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Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

by Reece Heywood April 13, 2010

The return of Sam Fisher is brutal, he’s enraged and on the warpath. While the changes are different to previous Splinter Cell titles, it’s a step in a better direction with the results being one of the leading titles in the franchise but it has faults.

Taking place a couple of years after Splinter Cell: Double Agent you learn that Sam has departed from the organization known as Third Echelon and receives new leads to find out who killed his daughter and why. With this in mind Sam returns to the combat zone more deadlier than ever. Along the way meeting Third Echelon’s – Tom Reed who is corrupt to the bone. Sam embarks on a journey which will take him throughout America and even a flashback to the old days in Iraq.

Now the key element which stands out from the previous installments is the presentation and action. Sam is no longer how you remember him, he’s taken more of the Jason Bourne route when it comes to dealing with people. He won’t scurry behind in the darkness very much, he’s more about confronting people and getting answers out of them by any means. One way or another Sam is on the war path for vengeance and he will get it.

A new design choice is to keep the player engrossed in the mission, projected onto scenery will be your next goal while past movies play out in the background as you progress through a level. All these keep the player feeling attached to carry on, and with level loading happening in the background as cutscenes are shown the action never dies down.

Regarding action. The new Mark & Execute technique allows you to “mark” enemies, an arrow appears above their head and then the push of a button will execute them. In order to use this you must perform a stealth takedown which will unlock the ability while any other form of killing is excluded. It’s very similar to the squad command which you could use in the Rainbow Six: Vegas titles but with automatic aiming and discharge.

Depending on Sam’s position you may find yourself shooting through objects and still gaining the kill, while it’s nothing major it can look silly at times and unnatural.

While executing – you can skillfully end the life(s) of one-four gunman but doing so can leave you exposed to open fire. While this allows for help on those trickier sections it’s in no way a tool that you will be using constantly. Each weapon has it’s own set of statistics, you can add silencers and increase accuracy and Mark & Execute slots. Certain guns such as assault rifles and shotguns may only allow two slots while others like pistols allow up to four.

Mark & Execute doesn’t ruin the gameplay but it makes it a lot easier than previous Splinter Cells. That said it’s only optional and hardcore players can opt not to use it at all if they wish.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is much faster in pace. Sam can move much faster than before, he can easily climb pipes and scale walls. Since you are no longer avoiding enemies you can pick them off very quickly with takedowns, pull them down from balconies and slip back away into the darkness without being noticed.

Darkness is still Sam’s friend, no longer do you have to reply on a meter which determines how well lit he is. You now rely on the screen color with two different formats, if its fully de-saturated to black and white it means that Sam is well hidden and cannot be spotted. If the color returns it means Sam is exposed.

Disabling the lights has sort of redefined tactics, Sam no longer has the EMP trigger on his pistol to disable one lamp at a time. He must now rely on shooting them preferably with a silenced weapon or using his portable EMP device. The EMP device is a generator that can knock out electronics in a small radius, it helps very much in stickier situations like needing to gain access to a certain guarded area which is jam packed with lights.

Other gadgets included are the EMP grenades, remote mines and the return of the fan favorite sticky camera. With the camera it has the ability to ring and alert passing guards, this is where I noticed the A.I can be totally weak on the easier difficulties, several times I attempted using the camera to call guards yet they would basically ignore it and not follow up to see what is was – making the camera useless unless your on Realistic.

If you do become noticed and manage to break the line of sight then a white form of Sam will appear, this is the Last Known Position. The enemies expect you to be there but your not, they will eventually look for you in that area giving you a great opportunity to flank them. Depending on the difficulty the time period of guards realizing your not there varies, on Rookie you will have the comfort to take your time wheres on Realistic they will be more observant and hasty.

Performing hand to hand kills is the greatest, sneaking in the shadows like the hunter you are you can snap necks, double tap to the ribs or just smack a guys face onto a desk. Every-time you perform this maneuver the animation will be different, sadly you can’t chose what you want to see. Hiding behind corners or hanging above will cause sudden death for those you in your path, Sam works for no one so don’t expect him to spare any life.

One thing which was considerably great in previous Splinter Cell games was the ability to pickup bodies and hide them, sadly Ubisoft failed short to feature it. Doing so makes progression harder if your attempting to get no alerts. Although you may still take rivals hostage – advance to an empty room and then waste.

Since Sam is now rogue he doesn’t have access to the infamous Night Vision goggles, instead we are represented with an upgraded version using Sonar – How you gain them I wont say. They can penetrate through objects and walls to provide a visual look of the zone and highlighting humans and explosives. This becomes very helpful if you want to plan ahead before entering a room and want to know the whereabouts of people.

Sam has questions which are put in place along with punishing interrogation scenes, certain scenes are in-game allowing you to chose what happens. Smack a guys head into a bathroom sink or even a piano, it’s the things like this which keeps the player on their toes and gives moral judgement.

In heavy situations with many enemies the frame rate did slow down quite badly even though this was only on two separate occasions throughout the whole game. The gameplay is great and it still has the Splinter Cell energy even though there is new additions and few elements have been removed.

An extra is P.E.C Challenges which are a list of challenges in the game, completing these earn yourself points which can be used to buy upgrades for weapons/gadgets — and new uniforms for Deniable Ops .

Co-op makes a return, you and a friend can take on the rolls of agents Third Echelon – Archer and Russian Voron – Ketrel. These guys are not friends nor foes but they must get along to get missions complete. The story is a prequel to that found of Sam Fisher which will take you through four missions all with it’s own story.

All the features found in the single player campaign can be found here, the only difference is having someone beside you in battle — although you can play alone — . Marking & Executing can also be used co-operatively, if your friend marks a few people then you will have the opportunity to join in as the screen slows down for an execution which results in multiple enemies being taken down by yourself and friend.

Since these guys are prime agents in active service for government agencies it would of been nice to see them use separate gadgets from Fisher, such as the EMP device on the pistols from the previous Splinter Cell games. It would of mixed the gameplay experience. That said, it’s still very addictive

Conviction is superb but with so many delays and setbacks I expected the game to be somewhat better but sadly it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a first-class title but lacks the real edge which Splinter Cell originally set the benchmark for. In addition to a certain level in the game left me thinking was it necessary to have this as a playable section and not just have a cutscene instead – since it felt quite awkward and out of place.

In the end Conviction has most of it, it’s just a few minor mishaps which let it down in certain areas, it’s got awe-inspiring story telling, slick gameplay and non-stop action. I for sure will be playing for co-op and multiplayer for a very long time and I recommend that you pick it up when it’s available.

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