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

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Stealth Turned Shooter

Splinter Cell is a series that has deep rooted nostalgia for me, and I've played every game to date for better or for worse.  I struggled to adapt and forget the older rule set for the series, but once I did I found a fairly competent stealth-shooter hybrid that I can say I did enjoy for the duration of play.
From start to finish you star as Sam Fisher, an ex Navy SEAL and after the events of Splinter Cell: Double Agent an ex Third Echelon agent as well.  The premise of the game is that Sam, in most likely a drunken rampage hunts down those responsible for the death of his daughter.  The irony here being that while it was a major plot point in Double Agent, it was barely touched upon in a five minute cut scene there.  Its as if Ubisoft said, "Well we sure dropped the ball there, so now lets make an entire game upon a premise we barely fleshed out."  Semantics sure, but then again it does essentially invalidate Double Agent, which I'm entirely okay with.  Aside from this though, the plot is competent.  It's got some points and turns you will absolutely see coming, but it still does a pretty good job explaining itself, and the universe that the characters inhabit.
From a game play perspective, Conviction plays much more like a shooter than it's predecessors.  Stealth is now more an ideal and a suggestion than it is a requirement, which even as a rampant fan of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory , was both a hesitant and
 Oh how far you've come.
somewhat welcome change.  In the days of old, a mere misstep could leave you riddled with bullets, this time around is not the case but not for the reasons it should.  One would expect the reasoning behind this is to make the game more accessible to a larger audience, being what I'm sure Ubisoft was aiming for.  But the main reason that you will have a hard time dying, is because the AI in this game is deeply flawed.  Even on the hardest difficulty setting, the AI struggles with the most basic of actions against you.  You can clear an entire room by leaving one dead body for the others to find, literally stand behind enemies forever as they sit in fixed positions, and don't even get me started on their dialog (Droning and repetitive come to mind.)   

But maybe its not the AI that has changed for the worse, another plausible idea would be that the AI stayed the same and it was Sam who changed, something I can also agree with.  Even in what I consider the best Splinter Cell, you were always fighting the controls, something Conviction really optimized.  Sam moves with unparalleled speed and comfort, any time I died in this game I felt it was my own fault and never once was able to blame it on a control scheme or movement.   Speaking of the
 Head shots ruining games?
controls, on top of them is the all new "Mark-and-Execute" system, which has been a subject of very mixed opinion.  Some enjoy it and like the cinematic action it brings to the game, others like myself have a hard time with it because instead of playing with weapons we find enjoyable , we seek out the ones that will allow more easy kills.  That said, you can just as easily say, "Hey then just don't use it." But there is also something to be said for a well placed mark and execute sweep of a room.  Taking it all in, I'd say Mark and Execute is a feature that shouldn't be removed entirely, but instead revamped if there is a sequel/prequel so that it's much harder to use all the time. 
The last thing I would like to talk about is the cooperative play.  Taking it's primary resources from the ground work Chaos Theory laid, Convictions COOP campaign is actually pretty good, especially when playing with a friend.  I can not stress enough
 Archer & Kestrel, your COOP companions.
how imperative it is that you play with someone you can at least communicate with.  The one-off custom matches follow this rule a little less, but I would still recommend a qualified companion.  In fact the only real gripe I have with the multiplayer is the lack of Spies versus Mercenaries mode.  This would have been a welcome addition, and much improved with the new control scheme.  The game is lesser for it's lack of this.
To close this out, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a good game.  Its not the strongest game play wise, it doesn't have the most enthralling storyline, and some of it's mechanics are contrived.  But it does have heart, and it is easily a great rental or a bargain buy for either a Splinter Cell veteran or someone looking to take their first step into the genre alike. 

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