mikeinsc's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction (Xbox 360) review

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Not Quite Splinter Cell...but Very Much Awesome

 Sam Fisher, epic bad ass, has returned. And this time, he is after his daughter that he believed had been dead all of these years.

Fisher has left Third Echelon and wishes to be left alone...but, as seems to be the case with highly trained killing machines, reality keeps dragging him back into the fray. It turns out that the same thugs who killed his daughter are now planning a major attack on the nation's capitol, and Sam is called back into action to head them off at the pass.

Now, suffice to say, Sam Fisher is not a man you want angry at you. While somewhat aged, he is still the baddest dude in gaming. He looks suitably grizzled and has the appropriately gravelly voice of Michael Ironside reprising his role. The writing is actually quite good as you see a world-weary and beaten-down Sam Fisher discover a new reason to live and to perform as only he can. This is as realistic a tale of revenge as gaming has ever been able to produce and the game, while not terribly long, will happily take you along for the ride.

The game is a technical marvel. While the load times for levels can go on for a while, after the level loads, you don't load again unless you die. The entire level is available with no apparent load times anywhere, yet the levels all look stunning with the series' signature outstanding lighting effects. Your objectives are all flashed on the environment near you in one of the nicer looking visual effects in a while. The game is linear as the day as long, but you are pushed forward with such relentless force that you could probably beat the game in a sitting and not even notice that it is several hours later.

The biggest change, though, is the vibe of the game. While stealth is still a major component, the action is ratcheted up tremendously. You CAN pull off running and gunning (it'd be hard, admittedly, but it is doable) through a level. Everybody is scared of you, given that your rep has very much preceded you into this title. If you melee a man down, you get to utilize Sam's execution technique, which allows you to target up to 4 men later in the game and kill them all in one fell swoop in an act that makes the game more strategic than one would expect.

As expected, the story is not remotely as clear cut as initially told. You grow to realize that you have been lied to for a while now and Sam's target for revenge spreads out over more and more people. But, at no point, does it seem illogical. His motivations are quite understandable and you hope to see him achieve his goal

Splinter Cell has spent a while trying to match up to the greatness of Chaos Theory and they seem to have pulled it off here. The single player is a blast. While I didn't get a chance to try it, the co-op is apparently a companion to the original story and, by all accounts, is quite good. There are several other game types rounding out the package, making this the ultimate Splinter Cell title to date.

Which is odd, since it feels so different than Splinter Cell titles. You don't have to be super careful and you seem much faster than you were in past titles. It's been called a "24" ripoff, and it might well be...but that is hardly the same thing as saying the game isn't really good. I am curious as to what the original design of the game was planned to be (it changed a lot from the earlier builds), but I cannot say that they didn't make this game almost as good as it can be.

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