Short but Sweet
It was about the time that I felt the pistol at the back of my head, a classic FN Five-seveN judging by the the barrel. How was I able to discover the gun just by feeling the barrel at the back of my head? Look, there are only about three different pistols in this game that have silencers, two are useful later in the game, and one of them was made for the Russian army.
"You think you can just get away with judging this game less than perfect?" The man flicked the safety on and off for emphasis. "We slaved over this thing for years! We even changed Sam from a depressed hobo into a badass old man like Liam Neeson from Taken. You better have a good fucking reason."
Ugh, it's never enough for you people, is it? Look, I remember the Splinter Cell of yesteryear, the one that emphasized stealth over direct action.
"So you hated that we replaced your precious stealth with more of an action game?"
Not exactly. It was different, sure, but it was a lot more fast-paced, it requires you to think on your feet a bit more. The stealth elements are there, to be sure, like the "last-known-position" feature that ensures even if you do get spotted, as long as you slip away you can ambush your attackers as they shoot at your ghost. You can even pass some parts without having to gun down people if you're quick on your feet, but the action was pretty good. Sam can still snap necks, drop people from windows, and even bring a chandelier on their heads if he so chooses. The mark-and-execute feature was a particularly interesting inclusion, and unlike a similar feature in that Bourne Conspiracy game you could actually pick your targets and didn't have to restart a whole level because of one mistake.
"Then it was the story that you hated so much?"
Well, for a Tom Clancy game, the story was interesting enough. It was a step above Rainbow Six Vegas 2's "Fighting an entire army of illegal immigrants for no reason other than you need someone to shoot." Sam's motivation is no longer about saving the world, or even America. Hell, one of the things the story makes clear is that Sam simply cannot save everyone this time, no matter how hard he tries. So instead he focuses on the one person he can save: his daughter. The fact that he ends up thwarting a major coup attempt by high-level American officials is just a bonus.
I will say that at some times Michael Ironside sounds like he drank one-too-many brewskis before recording Sam's lines, and the slurred Canadian accent drips through the noise filter. But aside from that, Sam is actually a kind of person you can find yourself sympathizing with, even if he does occasionally stick a very sharp object through someone's shoulder just to get information out of them. Then again, I've seen worse in 24.
"And the co-op? Did you hate having to work with those goddamn Russkies in that prequel story?"
Ehhh, the co-op was cool, though I was bit annoyed at the end of that third mission where it seemed like half the time the enemy would find a way to turn any melee attack you performed into a chokehold. It was especially interesting when your ally had a mic, as you could sound just like a real soldier, shouting "Holy Shit!" and "Awesome!" as you took turns interrogating some poor sod. The "dual execute" maneuver was particularly cool, as were the addition of magic defibrillator paddles that could heal your teammate at any time. However, it seemed pretty easy to lone-wolf a good portion of the level. And also, there are only four missions.
While we're on the subject, the Hunter/Infiltration modes? They are the exact same thing as Terrorist Hunt in R6:V2, except in Conviction they encourage you to be just a bit more stealthy and the enemies can't immediately divine your position once one of them hears a shot go off. Maybe there will be some DLC that dishes out more multiplayer levels, I don't know right now.
PS: Most of the time when playing online, I ended up as the "Russkie" named Kestrel.
"So what did you hate most about this game?"
Well, the fact that there just isn't that much to do once you've beaten the story. Sure, the weapon customization is nice, and the uniforms are alright, but when it comes down to it once I unlocked the Five-seveN and the M468 (both with silencers), I didn't need any other weapon. I guess there are tons of PFC challenges out there for those completionists and achievement whores, but that's not exactly my thing.
"But the multiplayer..."
The multiplayer Terrorist Hunt/Infiltration/whatever modes are no different from playing them by yourself, except now you have two people to kill a bunch of mooks with (and twice the possibility of being spotted and triggering an alarm). Once you've beaten the co-op story, the Deniable Ops don't hold that much value. But look on the bright side: you've made yourselves a solid game after that mess that was Double Agent. You've got a base to build off of, and I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who will pay (or get their parents to pay) for some DLC missions or multiplayer modes.
"Huh, I never thought of it that way." The gunman finally removed the pistol from the back of my head, "Okay, I'll let you live this time, but the next time you speak badly about my franchise again, I will find you."
Don't worry about it, Mr. Clancy.