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

A Sith Reviews: Splinter Cell:Conviction

Splinter Cell: Conviction, was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and released on the 13 of April 2010 for the Xbox 360. Splinter Cell: Conviction is the sixth game in the Splinter cell game series, based off the books by Tom Clancy. Featuring a mix between stealth and action, this is a reworking of the series that maintains the story from previous Splinter Cell titles.


Stealth has always been indispensable in the Splinter Cell series; Conviction's changes to the visibility meter alter game play immensely from previous titles. The surrounding starts in full color when you are in light and visible to enemies, when you shrink into the shadows and become invisible everything becomes black and white. While it seems as though it would be distracting, after the first few times it becomes almost unnoticeable. The flow of running from cover to the shadows, matched perfectly without misstep, with the change in scenery that gives immersion a boost.


One use of the color change mechanic is that while the screen is colored you risk detection by hostiles. When detected, a silhouette of your last known position appears. Enemies will advance to, attempt to flank, and grenade this silhouette. This becomes a useful and innovative tool in your arsenal. With enemies focusing on the silhouette, it allows you to flank the enemies or retreat into the shadows to plan a stealthy take down. Learning to take advantage of any stealth gaffes or intentional detection by the enemies is essential to survival, especially later in the game.


One key trademark of any Splinter Cell game is climbing and stealthy “death from above” kills. Conviction lives up to its predecessors in this aspect, as death from above feels visceral and looks gorgeous. How much climbing occurs is based on your play style, as most the time climbing is an optional stealth tool. Allowing for quick getaways, stealth kills, and alternative entrances to buildings the climbing is a highly polished feature perfected here.


While climbing has remained intact from past games, the cover system got a complete makeover. Getting into cover from open areas is one button quick and allows diving for cover to feel rewarding and fun. Moving in and out of cover is remarkably fluid and never feels sticky or slow, which highlights your newfound speed. The cover system overall is a successful remodeling and works beautifully, especially for the firefights that will be occurring during your play through.


The shooting takes a major role in this new take on Splinter; you will be doing a lot of it while running from cover to cover, shadow to shadow, and pipe to pipe. The shooting mechanics are standard third person, with a crosshair that reddens when you are on-line to hit your target. Every shot taken causes the crosshair to fluctuate in size due to recoil. Recoil plays a major role in the firefights; you will have to adjust your shot often if you cannot kill your target in one shot. While the system is by no means innovative or reworked, it does function well and is enjoyable to use.


Although the shooting mechanics are standard, one part stands out as innovative, the mark and execute system. This system allows you to mark any enemy you can see, then, if the target is in range, you headshot and kill them at the press of a button. Depending on weapon choice you can target anywhere from two to a maximum of four people at once. While the instant kills do feel somewhat cheap, the system is balanced. Weapon strength restricts the amount of marks you have and the need to perform a hand-to-hand kill before being able to execute targets keeps the system balanced. While the system is original, it does have one small kink. If you mark someone and go to execute them, they can walk behind something solid, such as a wall, and they still die. This is more of a glitch then a complaint against the system. Overall, the system works well, is balanced, innovative, and fluid in combat.


In order to enjoy the mark and execute feature a hand-to-hand kill is necessary. While these kills are graphically pleasing they do not require much skill, they occur by simply hitting the B button. The system works as an effortless way to take down an enemy silently. Those who enjoy stealth rather than attempting more firefights will use these more often. Using this is a bonus since you kill them silently and can kill several enemies with mark and execute from the shadows. The kills are interesting and while the system is a little... shallow, it never ceases to be enjoyable.


With combat and stealth remaining at high levels of quality, another major improvement for Conviction is story. You play as Sam Fisher in his quest to find out who is responsible for the death of his daughter Sarah, who died while Sam was off on mission. Sam formerly worked for a secret network of spies known as third echelon. The game commences in a cafe where Sam receives a call on a mystery phone by a former contact of his, Grim. Throughout Grim is the person driving you to your goals and eventually revealing a secret that will leave you shaking if you have known the former games.


Your former Iraq squad mate and only real ally, Vic, narrates the story from an interrogation cell, this makes the transitions from mission to mission simple and enjoyable. The pacing of the missions is good, never allowing the narrative to drag along. While doing the “standard save the world from destruction” part to the narrative something odd happens, you begin to feel for Sam. Many points and twists in the plot lead you to feel for Sam and, unlike in many titles that try this, it works.


Often Sam's true colors shine through, showing what he is willing to do in order to find his daughter's killers. After an unexpected twist, which will hit home especially well for fans of the series, you are told something that changes the entire story. The revealing of this secret enrages Sam, and he is forced to escape as parts of building are raining down from around him. Where this shows the development of the character is that you gain unlimited mark and executes for the escape, in his anger he just one shot kills everyone he sees, the antithesis of what Sam normally does.


The whole story is good and gets the job done, where it shines is the final few missions. Difficulty curves, especially of late, do not work as they should, you get stronger as the enemies get harder to kill. In Conviction, the last few missions are some of the hardest missions I have played in Splinter Cell games, with a myriad of firefights and stealth required to get past each hallway. In addition, the use of flash forward throughout the game leads to a twist that would seem commonplace and benign, unless you had seen the flash-forwards out of context as we had. To close such a hard hitting and well told story anyway besides how Conviction ends would have felt cheapened. Other games go with a moral high road only, you have a choice, to show that Sam has forever changed into the hunter, or remained the moral assassin often choosing not to kill but evade. This choice and its repercussions leave you at the end of the game feeling though the campaign was short, that it was worth every moment you spend playing through.

While there are a lot of positive aspects to Conviction, it is by no means perfect. One spot where the game fell flat is the interrogations. They are not bad per say, but they lack fun or any interactivity. It feels like the mechanic needed more polish, which stands out in comparison to the rest of the game. Another small setback is the enemy A.I., which at times is brilliant and challenging, but also at times feels as though they have the IQ of a hamster. Often repeating the same thing that just got their friend killed, which they watched happen, and running into traps that had been used many times before. I am not asking Einsteins, some common sense would enhance the experience.


Small problems by no means really retract from the value of a title, however there are also some bigger missteps taken by the developer that do. Writing on the wall to show objectives and cover is innovative and a cool feature, but when overused it becomes obnoxious, one such example is when after trashing an office in a fit of rage the wall says "anger". This overuse kills the seriousness of the scene, as I could not help but snigger at the wall's comments. Another feature that was overused is the pistols, with no weapon save one or two that are silenced besides the pistol, you end up ignoring the large stockpile of other weapons, such as the shotgun or the M4A1. A final small issue is the graphics, it is 2010, and the faces in this game looked poorly rendered as they did not look very human, especially Grim. However, while these issues did take away from the experience a little they are by no means deal breakers.


There is one deal breaker in this entire game, while the campaign is criminally short at six to eight hours and there are minor issues in game play as detailed above, the biggest flaw is the Iraq level. First, you do not actually play as Sam, which makes the story slightly askew to start. This is not to mention that the whole level feels wrong and out of place. I would liken it to a "forced action section in a stealth game." While the level feels out of place for the narrative, for combat, it is even worse. The entire mechanics were redesigned and updated to speed up stealth game play and increase Sam's ability in a firefight. The whole Iraq level is scoped or run and gun warfare, which betrays the control system and makes it much harder than it needed to be. In addition, it is light out, there are no stealth sections at all, and it feels like when I was not looking my dad swapped in Modern Warfare and expected me not to notice. While I say it is a deal breaker, it amounts to about 20 minutes to an hour (depending on competence at MW style shooting) out of six to eight hours of otherwise perfect storytelling and pacing and can be overlooked.


Some other small notes of mention are that Ubisoft has announced weekly DLC for Conviction called "project Trend Buck." The first of this DLC is available currently and is a silenced machine gun. In addition, there is a separate Co-op story line called Deniable ops, which adds a few hours to the overall time for the game. In these Deniable ops, you play as two Splinter Cell agents, neither of which is Sam, in the time shortly before Conviction. I would go into more detail but I was unable to find someone to come over and play co-op with me and I lack Xbox Live. Speaking of Xbox Live, there is competitive multiplayer for online, though it seems to be mainly run and gun like the Iraq level, again I was unable to play it so I can only speak to the single player.


With many positives and few negatives, most of which are small, I can safely say that Splinter Cell: Conviction is a great game. With single player being fun and immersive, though short, and with Co-op to add length to your playtime along with multiplayer, it is a great value. I give it my full backing and recommend you go out and buy this game immediately. This is a contender for my Xbox 360 Game of the Year as it stands today.

 
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