Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available on: Xbox 360 and PC (reviewed on Xbox 360, PC version available from 29/4/2010)
Ah Splinter Cell: Conviction, the game that we have waited a lifetime for. Well, it seemed like it anyway! Ubisoft originally announced the game on May 23rd 2007 and, to put it lightly, what they showed us was a huge departure from the Splinter Cell formula. The first trailer showed off Sam Fisher looking like a hobo and gameplay elements which you just wouldn’t associate with the much loved series. It seemed like Ubisoft realised they made a big mistake as the game missed its May 19th 2008 release date and the development team (unofficially) went back to drawing board.
At E3 2009 the game was shown off once again and it was completely different to what Ubisoft originally showed off back in 2007. Sam Fisher didn’t look like a hobo and the gameplay seemed to have been restored to something close to what you would expect from a Splinter Cell game. However, this new Splinter Cell: Conviction has had it fair share of release date hiccups too. This time though, it wasn’t taken back to the drawing board and now it has finally been released. Does Sam Fisher impress on his return or does his new outing lack conviction? Read on for the full review.
STORY: Splinter Cell: Conviction takes place roughly three years after the events of the previous game in the series (Double Agent) and, once again, you take control of Sam Fisher. He has left the government agency known as Third Echelon and is still mourning the loss of his daughter, Sarah. He has had enough his old life and wants to nothing more to do with it. However, quicker than you can say Jack Bauer, Fisher is drawn back into the world he tried to move away from. His former Third Echelon colleague, Anna Grimsdóttír, tracks him down and, after a fantastic opening section, Fisher learns new information about the death of his daughter, more specifically details about the people behind it. His quest for the truth sets off a chain of events which reveal a pending terrorist attack on the American capital city (Washington D.C.) which, as you would expect, Fisher himself has to try and stop. Poor guy, no wonder he wanted to distance himself from events like this!
The story is really good and it will keep players interested right until the credits start rolling. Fans of the smash hit TV series 24 will be right at home here, as the events that unfold throughout the game aren’t too dissimilar to what you might see during that particular show. The fact that the two can even be compared is a huge testament to the quality of the story in Splinter Cell: Conviction. The way the story is told should also be commended, the blend of flashbacks, flash-forwards and present events is fantastic. These techniques are actually, at times, what help make the story so interesting and immersive.
GRAPHICS: The visuals are probably the least impressive aspect of Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game isn’t terrible to look at by any means but for a high profile title such as this you would be forgiven for expecting better. For instance, Fisher himself looks great but all the other character models are quite sub-par.
That being said though, the game should definitely be praised for its use of colour or lack of it, to be exact. When Fisher is well hidden the colour bleeds away from the screen and when he is visible the colour transitions back in. The way this is done is fantastic, soon you begin to “fear” the colour and look for every opportunity to return the screen to darkness. Oh and the visual touch of projecting your objectives on the environment is brilliant, slick even.
SOUND: Splinter Cell: Conviction excels in the sound department with some great voice acting and an excellent musical score. Michael Ironside gives a superb performance as Sam Fisher and the other actors also chip in with some decent vocal work. The music that accompanies the gameplay, especially during the latter half of the game, is rather good too and wouldn’t be out of place in blockbuster Hollywood movie. Fantastic stuff.
GAMEPLAY: In some respects the gameplay aspect of Splinter Cell: Conviction is determined by its story. Fisher is no longer a Third Echelon agent so, unlike previous games where stealth was paramount, Conviction allows players to take a more action oriented approach. More often than not that approach will result in you failing but the fact is you can choose to go down that route if you wish. This is not to say that the stealth aspect of the game has been removed or tampered with, far from it actually. The developers have adjusted the mechanic to suit the situation Fisher finds himself in and the results are stunning.
This might sound strange but the stealth is fast paced and, at times, exhilarating. This is mainly down to the new feature called “mark and execute” which at first glance might appear to be a “win button” but that is not the case at all. You have to perform a stealth takedown to actually gain the ability and then when you do have access to it, you have to use it carefully. For instance, on more than one occasion you will come across areas with more enemies than you can actually mark therefore you will have to plan your attack properly otherwise the remaining enemies will be alerted to your presence. The feeling when you plan your attack to perfection is just fantastic. Sneaking into a room with five enemies, assessing your options, marking the four guys at the back, performing a stealth takedown on the guy closest to you and then executing the four guys you just marked in a matter of seconds just makes you feel so empowered, like a super cool hitman.
If you do manage to caught whilst trying to sneak around the new “last known position” mechanic comes into effect, a sort of second chance if you will. A white silhouette appears exactly where you were spotted and enemies will focus on that, allowing you to move away and, in some cases, get the drop on the enemy. You can’t just run away though, otherwise you will be spotted again, so it is always best to move away from you last know position with some caution.
The last new addition comes in the form of a cover system and it has been implemented into the game fantastically. It is intuitive, simple to use and, best of all, it is free of any glitches whatsoever. The latest Gears of War and Uncharted games have the best cover systems but the one Ubisoft have implemented here follows closely behind. The silky smoothness of the cover system just reinforces the superb, fast paced stealth that is on offer in Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Oh and special mention must go to the interrogation scenes. Yes, for all intents and purposes, they are just interactive cut-scenes but they are just so well done that it is actually hard not to enjoy them. They are wonderfully intense and provide a great insight into Fisher’s state of mind.
LONGEVITY: The single player should last you around 6-7 hours on the normal difficulty, maybe even 5 hours if you are a veteran of the stealth genre. There is a realistic difficulty and if you play the game on that setting then you can add a couple of hours to that figure. You’re probably thinking “wow, that isn’t very long at all” and, well, you’re correct. However, in the case of Splinter Cell: Conviction this isn’t really a negative. The game is actually just about the right length, if it was any longer it would have probably outstayed its welcome. It also works in its favour in terms of multiple playthroughs, completing in-game challenges and gaining achievements.
The game also has a co-op story mode which we have decided to review separately, so keep an eye out for that at GodisaGeek.com.
VERDICT: Splinter Cell: Conviction isn’t the best game in the series (that accolade goes to Chaos Theory) but it is most definitely a fantastic addition. The gameplay diverts from the standard formula a little but for good reason. The new additions make total sense and, more importantly, they inject some much needed “oomph” into the series. A must for fans of the stealth genre and a great entry point for newcomers. To steal (and adjust) a movie quote, “Mr Fisher, welcome back. We missed you”.