Michael Ironside sounds like whiskey. Too much whiskey.
Within moments of booting up Splinter Cell: Conviction, you will be murdering a dude by smashing his head off of a bathroom sink. Sam Fisher has traded in his his anti-hero Third Echelon badassitude, for a new flavor of insanity.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that much like the rest of the games in this series - the story is dumb. I know there are those of you out there who may love the Tom Clancy inspired globe trotting espionage murder-fest. You might even lap up all the government double-cross, secret agent, murdered daughter bullshit but I just found myself disinterested at each and every cut-scene. What do you expect? Well, if you expect to find a convoluted espionage story, you got it! Save for a few cool set pieces, the story itself is a patchwork of every other bad action movie and game before it.
Probably the most obvious alteration to the Splinter Cell formula here is the combat. Yes, you can play the whole game in stealth, without ever firing a single bullet, or you can run though the game with automatic weapons sans silencer. Ubisoft pulls off this balance and pacing by automating certain mechanics. You can hold down the left trigger for example to snap to cover. From here you can look around, find a new flanking position and press A. Sam will automatically run over there and get behind the object. This allows you the freedom to move seamlessly from cover to cover, without having to worry about the stupid intermediary steps as you try to run to the next turned over desk, or flipped car.
This guided control allows for pretty cool combat, too. You can tag guys using the right bumper and press Y. Sam will kill each tagged dude automatically with a headshot. While in theory this sounds completely stupid, it is balanced by only allowing you to pull off the actual execution after a melee kill.
This boils the core combat down to a simple formula of spying on a group of enemies, tagging them, melee killing an untagged dude and finally finishing the rest off with headshots. It is within this framework tha t the player can choose to go stealthy or loud without there being too much of a disparity between play styles, although you will probably end up using a balance of both.
Gadgets. This game has them. In fact, there are more than a couple that will be familiar to SC fans, like the sticky camera. The approach to weaponry and combat in general is a bit different this time around though. You find weapon crates scattered conservatively around each level which you can access to upgrade weapons and equip new ones. Its a simple system that you may or may not find useful depending on how you play, and what weapons you go with.
If you were in to the other Splinter Cell games, you will probably find Convictions’ game mechanics go in a new enough direction to keep things fresh while maintaining the same terrible story and plot devices that we have all come to appreciate from the series. In fact, the price of admission can be justified simply by virtue of the fact that you’ll get to hear Michael Ironside talk the whole time. He sounds like whiskey. Too much whiskey.