Splinter Cell: Conviction, One For Everyone's Collection
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
System: XBOX 360
+Sonar is incredibly useful, but not able to be abused.
+Controls are tight and well built (especially with weapons)
+Mark and execute constructed very well, and does not make game too easy
+Great story (Sam is more human)
+Stealth notification is both useful and beautiful
+Great feeling from well executed plans (clearing a room, dispatching multiple targets, etc.)
+Projection of objectives works very well
+Sam Fisher truly comes into his own here
-Making fine movements in cover is difficult
-Selecting objects (close door, open door, cover, kill, etc.) is sometimes frustrating
-Mark and execute sometimes allows you to shoot through cover
-After multiple times playing, one gets a sense of how small some levels are
-Story is too shortChange, positive change, is an incredibly difficult thing to institute in any situation. In the case of Splinter Cell: Conviction, the development team deserves a major thumbs up for how well they executed change, breathing new life into a franchise that desperately needed it. Conviction is a story of revenge filled with plot twists, strong emotion, a healthy mix of action and stealth, and great music to go with all of it.
The story is the major positive of Conviction. There was negative criticism for the weak story in the first Splinter Cell, and even in the games to follow the story was still somewhat lacking, always feeling cold and sterile, void of the kind of emotion and narrative that makes a game truly great at this point in the industry’s life. Conviction not only corrects this and many other things, it completely changes them for the better. The story makes Sam a lot more human. It allows a player to better connect with him and understand his motivations for killing people without question. In Previous titles, Sam’s decisions were those of a trained soldier done without much human thought, done rather with what felt like the decisions of the kind of “machine” that would result from such training. This made it hard for a player to connect with Sam, and delve into his mind to get a sense of why he does what he does. After all, how many people who play the game can say, “Yeah, I remember going to BUD/s, and then all those NSA training operations, I know exactly how Sam feels”. In conviction, a player who has ever lost anything of importance in life, or even knows what it is like through basic common sense, can better understand Sam and his drive, and can therefore better enjoy the game from not just the perspective of action and stealth, but from a perspective of emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, revenge, or another. Sam’s loss, his new emotions, the friendships he corrects, and the revelations presented to him generate feelings not just in Sam, but also in the player, offering an incredible adventure right from the start.
However story is, clearly, only one portion of a great game. The environments, controls, mechanics, and faster pace all add to a game that should go on the record as being an amazing example of how to implement change. Environment in Conviction is incredibly beautiful, offering plenty of exciting tactical options to clear an area in the stealthiest way possible. Windows, pipes, lower than surface maintenance areas, and multiple approach options allow a player the attack their targets any way they see fit. The new stealth notification is actually quite beautiful, adding a nice contrast to the colorfully rich environments around Sam, hinting at his deadly abilities. Enemies are very smart, flanking you, communicating with one another, and calling for backup to check even slight disturbances. However, at times they do things a little bit tactically unsound, like sticking their heads out of windows, and completely moving from cover. Most of the time though, they sit back and wait, forcing the player to practically walk into a horribly difficult tactical environment. It requires quick thinking and careful observation to make the right decisions when moving to take them down. Mark and execute adds to one’s ability to do this in the most amazing way. Rather than it being abused as some believed it would be or not being available enough, levels and enemy paths have been constructed in such a way that the mark and execute can be an incredibly valuable resource to a player’s toolbox. Player’s will be inclined to conserve their mark and executes for a time when they need them to clear a room with multiple enemies, or when they step into an intense situation when enemies need to be taken down very quickly to maintain stealth. Enemies can be pre-marked, allowing for the player to take down an enemy with hand to hand combat, and then dispatch the marked enemies with deadly precision. The only down side is that sometimes it will accidently allow the player to shoot through what would otherwise be solid cover for the enemy if they moved behind it after the sequence has been started. Sam’s new goggles offer him the ability to use sonar to view enemies prior to entry and movement, giving even greater tactical choices to the player, with their view being limited by increased or more violent movement. These elements all come together to create an environment in which taking down bad guys is an enjoyable, and incredibly rewarding experience. The great thing about the gadgets and actions is that none of them can be abused in the pursuit of a great completion, keeping the game challenging, while still offering the player a large arsenal with which to decide, plan, and execute actions in true “super-spy” fashion.
The elements offer players the ability to not only play the game as stealthy former agents, but to bring in the action that increases the pace. This does nothing to harm the beauty of the foundation of the Splinter Cell franchise. While Sam may be more inclined to action that he once was, this action is implemented in such a way that it makes Sam, and the player, a lot more lethal and ruthless than before. A fitting element, as Sam’s new purpose is a much stronger driving force than any before it, as indirectly explained to the player. Stealth is still a major portion of the game, giving the player that great feel of predator that makes the series so great. However, the increased action allows one to dispatch enemies through that stealth in a much more rewarding way. Headshots, neck breaks, pull downs from ledges, and just plain shooting all feel more rewarding when done with stealth. Where one will see most of the new action is in how enemies approach Sam. When contact is made, enemies will push a lot harder than in previous games. Automatic weapons, grenades, better tactics, increased communication, and simply larger numbers make the enemy AI a lot more challenging. During enemy contact, be it stealth or not, the new controls truly shine. Sam moves with greater precision and fluidity than ever before. It makes him seem more affirmed of his actions and decisions as initiated by the player. Weapons sound much more deadly, and control just as well. Aiming is a lot tighter than in previous titles, and recoil is much easier to manage thus allowing a tighter grouping, as it should be for such a well-trained individual. However, at times, the game can frustrate the player when trying to choose what actions to carry out. A player may switch on a light instead of closing a door, or close a door instead of taking down an enemy, wasting precious seconds. Trying to make fine adjustments in cover can be difficult as well, as the character will always want to snap to an edge when near it, exposing an elbow, knee, weapon, or other things to a passing enemy. However, this is easily looked over and not too difficult too avoid once you spend some time with the game.
On the multiplayer end of things, Conviction does amazingly well. The co-op missions are exciting and filled with the adventure one might expect from utilizing all the same skills with a partner who is equally talented and equipped. Utilizing all the elements of single player, players will move through a well written pre-story to conviction, giving a little backdrop to Sam’s latest adventure. Dispatching enemies with you partner, maintaining stealth, and approaching situations from multiple angles gives a better sense of the lethality that these agents posses. However, doing it as a member of Third Echelon, or the Russian counterpart, gives one a great feeling of completeness that is missing from the single player. Going against one another in the head to head mode is a totally different element though. It is quite enjoyable, but just not the same as the good old spy v. mercs that we all remember. Not much time is spent in this mode, as most of the fun and enjoyment comes from working together in co-op, hunter, and infiltration. The multiplayer experience of Conviction was well constructed, and certainly not something to miss.
After a full play through, and a few times going back, a player will get a sense of how small some levels are. On top of that, the story feels too short, and P.E.C. points are rarely used after one finds their favorite weapons fully upgraded. These factors make single player something to come back to for fun and enjoyment alone, and not much more. However, compared to the massively enjoyable experience that is Splinter Cell: Conviction, these issues pale in comparison. The plot twist, character interaction, answered questions, beautiful environments, great story, and open ability for the Splinter Cell universe to grow all aid in this enjoyment. Deniable Ops allows players to continue playing on the side of Third Echelon, bringing a bit of much needed nostalgia into the mix. The Co-op campaign is an incredibly enjoyable experience, although it can be hard to enjoy when played with a stranger. All in all, Conviction is definitely a game that should be held in high regard, and certainly open to newcomers. Sam finally shows his true self here, comes into his own, and shows that in all actuality, he does care about other human beings. He can do this as he is no longer restricted from directives “from on high”, and has begun to makes his own choices, mainly influenced by his daughters death. Even when being told what to do by another, Sam only does so because he chooses to. Every aspect of this game combines to generate an incredibly enjoyable and unforgettable experience that any gamer should have in their collection.