Splinter Cell: Conviction
After the slightly less succesful Double Agent it was time to innovate the Splinter Cell series. After all, Ubisoft thought variety is the spice of life. Whether the update of the aging Sam Fisher pleases or whether it causes indigestion you can read below.
The story continues from the previous parts, Sam’s daughter is still in the realm of the dead and he still has an unsaturable hunger for revenge. Starting in Malta, where our hero is hunting his daughter’s murderer, Sam gets a call. None other than Third Echelon’s Anna “Grimm” Grimsdottir warns you for imminent danger. Before you know it you turn the roles of hunter and prey and start hunting your opponents in a tutorial. This is perfectly interwoven in the game and learns you all the basic techniques with which you can succesfully finish the game. The game itself drags you from one plot twists to the next and nails you to the screen to quickly end with a cold shower due to the slightly disappointing ending. But you’ll find that out yourself.
As said, the tutorial lets you get familiar with the new techniques in the game. The cover system has been worked out a bit more and lets you change position without any effort. With the left trigger you stick to the wall while the A button lets you switch between different positions. If you let go of the trigger then Sam immediately is detached from his object or a wall that was giving him the necessary cover. Another adjustment is the visual aspect that shows whether or not you’re visible. No more meters but a black&white movie that makes it clear that you cannot be sen. If everything is in color, then you better watch out.
Another new addition is the Mark & Execute. After taking down a hostile with your bare fists you earn this feature. It allows to mark several enemies and with a push of the button they’re all dead. Most will think this is an “easy kill guarantee”, but perfectly targeting multiple enemies without getting spotted isn’t as easy as it seems. It brings a good balance to the game and makes it pleasant to play.
A last innovation is the “Last Known Position”. This helps when you get spotted by an enemy and immediately take cover again. You then get some kind of ghost version of Sam on the screen and the enemies will start taking this position under fire or start investigating it. Ideal to flank foes and take them out from the back. The enemies themselves do remain careful at all times. While a loner might storm at your position, a group will always try to flank the “last known position”.
Next to Fisher’s new tricks there are also quite some adjustments to the gameplay. The pace is faster than before but planning your moves and remaining quiet is still necessary in the first levels. As you progress, however, the stealth approach will change into ordinary action. The groups of hostiles become bigger and your stealth techniques will often be of no use as scripted events will have hostiles raiding buildings and make you the prey. This is also made clear with the weapons choice which is a lot more extensive than before.
Those that have wrestled through the rather short campaign which lasts between 5 and 8 hours (depending on difficulty degree) can get going with the – in my opinion – best addition of the reworked Splinter Cell series. Conviction has a seperately worked out co-op campaign for two players. You take on the role of a Russian or American agent through split-screen, system link or plain online.
The story is a prequel to the main game and places cooperation as highest priority through four large chapters with multiple goals. Both agents of course have the same moves as Sam Fisher himself, but the Mark & Execute option is now divided between the two. When someone takes down a hostile with his hands both get the possibility to perform a “Mark & Execute”. The co-op part leaves little room for error as the death of one player immediately leads to game over. Good communication is a necessity if you want to get through the levels without getting killed.
Deniable Ops is the name for another multiplayer mode for two players. This is divided in 4 different game modes; Hunter, Infiltration, Last Stand and Face Off. In the first you need to take down a predetermined amount of hostiles, and preferably more than your opponent. Face Off is comparable but here you score extra points by taking out your opponent. Last Stand looks like Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode and you have to protect an EMP while waves of increasingly stronger enemies try to compromise your position. The last, Infiltration, is a treat for the hardcore Splinter Cell fans as you have to kill hostiles without being seen.
Visually Splinter Cell is a typical game from the Tom Clancy stable. While certain things in the environment really look great, other textures are a lot less. Sam himself for instance looks good, but the enemies or other characters didn’t always get the same amount of love. The external surroundings are great and contain a lot of variation, but the interior of buildings and such are a bit monotone and constantly repeat themselves. The list with contradictions like these can go on and on, but I do want to mention some additional positive points. The visual gimmick that shows whether or not you’re visible works perfectly and the displaying of your objectives with projections is innovative and beautiful.
The audio perfectly fits the game, a great soundtrack and high quality voicing for the lead characters are present with amongst others Michael Ironside who does the voice of Sam Fisher himself. The enemies on the other hand will quickly start to bore with their constantly repetitive lines which they keep shouting. And that often twenty times in a row. You would start to think they’re ready for the asylum!
The changes Ubisoft has made in Splinter Cell: Conviction make it more accessible, but they do make the title more a shooter than a stealth game. The length of the singleplayer is a biggest disappointment, but this gets made up by the new co-op mode which clearly prolongs the lifespan of the game. The game barely misses the quality to be a classic, but it’s certainly worth its 80%