Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction review
Sam Fisher is back and deadlier than ever.


This ain't your uhh... older brothers Splinter Cell

While the stealth genre isn’t consistently churning out hit after hit, or gem after gem if you will, a few titles have achieved comfortable levels of success in the years following the original Metal Gears practically single handedly created the genre way back when back in 1987. A lot of things have changed since then, most for the better including pixels no longer being able to be counted on a single hand and us U.S. gamers no longer having to suffer through atrocious translations (“I feel asleep”).

Also Solid Snake is no longer the only face of the genre. While, yes he’s still the poster boy, appearing most recently in the excellent MGS4, many other contenders have arisen over the years to take the mantle from him including the likes of Agent 47, Ezio, and yes the one who genre fans usually agree has come the closest, splinter cell operative Sam Fisher.

Well now after an extended hiatus Mr. Fisher is back and once again ready to fight for the right of best stealth game in town. While I don’t think he’s quite yet taken the mantle of sneakiest sleuth from Solid Snake, in my opinion this is the closest any of his competitors have ever come.

The Gameplay
While I can’t say I’ve never seen a series try to re-invent itself this drastically, I can honestly say that this is the best I’ve ever seen that risk pay off as the boys at Ubisoft have a lot to be proud of. Taking what used to be a fairly traditional, slow paced stealth game and turning it into a slick action/stealth hybrid couldn’t have been an easy task yet the results speak for themselves.

Now before longtime fans of the series begin to fret, rest assured that for the most part this still has the soul classic splinter cell. Hell in the first half of a mission that takes place in the later stages of the game, being spotted results in promptly being sent to a “You Failed!” screen, evoking a feeling of the old system where so many alarms would terminate the operation. Sam Fisher still works best in the shadows and is still at his most deadly when he isn’t being seen. However now isn’t completely reliant upon the shadows or conveniently placed pipes.

Sam is now in possession of the best cover system in a TPS this side of Gears, and he is able to deftly move from behind a desk to the edge of a wall with the simple press of the A button. And if a guard waltz’s by you while you’re pressed against the wall, just hit B to watch Sam incapacitate the poor sap up close and personal.

The controls work well enough for the most part however issues do arise from time to time. Like most modern games, SC has a “do-it-all” button that does everything from moving to a new piece of cover, to opening doors, to operating light switches, and even picking up weapons. So if you kill a guy with a cool gun in front of a door you might have a helluva hard time trying to claim it as your own. Or after an intense firefight resulting in bodies in every which way, and guns are plentiful, it can be hard to retrieve the exact gun it is you’re after.

However as I said, for the most part the controls work, and it’s easier than ever before to yank a guy out of a window, then grab his friend as a human shield before using the new trademark (and badass) mark and execute feature to take out 3 of his friends. And M&E is exactly as it sounds, where after sneaking up to CQC your hapless target and pressing right bumper, Sam effortlessly takes out the foes in a bit of slow motion goodness.

And I’d be remiss, if I forgot to mention the games other trademark feature, which is interrogating people although sadly, this one fails to live up to its promise. At predetermined points in the game you will come across individuals who know something that Sam doesn’t, and of course that simply won’t fly. Using a handful of objects in his environment to beat the living snot out of the guy is visually brutal, although this is counterbalanced by how simple the system truly is.

Grab guy by throat, bring him over to a deadly looking object, and then press the melee button so that Fisher can usually bash the man’s face into it. Do this until you hit the predetermined number of times and the info is yours. No thought involved, the system is laughably outclassed by what we’ve seen before in titles like True Crime and The Punisher, and those are two games that released on the previous console generation.

The Story
Never a big deal for the previous outings, Ubisoft has pushed the narrative front and center for Conviction and the effort pays off remarkably. This is easily the best story to grace the series, as it manages to avoid the techno babble and generic terrorist plots that seem to plague most games bearing the Tom Clancy name.

The game continues where Double Agent left off with San Fisher no longer on friendly terms with those he use to work for at Third Echelon after being forced to betray Lambert. After hearing a tip that the death of his daughter may have been intentional and not some drunk driver, Sam begins down a path of destruction that won’t end until he has all of the answers that he seeks.

Instead of saving the free world or whatever it was Sam was usually up to (although he is ‘blackmailed to help out the president which fills out the B story), it’s a much more personal story that you actually end up caring about. A moment that occurs near the end of the game is a perfect showcasing of the studios evolving storytelling abilities, as they manage to throw in a plot twist that had me going WTF. For any game, although specifically one under the Tom Clancy brand, that is a truly impressive feat indeed.

The Co-op mode also serves as a prequel to the campaign but it is nowhere near as strong as the main games. Usual Clancy fare where you’re dispatched to stop the selling of some warheads that turn out to be EMP’s or whatever. Though I do have to give credit where it’s due, as the finale caps off the co-op story, with an ending that may leave more than a few jaws hanging.

The Presentation/Features

Conviction isn’t the most technically advanced game out there but its graphics get the job done, and the game has a unique art style that makes it very pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately if your being sneaky the great looking world will be somewhat diluted more often than not as the world fades to a black and white palette to indicate that you are hidden.

It’s odd that couldn’t have thought of another HUDless way to show that you can’t be seen but it could just be personal taste on my part that resulted in me not liking the transition. However on the plus side, mission objectives and other important things to note are displayed in a photo reel like manner on the walls and I can see numerous other games copying the technique.

Audio as always is excellent with the sounds of doors opening, footsteps, and gunfire all being brought to life. Voice acting remains of high quality throughout the whole endeavor bringing the story to life even more than it would have been. However enemies have a habit of talking way too much, giving their positions away during firefights, and making the game even easier than it already is.

I already mentioned the co-op mode although it must be brought up again because it is simply one of the best co-op experiences to grace the 360 in years. While it lacks the interaction with your teammate that the previous games contained, it has some awesome set pieces and it will require you and your teammate to be in communication the entire time. Outside of that you can engage in deniable ops which are more co-op affairs that see you and a buddy either defending an EMP , or trying to kill as many waves of enemies as you possibly can. Ubisoft seriously wants you to be played with a friend, as the co-op campaign lasts about 8 hours and it can be fun to try and climb the leaderboards with friends.

If you want you can compete against a friend while AI controlled enemies attempt to kill both of you indiscriminately. However the competitive multiplayer modes pale in comparison to spies vs mercs of old and is sure to have many a long time SC fan shaking their head, while wondering what could have been.

The Verdict
Splinter Cell: Conviction is a new high mark for the series, and if it represents a new direction for the series I am more than convinced it is the right way to proceed. Yes it is going to alienate a few of its old fans with its quicker pace, however the new cinematic presentation of the campaign and lightning quick gameplay will deservedly win over many more. Sam Fisher can now add starring in a near perfect blend of the action and stealth genre to his impressive list of accomplishments.

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0 thumbs!
Monterey Jack Jul 18, 11

You forgot to double break most of your paragraphs!
0 thumbs!
Solid Snake 4Life Jul 20, 11
didn't look as cluttered in MS word lol.
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