Splinter Cell: Conviction ReviewDustin Hill
The creators of Splinter Cell: Conviction, Ubisoft, are known for their inventive titles, polished game play, emotional storylines and their courage to try something new. With Conviction, Ubisoft has laid out many features to turn the Splinter Cell series from a stealth-action title to a movie blockbuster.
In this installment of Splinter Cell, our protagonist Sam Fisher has been pushed as far as he can go. A highly trained operative, Sam begins unraveling the identity of who killed his daughter and stumbles upon a plot even more insidious.
In previous Splinter Cells, stealth was of the utmost importance. The games realism mirrored that of real-life circumstances, in that even a highly trained operative can't win against a dozen machine guns pointed directly at him. In Conviction you just might be able to if you're prepared enough. It's also much more the action game this time around in order to fit with the no-holds bar that the story sets up.
The main story follows Sam Fisher through the events that lead to a shocking ending and cooperative play is back and better than ever. Stealth is still important in this game as it was in the previous Splinter Cells. However, the light' meter that displays your visibility is gone in favor of the changing colors of your environment. The environment turns a pale grey wash when you are in darkness with enemies and objects you can interact with contrasted sharply in well-lit color. Something else new to Conviction is the Mark and Execute that Ubisoft was advertising for so long. Each weapon has a certain amount of marks' on it that you can use to mark enemies and objects. From here you perform a hand-to-hand takedown on an enemy which then gives you the ability to execute' any of your marks'.
Basically, if you have four objects/enemies marked, when you hit the execute button your character goes into slow motion, stylishly eliminating all targets extremely quickly. There's also the advent of stylish interrogations. Rather than simply choking someone until they tell you what you want, you can walk enemies around the environment and do horrible things to your hostage. For example; kicking someone's head into a large safe, pushing someone's face into a hot stove, introducing them to different keys on a piano...via their face and many more entertaining, if quite graphic, red delights.
Conviction also borrows from other Tom Clancy titles to bring the Persistent Elite Creation system, or P.E.C. These are multi-tiered challenges that dole out points on their completion. These points can be used to upgrade all of your weapons, gadgets and purchase new armors. These challenges can be used as a map to not only show you what can be done in the game but, also as a guide to how to play the game to an Elite degree perhaps.
Cooperative play has much more personality than previous Splinter Cells. There is a story-mode along with four multiplayer modes. You can customize the look of your armor along with its armor, ammunition and gadget carrying capacities. Similarly, you can upgrade your equipment with points you get from your P.E.C. challenges. From here you have a customized operative that you may use to play with others or by yourself. This mode has hours upon hours of fun in store and is very enjoyable when played with a friend. Also the story in the Cooperative play is quite good and the ending, while predictable, is somewhat shocking.
Each level is well-designed with several paths through each one. Each location feels realistic, as though if you were walking down a street in Europe, you could possibly stumble upon some of these structures. Enemy placement is semi-random every time you load a level and complete with several variations that change while you play based on your behavior and the different levels of guards alertness'.
Graphics are quite well done with many, many small details included. If you can work the camera closer to your character, you can see small fibers in your sweater, scuff marks on your ammo pouches and many other details that most game developers don't think to include. The sound should also be mentioned; it's far above average. The sound of the inner housing of weapons moving when you fire them, the sound of steps changes based on texture of what is being walked on, guards sound quite angry when they find the body of one of their friends and the general ambiance of the wind and various environmental sounds all lend credence that the virtual place you're sneaking around in, could actually exist.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is not a perfect game however, (though Ubisoft obviously put some hard work and long nights in on this one). Despite all the levels and content they give you, even on the hardest difficulties, experienced gamers can breeze through the content in around twenty hours. This isn't to say that it's child's play by any means as guards will put you down very quickly if you just run straight at them. However, Conviction is much easier than prior Splinter Cells due to the Mark and Execute and all the gadgets etc. that players are provided with. Ubisoft did try to even out the guards and player's abilities and in so doing they did prevent the game from being a total cakewalk, which would've ruined it.
Quite unlike other Splinter Cells Conviction is basically a new IP which may make old-school Splinter Cell fans angry. This is a good direction though, Ubisoft isn't known for simply churning' out games every year but instead tries out new ideas on a regular basis. In fact, trying out new ideas is the only reason the Splinter Cell series exists and has come this far from its original inception in 2002.
Overall, this game is fun which is generally what players are looking for in a game. Though it's easy to plow through all of the content that Splinter Cell: Conviction has to offer, the shear personality and power that the story, levels and gameplay posses will have you coming back to this game over and over.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.