Game Review: Splinter Cell Conviction
Release: 13th April (NA), 16th April (EU)
Genre: Action, Stealth
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available Platforms: 360, PC
Players: 1 (1-2 online)
ESRB Rating: M
Splinter Cell Conviction has been through hell. It has had massive gameplay and engine revamps, complete redesigns and was cancelled at three points of it’s lifetime. The question on everybody’s mind is: has it lived up to its failures? The short answer is: yes. The long answer is… well this very review. Splinter Cell is a treasured franchise in my heart, embodying the cold hibernated carcass that is the Hitman series. Conviction intends to spin the take this expansive sub-genre on its heels and drag it outside kicking and screaming.
The main idea of Conviction is ‘fast paced stealth shoot ’em up’. You’ll have to sneak around for ages, take some guy down and then do some trickery. Aside from some instances, you’re going to have to use all of your resources and patience to get through a section. Planning can take minutes, it’s just what you get with this franchise. When you play without a strategy guide and maybe even invite a friend round, the single-player campaign can improve conventionally. There’s a co-op mode added to be the multiplayer treat. It’s a full on campaign for you and your mate or cat or CIA operative to cleanse through.
Hitman fanatics (hello!) would have you believe that Mark and Execute is blasphemy against the genre. I say otherwise. Mark and execute is something you can utilise have you take down a guard with a hand to hand move. You mark targets with the right bumper and then execute them with the Y button. Sam will quickly swish swash with his pistol and curve bullets to make him break up to four people’s skulls with bullets. It’s not a ‘win’ button but we’ll get to that later. Aside from all the usual gadgetry – remote cameras, EMP grenades, frag grenades – all feels at home in this instalment of the series. The only alienated part for me is that Sam is on the run, out of his league and fighting the menace that he was so loyal to.
To start off: Conviction is incredibly fun. It’s satisfying for your plans to play out and gives you a sense of personal achievement. Given the arrangement of the mechanics, the game is a functioning third-person shooter. Something which is exploited in a few instances. You’ll land headshots, clamber around pipes, pull fools out of windows. It feels all so smooth and dynamic. When you fail it doesn’t feel like the game is being stupid, you’re just not paying enough attention. Sam’s new goggles, the Sonar goggles, let you mark targets through walls. You can essentially skip the whole ‘breaking necks’ thing and go throughout the level in a pacifist manner. It depends on your play style really, and how you play your cards right.
Right down to the bone there’s still some issues. The plot isn’t as engaging as past Splinter Cell games, some of the scenes and particular end-game are incredible to say the least however, and I’d like to see a more raggedy Sam. For 3 years since Double Agent he isn’t exactly looking weathered, I’m not thinking emo Sam like early trailers but more of a battered Fisher. I had some connection issues with the co-op and it’s not exactly the prettiest game in the world. At times it’s downright ugly. To add to all the grave visual misery is the third-person mission sections. There’s a whole level dedicated to you shooting dudes in the face. It feels like a complete miscarriage of the patience and effort you put into the main sections, it’s blasphemy against its own ethos.
All in all I hope this direction, that Ubisoft wants to take the franchise, works out. The story isn’t memorable and easily sworn off, but the way it’s told is remarkable. It’s through your very mission objectives and little video clips playing around on the environment. At the interrogation scenes within the game, you’ll be smashing a dude into a urinal while a video clip of his boss plays on the wall behind. It all feels very fluid and radical, and I want to see this done more in games. The co-op campaign itself deserves a special mention for both breaking my mind about everything I did for four hours and just for being downright fun. I played it with Krazy XP (an editor on this site) and aside from connection issues and lag we had an absolute blast.
I talked about mind breaking. Conviction’s main story has an absolute jailbreaker of a moral choice at the end, and it’s real hard to decide. The co-op story ending is something that shouldn’t be spoiled, but you need to go into it without looking at the achievements or getting it spoiled. It’s something to be said when you have to do something like that after four hours of sneaking around with your best friend.
Nath’s final say: Conviction is an absolute thrillride. People say it’s short but I’ve already got 12 hours out of it. This is the very evolution of stealth gameplay, something completely original and (coming from a Hitman fanatic) Agent 47 has a lot to top this.