It’ll hardly stick with you after you’re done with it
I’ve been a huge fan of the Splinter Cell series ever since the first one was released and I’ve grown to know and respect Sam Fisher throughout the years. And that is why I feel that this iconic videogame character deserved better. I tried to convince myself that “Double Agent” had been a fluke and not the beginning of the end for the stealthy franchise, but truth be told, “Conviction” is nothing more than a capable third-person action adventure game.
The storyline is feeble and dull and it is only occasionally saved by the timed projection of images in the walls, which act as an extension of Fisher’s mind. This is a clever game element, but it certainly wasn’t enough to keep me interested. Fortunately, shooting enemies in the face feels better and more satisfying than ever, and that kept me going through the whole game, which, by the way, is way too short and way too easy, even on the hardest difficulty mode — which makes the game look even shorter than it already is.
The game discards itself of one of its trademark moves by eliminating the need to hide your dead or unconscious enemy bodies in order to keep progressing stealthily through the level and launches the brand new “execute” feature; this is a nice treat that makes the player feel rewarded for his skill.
Another thing from which the game radically walks away from its predecessors lies with the introduction of a new stealth detection in-game mechanic — as in, the colors give way to a black and white palette when you’re supposedly in the dark and your enemies can’t see you. I say supposedly ‘cause sometimes it just looks random and very, very annoying as a result: sometimes you’re in hiding and everything is B&W and then you move one measly inch to the side and suddenly everything turns back into being colorful without any kind of warning. And guess what, everybody sees you then! At this point, a silhouette of Sam Fisher is displayed on screen, displaying his “last known position”. And this is where the AI reveals all its weaknesses: enemies rush to that silhouette like ants to sugar, even though they obviously can’t see you anymore. Even stranger is the fact that once reaching that spot, they really don’t look anywhere else, which means that if you move a couple of meters to the side and the screen goes back into being B&W, you can just shoot them down like flies as they come, and they won’t know where you are!
On a side note, I personally feel that this B&W feature is almost kind of an insult to players, as if the game developers are telling us that we’re not smart enough to know when we’re properly hidden or when we’re out in the open…! Besides, the Splinter Cell franchise used to also be known for its amazing display of light vs. shadows scenarios. Ultimately, this new look just feels lazy.
The “Deniable Ops” are quite fun to go through, even if they are completely and utterly deprived of any sort of meaning or logic, since you don’t actually have any real objective to do here and the missions end quite abruptly, as soon as there are no more enemies to deal with. Again, a little more effort would’ve been appreciated.
Bottom-line, “Conviction” parts ways with the traditional Sam Fisher adventures and introduces a new more action oriented style. It’s a game that keeps going back and forth between really good ideas and very poorly executed ones. If you’re willing to ignore the latter, the game can be entertaining while it lasts, but it’ll hardly stick with you after you’re done with it. Sam Fisher/Michael Ironside deserved better.