Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
Despite its critical and commercial success, I never got around to playing a lot of Splinter Cell. Sure, I dabbled in a little of the original title on a buddy's PS2 many moons ago but quickly found that game to be unforgiving and too reliant on trial-and-error. In other words, it wasn't very fun.
Fast forward to 2010 and Splinter Cell: Conviction. The pre-release buzz seemed to indicate that Ubisoft had made great strides to make Sam Fisher more like Batman in Arkham Asylum: silent, deadly and with an impressive arsenal at his disposal to take down enemies in creative ways.
So I went into Conviction excited but reservedly so.
At first, I was ecstatic because it appeared that Ubisoft had kept all of their promises: I was breezing through missions, stalking enemy AI, and using mark and execute to take down my adversaries.
Then, after a few firefights, I came to the unfortunate realization that instead of using stealth, sticky cams, flashbangs or any of the assorted gameplay elements at my disposal, it was far easier to simply shoot guys in the head and move on. To top it off, while effective, I found the shooting controls to be clumsy.
While not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination, there are some sequences, specifically later in the campaign, where I had no choice but to use trial and error to map out the AI patrol patterns. Up until that point I was used to just shooting guys in the head. This made for a frustrating transition back into stealthy Sam.
Heck, there's even a short part of a level where detection meant an instant mission restart. Apparently stealth never changes.
To add to the gameplaly shortcomings, the plot of the single player campaign is so egregiously generic that I actually can't seem to recall a whole lot about it. All I'm coming up with is a season of 24 edited for the Lifetime for Women network. Huh.
Splinter Cell: Conviction has the unfortunate distinction of having one really fun-killing design choice: while the designers made a big deal about making stealth mechanics more fun, what's here isn't effective enough to use in the easier situations and isn't intuitive enough to use in more difficult situations.
The next time Sam Fisher knocks at my door, he's getting a copy of Arkham Asylum and a retirement party.