restart, and secondly, the targeting system is a little wish-washy feeling a little too loose. Actually, the whole game plays a little loose and does not feel as grounded as the older editions. It could be the new slant towards action, but ‘Conviction’ seems a little sloppy in some areas. Let's not even get into the horribly misplaced Iraq run-and-gun mission that plays out like a bad outtake from ‘Ghost Recon.’
Mark and Execute
To tilt the power back in your hands is a new feature called ‘Mark and Execute’ that pushes ‘Conviction’ even closer a straight-up action game. ‘Mark and Execute’ allows Sam mark his enemies ahead of time and then shoots them down with the click of the button. ‘Rainbow Six’ fans should be familiar with this feature, as it has been implemented in that series as part of your squad tactics. To keep the balance of power somewhat even Sam has to earn each 'M&E' by performing hand-to-hand kills. This encourages players to try their hand in stealth. Depending on the weapon, you can mark up to 2-4 enemies at once. When executed, Sam performs these kills it a stylistic fashion. Now, you don't have to use this feature, but it can relieve you from some tricky spots. In my game, I used it a few times, here and there, but the old Fisher in me that had me stuck in my stealthy ways, trying to refrain from its special powers.
This Gadget Goes Bang
Another major shift comes in the way of gadgets. 'Spinter Cell' always had the coolest gadgets for Sam to use to his advantage; however, that is also gone to a certain degree, as Fisher relays on more simple means to help his adventure along the way. The gadgets aren't totally removed, as Ubisoft cleverly switches up your under-the-door snake with a broken side-view mirror from a car, along with some other, more conventional alternatives. Sam's new toys are explosives in the form of remote mines, portable EMP distributors, and more. A little bang is always fun, and something new for 'Splinter Cell' fans. There is also a nice surprise which comes a little over half-way through your adventure. Without spoiling the surprise, expect a little deep sea tinkering.
The weapon selection in Conviction is nothing special with a standard assortment of pistols, sub-machine guns, and shotguns. Adding a little twist, Sam can upgrade his weapons with points that he earn by checking off small objectives (P.E.C. Challenges) like performing silent headshots, neutralizing an enemy using ‘Death from Above,’ stunning an enemy with a flashbang or EMP and taking out the enemy, and more. The upgrades give you extended magazines, improved hollow point ammunition, 2X and 4X scopes, and other improvements to boost weapons proficiency. To upgrade you simply go through the menu of the dropped weapon stashes that are scattered around each level. I liked the minor objectives, the P.E.C. challenges are fun to try to achieve, however, upgrading your weapons felt unnecessary.
The stealthy shadow play has been adjusted in ‘Conviction’ and it is a change I really didn't enjoy. Gone are the green goggles and light meters for a black and white view when hidden, and full colour when you are not. This is a cool effect (thanks Saboteur) but it makes it harder to spot the lighting dynamics. In previous games, you really had to watch the light sources and map out your movements ahead of time, which was immersing and a lot of fun. In 'Conviction,' you can simply run around until the screen goes grey and then slow down. Planning is still useful, but not as necessary as before. I could not believe how much I could cheat under this new system, and how little I had to shoot out lights our use the environments to my advantage. I understand the switch here, aesthetically it looks cool, but I missed the dynamics the old system played with.
Best with Friends
If you have a friend who also own a copy of the game, 'Conviction' turns into another beast with many fun modes to play through. There are slight instances of online lag, but nothing a little patience cannot cure. Co-op play includes three main section of play; a Co-Op Campaign, Denied Ops, and a Multiplayer mode. Denied Ops consists of two modes, ‘Hunter’ which has you hunting down the enemy with new enemies being added when you are spoted, and a ‘Gears of War’ styled ‘Horde’ mode called ‘Last Stand.’ Both modes can be played solo, or with friends. The multiplayer modes consist of the Denied Ops modes along with ‘Infiltration,’ and ‘Face-Off.’ Each mode has enough to bite into for a while if your going alone, and even better if you have a friend. Hooking up with strangers does not seem to fair as well, simply because you have to find a similar personality to play with. This writes off the co-op modes for the lone wolf gamers, who initially where the target audience of ‘Splinter Cell.’ Ubisoft did a great job with the multiplayer component in ‘Conviction,’ however like most Co-Op games, the value of the experience comes down to whose online.
One of the best ways to describe ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ is by referencing another Ubisoft series that decided to stray away from its roots and make a more action-based game, and that game is ‘Rainbow Six: Lockdown.’ 'Lockdown' was the ACTION edition of 'Rainbow Six' that pushed the core gameplay of tactics to the background for a more scripted action-oriented experience. The result was an average ‘Rainbow’ game that was good enough, but not exactly what the fans wanted. ‘Lockdown’ was no ‘Raven Shield,’ like ‘Conviction’ is no ‘Chaos Theory.’ ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ is good... but it’s not exactly what we wanted.
When filing expectations away, 'Splinter Cell: Conviction' is a solid action game filled with suspense, drama, and nail-biting action. There are plenty superb moments as the unleashed 'Sam Fisher' to make picking up 'Conviction' a worthwhile investment. However, the lone wolf gamer should keep in mind that the single player campaign is fairly short, so you will need to head online if you want a little more out of your experience. Now that the lockdown its over, lets get Sam back on that leash, and back to the basics.
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 05.03.10
- Solid storyline with a few nice twists
- Environments are well crafted with a good amount of detail
- Graphics might not be the sharpest, but they are solid
- Solid sound design with a wild off-beat techno driven soundtrack
- If you didn't like holstering your weapon, you're free now!
- Co-Op play is extremely satisfying.... with friends
- P.E.C. Challenges expand replay value
- Shooting mechanics are a little sloppy
- Miss some of the stealthier aspects like dragging bodies
- Needs more freedom in each environment
- Single player campaign is too short
- For the first time Splinter Cell isn't leading the graphics race
- Weirdly placed "Iraq War" mission
- Weapon upgrading is unnecessary
- Controls have a slight learning curve
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