I’m not the kind of gamer who embraces change in an already defined experience. I like things to stay all-original, and usually for good reason. When I learned of Ubisoft’s newest addition to the Splinter Cell series, I panicked a bit. The tried and true method of using the shadows as a means of sneaking past enemies had been what I loved about the previous games, especially Chaos Theory. To me, Splinter Cell was always the third person shooter that wasn’t. You see, Splinter Cell had the powerful guns for players to use, but using them would generally lead to failure. With Conviction, the game allows – no, embraces – the use of weapons to complete a mission. In this story of Sam Fisher, the shadows are no longer for avoiding. They are for preying.
In the previous game, Double Agent, protagonist Sam Fisher learns that his daughter was hit by a car and subsequently killed. While that game didn’t revolve around this event, it seems that Fisher has been having a much harder time trying to cope with the loss. After getting a rather unexpected call from a previous coworker, Anna Grimsdottir, Fisher embarks on a path of revenge that takes him all around Washington, D.C. as he tries to make sense of the chaos around him. Filled with twists and turns, the plot of the game isn’t half bad. Unfortunately, the main plotline on which the game was built takes the backseat as a plan to unleash an EMP on D.C. is discovered. Fisher, along with an old friend or two, must try to save the president and the rest of the population, while simultaneously working through his own personal matters.
To go along with the now action oriented gameplay, Ubisoft updated the cover system to something a little more aggressive. Reminiscent of Gears of War or Uncharted, switching from cover to cover with the press of a button is crucial to keeping hidden while advancing on an enemy. Another great addition is the mark and execute ability. After killing an enemy with hand to hand combat, Fisher gains the ability to mark anywhere from one to four targets and eliminate them with a quick shot to the head. While it may sound like a free kill, it becomes a necessity as well as a pleasing reward for silently eliminating an enemy with your hands.
One thing I very much disliked about this game is how the stealth system notifies you of your anonymity. If you are hidden in the shadows and your enemy is unaware, the screen turns black and white. In a game with such beautiful environments, ranging from a greatly detailed museum to the White House itself, it dampens the mood to have to experience it all as if it was an old 1950s movie. As if to counter this argument, Ubisoft incorporated the last known position mechanic. This great little gem makes it so being seen does not necessarily screw you over. Instead, your enemies will converge on the last place that they saw you. With a quick escape into the shadows, Fisher can get the drop on the group and take them all out with one grenade.
Cooperative play is the cream of the crop when it comes to Splinter Cell. Chaos Theory perfected it, but Double Agent left it out for some odd reason. As a result, I had to get my co-op fix, and boy did this game deliver. For the cooperative campaign, you and a friend take the roles of either Third Echelon`s Archer or Russian Voron`s Kestrel. The campaign forms a prequel to Sam`s adventure, with Archer and Kestrel working together to hunt down WMDs. While the two have the same abilities as Sam does, it`s much more fun to experience with a friend, and there`s even some portions where communication and cooperation are absolutely necessary to advance. And I must say, the ending of the campaign was both unexpected and enjoyable for each player.
To be honest, this isn`t Splinter Cell as I had known it. No, this is the version that was tossed into a blender with Rainbow Six and poured into a glass labeled Splinter Cell. I had once thought that this was a bad thing, but now I`m have second guesses. When you think about how far Sam has come and what he`s been through, no wonder he`s out for some action-mixed-with-revenge. In the end, Ubisoft has made a game that may not be exactly what the Splinter Cell fans had hoped for, but they got themselves a decent pseudo-stealth action game with fast paced gunplay which never gets old. I had one gripe, and it has to be that the pacing of the game was a little off. About a third of the way into the game, a flashback sequence shows Sam`s experience as a soldier in Iraq. This mission requires little stealth and ultimately becomes a clone of other cover-based shooters that we`ve all played before. Yet again, a mission later in the game screws with the overall concept of the game. In this case, Sam must go back to his old roots and infiltrate a building without ever being seen. In a game that wanted to escape this “Insta-fail“ mentality, this level seems out of place. The game may have its faults, but nevertheless, it deserves to be played by all action game fans out there.
- The more action-oriented gameplay is a nice change of pace
- Nice little additions like Mark and Execute or Last Known Position make preying fun
- Sam gets better and cooler gadgets this time around
- It just isn`t the Splinter Cell we remember
- Interrogations look cool, but get old when you realize there isn`t much point to them
- No Spies vs. Mercs? Come on!
Splinter Cell: Conviction was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on April 13th on the Xbox 360.