Holds Fun, in Upmost Conviction
If you've played previous games in the Splinter Cell series and go into Conviction expecting something similar, you're in for a surprise. Taking people out non-lethally is no longer an option. Interrogating people is no longer an option. Your objective is painted out on the wall, so forgetting what your objective is and checking your spy gadget menu is no longer an option. Third Echelon, a branch of the NSA, is no longer your employer, and is quite blatantly the enemy. Somehow this feels much more right in a post-Snowden debacle world than it did at the time of release.
The systems added in this game may have angered hardcore stealth fans of the series, but have undeniably broken ground and influenced a multitude of games to this day. The mark & execute system is the most prominent example of this, as a means to keep track of enemies you've already seen, and if everybody you marked are close enough to you at the same time, to take them down with the press of a button in really badass way. The marking part of this can be seen as the progenitor to the tagging system in Farcry 3, which has taken the world by storm and has been imitated by other long running AAA franchises looking for new mechanics, such as Metal Gear Solid V.
While not quite stealth and not quite Gears of War, the cover system in this game suits the blend of stealth and action extremely well once you get used to it. It is unfortunate that games haven't really took inspiration from it since.
The story in Splinter Cell: Conviction gets slightly more outlandish than in previous entries. While previous entries involve a French Canadian terrrorist creating weaponized algorithms, smallpox bombs, and World War III almost happening so that Japan can usurp the U.S. as the world's leading superpower - none of those ridiculous schemes happen for the player to see. The threat of catastrophic plots seemed much more grounded, unlike this game, where mass murder happens multiple times and *spoilers* every single person in the White House, save 1, is able to be killed after an EMP. This is more on par with the stories you'd see in Call of Duty campaigns and seems not quite Splinter Cell-like. It does effectively convince the player that violence is more necessary than ever before; justifying Sam Fisher's change from a spy who only presumably only killed out of absolute necessary to a rogue anti-hero who will kill anything in his way.
This series needed to be reinvigorated; while Chaos Theory saw it peak with new stealth mechanics, all Double Agent brought to the table was a handful of player choices which influenced the story. Nobody could have anticipated such radical shifts in gameplay that came with this entry, and as a result, the series was successfully reinvigorated. It leaves one wondering, however, how much longer Ubisoft can trod out Old Man Fisher, who is 57 in this game's fictional version of 2014. Most people in their 20's can't crouch walk like he does, and this can't be explained away by extensive training forever.