Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
By - Craig H.
Almost 4 years have passed since we last saw Sam Fischer in action. The last entry, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, was met with solid reviews but did little to expand on the series. Splinter Cell: Conviction changes the formula completely and gives Sam Fischer more power than ever before.
The game begins after the events ofSplinter Cell: Double Agentand does a good job catching you up to the events that have happened since we last saw Sam. Sam’s boss, Irving Lambert, was killed by Sam while deep undercover and his daughter Sarah has been killed in a hit-and-run by a drunk driver. These events triggered Sam’s departure from Third Echelon and Sam is now just a civilian who is seeking information on who killed his daughter.
The story in Splinter Cell: Conviction is told through a series of flashbacks. During the onset of the game Sam is in the White House with his previous handler, Grimm. The words “74 hours later” are on the screen and Grimm pulls her sidearm and points it at Sam and fires. The screen goes black. The game then flashes to the present while Sam is at a café in the island nation of Malta. A server informs Sam he has a call and brings a cell phone and Bluetooth out to him. On the line is Grimm who has information on Kobin, the person who Sam is tracking in Malta. Sam is hesitant at first but the lure of information regarding his daughter is too much and he decides to listen and work with Grimm once again. This rekindled partnership sets in motion the events of the game.
The game is narrated by Victor Coste, one of Sam’s friends, who is telling the tale of the events to a pair of interrogators. Victor’s raspy, harsh voice sets the tone of the game well (in fact all the voice work in the game is excellent). He provides background information into the missions as well as insight into what Sam was feeling at the time. This gives life to Sam’s character and provides insight into his internal struggle as he attempts to find answers to his daughter’s killer.
Splinter Cell: Conviction implements a plethora of new features that were not seen in previous installments. One of the most unique new features of Splinter Cell: Conviction is not a gameplay feature at all. Objectives and most flashback and story content are delivered by a projection process on the actual environment. If your objective is to infiltrate a building you will see those words on the actual building you are trying to get in to, or if you are chasing someone you will see “Don’t Let Him Get Away” on the side of truck as you run past. The projection of these images and objectives on the environment is simply awesome. “Mark and Execute” is a feature that allows Sam to mark enemies and basically do an instant kill when you press the execute button (the “Y” button). One catch is that you must earn this privilege. You earn a “Mark and Execute” action after performing a melee attack. Sam only has the ability to do this once between melee kills and does not have the ability to bank them (i.e. you cannot do 3 consecutive melee kills and then do 3 consecutive “Mark and Execute” kills). Since this is an action stealth game your goal is to not get seen but that does not always work out. If an enemy sees you even momentarily a silhouette known as “Last Known Position” will pop up and the enemies will converge on that spot. This can be great to use to flank the enemies and use it to your advantage. Another new feature is how the game handles the stealth side of the game. When Sam is in darkness the screen is black and white. When Sam is in the open the screen is in full color and really gives the feeling of vulnerability. Lastly, the cover system is handled beautifully with a very easy pull in and out action handled by the left-trigger. Moving from one cover to another is handled by the press the “A” button or a slide/roll action while running to new cover and pressing the left-trigger.
A couple gameplay choices hinder the experience just slightly. When leaving cover Sam will remain in the crouch stance until you manually tell him to stand. This can get annoying when trying to run from pursuing enemy and are met with a slow creep until you press the left-bumper to stand and run. With it only taking a few shots to take down Sam this can make it a short night and a checkpoint repeat. Additionally the game does not have a real roll button besides the one used to get into cover. When you attempt to roll from enemies or grenades after a short roll you end up in the crouch stance and there is usually not enough time to correct it before you meet your demise.
After completing the single-player campaign there is still plenty to do. The game features a totally different co-op campaign that has you take the roles of Third Echelon agent, Archer, and Russian Voron agent, Ketrel. The story in the co-op campaign is a prequel to the events in the main game and has you hunting down Weapons of Mass Destruction. The co-op campaign can be played via splitscreen, system link or online. You and your partner share the “Mark and Execute” function and both must finish the mission alive (if one of you dies then the mission will start over).
If you have had enough of the single-player and co-op campaigns you can dive into the Deniable Ops mode which includes Hunter, Infiltration, and Last Stand modes. Hunter mode tasks you with disposing of a set number of enemies level-by-level. Infiltration has the same premise as Hunter but is a bit more stealth. There are alarms that will sound and if you are detected even once you will fail. The last mode, Last Stand, tasks you with the objective to protect and EMP from enemy attack.
Overall the game looks good but not great. Most of the characters are not rendered with much detail (especially in the faces) and this becomes increasingly prevalent when up close. The backgrounds look good and the quick transitions between black and white and color are rendered well. Splinter Cell: Conviction is not the most beautiful game on the Xbox 360 but definitely is far from being the worst.
The single-player campaign may be short (roughly 5-6 hours) but the addition of a completely separate co-op campaign of equal length plus the Deniable Ops modes makes Splinter Cell: Conviction a great package. Splinter Cell: Conviction is not like any of the other Splinter Cell game out on the market right now and is an excellent reboot to a stellar franchise.
Pros: Solid Single-player and Co-op Campaigns. Deniable Ops is fun either solo or with friends. Sam Fischer has never been better and you finally feel like the killer the other games were missing. Voice Acting is top notch. Upgradable weapons.
Cons: Some weird cover issues and the lack of a real roll mechanic make it hard to make a quick getaway. Short Single-Player Campaign (roughly 5-6 hours).