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Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

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On 05/30/2010 at 01:41 PM by Nick DiMola

Sam Fisher drops the gear for a more action-packed adventure.

Newcomers to the series looking to play a stealthier game should definitely look into a purchase. Veterans should only consider a rental.

Years ago, it just so happened that I was in the market for a new game right around the time that the original Splinter Cell came out. While browsing at Gamestop, I narrowed down my choices to either Metal Gear Solid 2 or Splinter Cell, but the in-store representative assured me that Splinter Cell was the game to get. Thankfully, I listened, because after a few short minutes with the game I fell in love. Hiding in the shadows, avoiding enemies, and killing only as a last option was unbelievably fun. But not only was it fun, it was completely unlike anything I had played before. Fast-forward to 2010, and Splinter Cell has had a number of iterations, insane plot twists, and with this latest sequel, some revamped gameplay.

Over the course of the four prior Splinter Cell games, Sam Fisher has been through a lot in his personal life. In Conviction, he finds himself getting roped back into a big mess that primarily involves getting to his daughter, who players come to find isn't actually dead. The overarching story of Splinter Cell has most definitely gotten out of hand, but Conviction settles things back down a bit, combining a series of modern day levels and flashbacks to tell the latest tale of Sam Fisher.

As mentioned, Conviction's biggest goal was to revamp the gameplay and make it more accessible to the mass market. Given their intent, it's unquestionable that they have succeeded. Players familiar with any modern day third person shooter will feel right at home with Conviction. The cover mechanics found in so many of these games has been adapted, allowing players to easily navigate from cover spot to cover spot in an effort to avoid being seen by an enemy. Aside from the typical shooting that players can do, they can also execute enemies in close combat with the push of a button, earning them the ability to mark and execute up to two enemies from a distance.

This ability is fairly simple to use; players mark enemies by pointing and clicking, and when they are in range a push of the button will auto-kill both without giving away their position. Unlike Splinter Cell games in the past, when players are spotted, their last known position is represented on the screen by an outline of Sam in the exact position and location he was in when discovered. Without using the mark and execute ability, players put themselves at risk of being spotted.

Though all of these new abilities work well and are interesting to use, they definitely simplify the Splinter Cell experience, perhaps a little too much for my tastes. As a veteran, I didn't often find myself challenged by the game, even on Realistic mode, with the exception of a few encountered areas. Furthermore, the levels are now extremely linear, forcing players always forward to reach the next checkpoint. Unlike prior games, players are only expected to execute some stealth along the way, but often, good enough shooting skills invalidate any need for it. While before players could feasibly complete a level without firing a bullet, now even on the hardest settings, no amount of sneaking will allow players to accomplish this goal.

Those who are familiar with the series will also notice that most of their abilities and tools are now gone. No more hiding bodies, no more crazy gymnastics, no more cool visors or goggles, which all amounts to no more true stealth. Splinter Cell Conviction now more closely resembles the Hitman series, but even that series has far less linearity, and far more stealth involved strategy. I hate to say it, but for veterans of the series, Conviction feels dumbed down. In fairness, the goal of the team was to create something that straddles the line between stealth and third person action, and in that they have succeeded.

Regardless of the actual gameplay elements, the game is a bit on the short side, clocking in at around 6-8 hours depending on the difficulty setting you choose. Extending the gameplay are a few challenges within the quest called PEC Challenges. These challenges for most will require additional playthroughs as they involve RPG-like development and are awarded when killing enemies in certain ways.

A multiplayer mode is also available, which includes two player co-op, as well as the Deniable Ops mode which supports both single player and multiplayer for the Hunter, Infiltration, and Last Stand submodes. Face-off pits players against each other, but is no Spies vs. Mercs, as found in previous games.

While I wouldn't normally mention it, the enemy dialog is particularly horrendous at times. Every enemy curses like a sailor, and not a single one of them ever stops talking. If you hang around long enough, enemies will start looping the three or so phrases they know, which usually involve calling the deadly spy sneaking through the shadows a "sh*thead", "f*ckface", or some other obscene derivative. It's a pretty grating feature of the game, and a simple reduction in frequency of enemy talking would've really gone a long way.

As a Splinter Cell game, I feel Conviction has most definitely failed, but as an action game that exists in this generation, Splinter Cell seems like a success. It takes the standard third person shooter formula found in so many current games, and makes some tweaks to bring the game closer to the roots of the series. Those unfamiliar with the series looking for something a bit more stealth-based should definitely grab Conviction, but all others who know and love the prior entries should investigate a rental before considering a purchase.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

05/30/2010 at 04:23 PM

Looks like two recent high profile Ubisoft games have disappointed Nick recently.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

05/30/2010 at 11:59 PM

I didn't exactly read into his review that way at all. It's not like 3.5 stars is a bad score, either. The game is just a different experience from the standard Splinter Cell fare.

I know we talked about the enemies shouting at the podcast, and in doing so, I was reminded of Mega Man X7's Flame Hyenard. Don't worry about watching, just listen. Yes, the fight was exactly like that.

Nick DiMola Director

05/31/2010 at 01:52 AM

Yeah, all things considered, it is a good game; it's just not a good Splinter Cell game. Had I not been so familiar with the series, I might've given it a higher score, but honestly it's just not what I wanted it to be.

Chessa will have to give her 2 cents on it since she also played quite a bit of the game. Originally she was supposed to review it, but we flip-flopped games when 3D Dot Game Heroes arrived. She's not familiar with any other Splinter Cell games, and I know that she was really digging this one after a few hours with it.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

06/01/2010 at 06:31 AM

@Jason - I don't think the score has anything to do with this. Nick is obviously disappointed that Ubisoft deviated from the core mechanics that made him enjoy the Splinter Cell series so much. Instead Ubisoft made it more akin to modern action games in order to appeal to a wider audience in the hopes of more sales.

I'm sure if Conviction was more akin to the Splinter Cell games released on the Xbox/PS2/GameCube then Nick would of most likely given this a more favorable review.

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