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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

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  • X360

Conviction modernizes Splinter Cell's stealth-action formula in a lot of ways, and it's partnered with a quality story that makes playing it worth your while.


Forget darkness, these sonar goggles let you see enemies through walls. 
There are no night-vision goggles in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sam Fisher, the franchise's star, doesn't need them anymore, because Conviction modernizes its long-running stealth-action formulas in ways that make the game appeal to people who--like myself--have never quite been able to wring much enjoyment out of the previous entries in the series. While I'd guess that stalwart Splinter Cell fans might find this new approach to be a bit more simplified and straightforward than they're used to, the end result is a very modern-feeling game that falls more in line with other stealth-optional action games than with its own legacy.

The story finds Sam Fisher out of the professional espionage game. His daughter is dead and he's got no reason to go on other than finding revenge. As he tracks down someone he suspects is associated with Sarah Fisher's demise, Sam is quickly roped back into Third Echelon's business. It seems that since his time there, the agency has fallen under the leadership of some extremely conniving individuals, who are scheming to do some very bad stuff on American soil. Under the promise of learning more about his daughter, Fisher sets out on a new mission. With its heavy focus on a former agent going up against his old colleagues and the civilian look that Fisher sports throughout the game, Conviction feels more like something out of the Jason Bourne playbook than a Splinter Cell game. Swap out Fisher's family-related rage for Matt Damon's identity-seeking Bourne and Anna "Grim" Grimsdóttír for Joan Allen's Pamela Landy and you'd hardly notice the difference.

Comparisons aside, the story of Splinter Cell: Conviction is more than enough to keep you moving through the adventure, which will probably take most players somewhere around seven hours to complete. The twists are, ultimately, pretty predictable, but most of the performances are solid and the environments you're sent through, which range from government buildings to Gulf War flashbacks, have a nice variety to them. Throughout the entire game, though, your goal is to get from point A to point B, and the game usually doesn't care about how you get there. If you're sneaky enough to creep around your opposition, that's fine. In fact, there are a couple of spots in the game where detection leads to a failure and restart. But for the most part, this game is about Sam Fisher hiding behind cover, popping out to shoot a bad guy or two in the face with a silenced pistol, then creeping to another spot of cover to do it again. When you're spotted, the enemies head in your direction, and the game uses a cool "last known position" system to show an outline of where the enemies think you are. This lets you set up situations where you flank around to the side, giving you clear shots while the dopes head right for where they last saw you, rather than assuming that you'd continue to be on the move and behaving a little more carefully.

Objectives are projected onto the environment, which is a pretty neat little trick. 
There's also a powerful "mark and execute" system, which is a sort of supermove that lets you tag a handful of enemies (the number increases with certain weapons and by buying some upgrades) and automatically shoot them all, one right after the other. To prevent this from breaking the game, you can only perform the execution move after you've killed one guy via a melee attack. Also, you can only store up one execute at a time, so melee killing an entire room doesn't let you cruise through the rest of the level on auto-pilot. Obviously, from a balance perspective, there needs to be some kind of limit on how frequently you can automatically bag a room full of bad guys. But from the "reality" side of things, having to melee kill someone first doesn't really make any sense. Perhaps Fisher can only pull off multiple headshots after he's tasted the blood of his victims? Whatever. It's not the end of the world, but the game takes itself pretty seriously from start to finish, so this weird requirement sort of stands out as pretty silly.

By the end of the game, you'll have acquired quite an arsenal of EMP grenades, remote cameras, an assortment of fully automatic rifles, and so on. But most of it feels unnecessary. While you can go through guns blazing, careful use of a silenced pistol remains the most accurate and effective way to move through the game. Most of the submachine guns and assault rifles feel wildly inaccurate by comparison, so there's really no need to employ them except in the rare couple of cases where a room you're in gets flooded by alert enemy soldiers. For the most part, Fisher's weapon collection feels slightly more effective on the multiplayer side of things.

The same weapon selection you have in the single-player game, and whatever upgrades you've purchased for those weapons, carries over to the other modes. These are the multiplayer modes, where a total of two players can go through a quick cooperative campaign, complete with its own story and agents. These agents also factor into the other modes, which have you protect an area from waves of enemies, work your way through the map to hunt down AI enemies, or go up against one another in "face-off" mode. This is a big departure from the multiplayer found in the last Splinter Cell game, but it's nice because it sticks to the series' strengths and uses the same mechanics that also work in the single-player. You can also play some of the modes by yourself, and there's an offline split-screen mode that you can use for multiplayer, if you like.

 The game's twists keep you wondering who you're really working for right up to the end.
Visually, Splinter Cell: Conviction usually looks pretty nice. You'll catch the occasional rough texture here and there, and some of the transitions between animations don't line up quite right on a few of the melee kills. But things like running and sliding into cover, or hanging upside-down from a pipe while shooting at your opponents look pretty cool. Most of the voice cast is decent, but the enemies sound like idiots when they're looking for you, with some of them repeating the same or extremely similar lines of dialogue while sniffing you out. Sam Fisher himself, once again voiced by Michael Ironside, often sounds a little off. While some of that makes storyline sense--Fisher's meant to be a few years out of the game and mentally unstable due to the loss of his daughter, after all--some of his lines come off a little slurred, like someone was stashing a little wine in the voiceover booth.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is the most accessible Splinter Cell game yet. It gives you the firepower to shoot your way out of your mistakes, but also makes the stealth side of things fun, rewarding, and significantly easier than just attempting to run around and shoot. Its only serious issue is that it doesn't feel especially substantial or replayable. The multiplayer is a nice touch, but most players will probably see all of the content once and find little reason to return. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
141 Comments
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Posted by Yummylee

Dayum that was fast O.O
Posted by Allprox

BOOM!!! Pay up Vinny!

Posted by Wes899

Nice. I'll have to check this. Also, no NV?! :(

Posted by Zamir

the upset of the year RYAN WINS RYAN WINS

Online
Posted by kennybaese

This game looks really really rad, and I'm super bummed that it's not coming out on PS3. My roommate has an XBox... I need to get him to pick it up.  I wanna smash some heads through toilet seats.

Online
Posted by Jacob816

Holy, fuck Ryan wins! Never would have thought that would happen.

Posted by Meltac

Vinny lost :( and good review ^^

Posted by General_D23


Poor Vinny.

 
Nice to see the game being well received. Will probably pick it up in a few weeks.

Posted by takua108

I was surprised to see the NVG thing be in the first sentence. 
 
Damn, now I'm going to have to rent this.

Edited by Delta_Ass

It's a shame that you weren't able to wring much enjoyment from the previous entries, Jeff. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is one of the best games ever made.

Posted by kingjulesxii

Will definitely pick up today. Nice review, Jeff.

Posted by CitizenKane

Should be getting this from GameFly tomorrow.  Can't wait!

Posted by ScottishGamer

I love how the first sentence just addresses the non existence of night vision goggles in the game. I mean what other game magazine or website would address that issue first!? 
 
No one and that sir is why Giant Bomb rules! 
 
P.S. Unlucky Vinny :(

Posted by Robiin
@takua108 said:
" I was surprised to see the NVG thing be in the first sentence.  Damn, now I'm going to have to rent this. "
That was what I thought.  First sentence, BAM.

Also; very good review!
Posted by MrDaravon

Can't believe Ryan was right!

Posted by Sjupp

No good replay values? Bummer.. Might think twice before I get this then.

Posted by NoXious

Aw too bad Vinny, nice call Ryan!

Posted by EisforExtinction

First line of the review. Haha, awesome.

Posted by Jimbo

Ryan may have won, but Vinny was right in my eyes.  I hope that is some comfort in this difficult time.

Posted by ZeroCast

Ryan WINS.
 
Exquisitely written review Sir Gerstmann.

Posted by Quacktastic

The goggles are still in the game.  They look exactly the same and make that same noise.  They are just 'sonar' now instead of night vision, because they wanted to copy Batman.  Vinny got robbed!

Posted by Wes

Awesome, was waiting for this review. Glad to see you liked it Jeff; I was hesitant to pick this up but now I just might.

Posted by chmod

Wow Ryan. Insane prediction. I mean, seriously, who expected him to win this bet when listening to that podcast.

Posted by PosableActionFigure
@Quacktastic said:
" The goggles are still in the game.  They look exactly the same and make that same noise.  They are just 'sonar' now instead of night vision, because they wanted to copy Batman.  Vinny got robbed! "
Hardly. They specifically established that the goggles must be night vision, and that the sonar goggles will not count even if they look identical.
Posted by bobthecannibal

Will have to pick this up on release. Ryan use the $50 to start researching sonar goggles.

Posted by StingingVelvet

I just don't agree with praising accessibility and "modernizing" personally.  Chaos Theory was an amazing game, it did not force trial and error gameplay, and throwing its awesome out the window to try and appeal more to Halo players just annoys me.
 
Am I not supposed to be annoyed?  I mean, that is how I feel.  I have been gaming for 25 years now and that whole time games have been getting more and more stupid and common, and for a while there that was nice but now it's just not the hobby I love anymore in many cases.  Reviews like this that praise these changes just baffle me.
 
Oh well, I know I am the minority.  I know games rival movies for mainstream dollars now and thus will get more and more streamlined and mainstreamed.  Luckily on the PC we have a ton of indie and small developer games to play, and all the classics still work with rare exception, so it's not all doom and gloom.

Posted by TadThuggish

Ohhhhh shiiiiiiiiit, I guess this game suuuuuuuuuucks!

Posted by MattBodega

I'm GLAD that Ryan won the bet. The whole idea about Splinter Cell having or not having Night Vision Goggles was a debate about the direction Ubisoft was taking the franchise: was the new Splinter Cell game going to jettison many of the aspect and gameplay elements of the previous game to cement it as a brand new direction for the series? Or was the game team, afraid of isolating long time fans and beholden to convention, unable to pull the trigger on removing "key elements" and thus keeping the game from becoming...well, modern. 
Vinny's bet was totally sensible, because it was banking that Ubisoft would not be able to totally commit to it's "new" take on the series. Ryan's bet that Ubisoft would make the harder, more difficult, less audience friendly choice....and, lo and behold, Ubisoft stepped up to the challenge.
 
...Oh, and the game sounds pretty fun, too.

Posted by LordAndrew

I like how Jeff tells us the most important part right up front.
No sale, sorry.

Posted by Crono
@StingingVelvet said:
" I just don't agree with praising accessibility and "modernizing" personally.  Chaos Theory was an amazing game, it did not force trial and error gameplay, and throwing its awesome out the window to try and appeal more to Halo players just annoys me.  Am I not supposed to be annoyed?  I mean, that is how I feel.  I have been gaming for 25 years now and that whole time games have been getting more and more stupid and common, and for a while there that was nice but now it's just not the hobby I love anymore in many cases.  Reviews like this that praise these changes just baffle me.  Oh well, I know I am the minority.  I know games rival movies for mainstream dollars now and thus will get more and more streamlined and mainstreamed.  Luckily on the PC we have a ton of indie and small developer games to play, and all the classics still work with rare exception, so it's not all doom and gloom. "
I agree with you on a lot of your points.  Jeff's review kind of makes me think that the game will be way too easy.  I will just have to wait until GameFly sends it my way to find out.
Posted by LethalKi11ler

Starting with the night-vision line made the review so much more appealing :P

Edited by Kowbrainz

Haha. Somehow I just knew the first sentence of this was going to state where the night vision goggles were at. I am not disappointed. :)

Posted by Carnage1290

I would totally agree with the Jason Bourne vibe this game gives off.  Dropping down from the ceiling to take out that required melee kill then pressing one button to have Sam drop two or more other soldiers is really badass and feels very Bourne with the way the camera moves and how fast everything is pulled off.

Posted by Echo

Vinny, pay the man.

Posted by Cynic04
@StingingVelvet: 
I know exactly what you're saying, tho I do appreciate the modern game.  If you haven't yet, you should check out some European PC games.  I recently played through Empire: Total War, Stalker: Call of Pripyat, and Kings Bounty: Armored Princess, and the main thing I noticed is that they all lack that dumbed down mass appeal quality you were talking about.  It seems like the PC market over there favors depth and challenge over polish and accessibility.
Posted by papercut

pay up Vinny!

Posted by HT101

Man, I did not expect this to come to pass this way.  I am totally blown away that there are no NVGs at all in the game.  It also does sound a little too easy but I will need to try it out first to see if that is true.  I also love how the NVG issue was settled at the very beginning.

Posted by Cynic04

Anyone notice the guy Sam Fischer is choking out on the cover art is wear night vision goggles, ironic?

Posted by Jazz

Other reviews have claimed that its only 5 hours at a quick run through... 
Fair enough most people take their time, but I couldn't care less about multiplayer. Paying 70euros (which is almost $96) for a 5-8 hour game, however great those 5-8 hours are..is just not kosher. Paying $60 or £39.99 isn't on either as far as i'm concerned.
Its about as Kosher as Christmas. 
Otherwise this game looks fantastic. 
Nice to see the long running feud has at last been solved.

Posted by ComradeCrash

Cool...I want this game but finals are coming and when those are done Alan Wake will be out. I might have to put this game on hold.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

And a chapter in GB history comes to a close.

Posted by Bayne

I wanna get this game. But have neither time nor money to play it. And then theres alan wake which is looking preety stong amongst other games. Well if this takes off i might get it but we shall see how the gaming populace takes to it.

Posted by wwfundertaker

Cant wait for the bombcast now.

Posted by masterpaperlink

waaa no night vision goggles???? What the hell is this

Posted by moelarrycurly

A fine review indeed.  Now we need a video showing Vinny handing Ryan the money.

Edited by chogi

NOBODY SHOULD WIN IF YOU ASK ME! I think Ryan's argument should be voided with sonar goggles as well since I think he was referring to Sam Fisher not relying on gadgets anymore when he made the bet. 
Full Disclosure: I was with Vinny this entire time with the googles. I'm saddened to see him lose considering that there were actual googles (that functions pretty much like night vision ones) WITH 3 LIGHTS ON IT!

Posted by Uberjannie

Isnt soon time to leave the Unreal 2 Engine behind and upgrade?
Its lacking for a current gen game when it comes to physics, lightning, animations.. you get my drift.
Im going to play it anyways, because it has coop ^^

Posted by twillfast
@chogi said:
" NOBODY SHOULD WIN IF YOU ASK ME! I think Ryan's argument should be voided with sonar goggles as well since I think he was referring to Sam Fisher not relying on gadgets anymore when he made the bet.  Full Disclosure: I was with Vinny this entire time with the googles. I'm saddened to see him lose considering that there were actual googles (that functions pretty much like night vision ones) WITH 3 LIGHTS ON IT! "
WORD!
I've been thinking just this everytime they were talking about it on the podcast. And also, the bet has been compromised.
Posted by AgentofChaos
@StingingVelvet said:
" I just don't agree with praising accessibility and "modernizing" personally.  Chaos Theory was an amazing game, it did not force trial and error gameplay, and throwing its awesome out the window to try and appeal more to Halo players just annoys me.  Am I not supposed to be annoyed?  I mean, that is how I feel.  I have been gaming for 25 years now and that whole time games have been getting more and more stupid and common, and for a while there that was nice but now it's just not the hobby I love anymore in many cases.  Reviews like this that praise these changes just baffle me.  Oh well, I know I am the minority.  I know games rival movies for mainstream dollars now and thus will get more and more streamlined and mainstreamed.  Luckily on the PC we have a ton of indie and small developer games to play, and all the classics still work with rare exception, so it's not all doom and gloom. "
I understand what you mean, but Chaos Theory's slow pacing gameplay doesn't really hold up in this generation. I tried to go back and play Double Agent but I just couldn't. Personally, this is what I always wanted to see out of a Splinter Cell game, I always felt that if Fisher was really this super badass military agent he wouldn't feel so clunky.
Posted by copycatzen
@chogi said:
"NOBODY SHOULD WIN IF YOU ASK ME! I think Ryan's argument should be voided with sonar goggles as well since I think he was referring to Sam Fisher not relying on gadgets anymore when he made the bet.  Full Disclosure: I was with Vinny this entire time with the googles. I'm saddened to see him lose considering that there were actual googles (that functions pretty much like night vision ones) WITH 3 LIGHTS ON IT! "

Vinny needs to read the small print in the contract!
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