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Anthony Capone
24 May, 2010

Splinter Cell Conviction Review

360 Review | Sam Fisher earns a makeover.
After dabbling in jet propulsion and supreme ruling, the team at Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy headquarters have returned to their roots in the long-awaited Splinter Cell: Conviction. While retaining the high production values the series is known for, the latest Splinter Cell has undergone a serious gameplay overhaul. Sam Fisher’s renovation has been a long time in the making, and the result is unlike any previous entry in the stealth game series.

Sam Fisher is back with a vengeance. This notion underlines the entire story and revamped gameplay (more on that later). Splinter Cell: Conviction’s back-story is portrayed though montages ‘projected’ onto in-game scenery. It works well insofar as revealing Sam Fisher’s memories, but not if you want an uninterrupted view. At several points, players ‘interrogate’ enemies, smashing them into various objects in order to extract important information. These scenarios are but glorified quick-time events, and not for the feint-hearted. They do, nonetheless, give the player a sense of the lengths Sam is willing to go to. Otherwise, the remainder of Splinter Cell: Conviction’s story plays out like any mainstream Tom Clancy thriller, with twists and turns at every angle. The plot will have you interested right up until the credits roll, but sadly, there is one glaring omission. The villain’s motivations just aren’t fleshed out enough, leaving players with a very important question – why? This flaw negates an otherwise excellent narrative.

Conviction’s gameplay marks a radical departure from Splinter Cell’s tried and true stealth gameplay formula. As opposed to sneaking around and generally avoiding the enemy as per previous titles, Ubisoft has recast Sam Fisher as the ‘stalker’. Essentially, taking out baddies and shooting is more pivotal than ever before. Stealth still makes up a large part of the game, but players are constantly shepherded into confrontations with the enemy. Consequently, Splinter Cell: Conviction is more like Gears of War than any previous iteration. Hence, we arrive at a review dilemma. New players will find the game accessible, but die-hard fans may miss what we call the ‘pure’ stealth gameplay. The change is difficult to evaluate, each with arguments for and against. Ubisoft have to walk a fine line in keeping the regulars happy, while ensuring things stay fresh. Ultimately, whether or not you have played Splinter Cell before, our best advice is if you can get rid of any preconceptions before hitting the start button, there is plenty to enjoy in Conviction.

Just a regular guy, taking a walk. With a gun.

Just a regular guy, taking a walk. With a gun.
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The first of many new features in Splinter Cell: Conviction is the cover system, which is unlike any we’ve seen before. By holding down the left trigger, players can slide from cover to cover, with an indicator pinpointing their next position. It’s relatively easy to exit cover or cancel a sliding manoeuvre, simply by releasing the left trigger. The cover system is best suited to moments of stealth gameplay. However, when the shooting starts, it just isn’t fast or fluid enough to meld with the third person gameplay, like Gears of War is. Coupled with the odd button configuration (that cannot be changed), combat-heavy scenarios can be overly clunky.

To assist in his combat-centric role, Sam has some new moves up his sleeve. The most prominent new feature is the ‘Mark and Execute’ mechanic. If Sam takes down an enemy hand-to-hand, he is granted a ‘token’. Players can then paint multiple enemies with an indicator, much like Rainbow Six: Vegas. Once the desired number of enemies have been painted, you can take them all out automatically in a quick barrage of headshots. Thankfully, marking and executing isn’t a cheat for spamming your way though the game. Rather, you have to be tactful in earning and spending tokens, which can prove invaluable in certain predicaments. Granted, some of the situations where you have to mark and execute stick out like a sore thumb, but its enormous fun setting up those that aren’t so obvious. The reward also comes in the fantastic adrenaline rush you get watching Sam take out targets with ease.

When Sam steps out of the dark and reveals himself, a silhouette of his character appears in his ‘last known position’. Enemies will focus all their attention (and bullets) on the silhouette, allowing players to slip away and strike from darkness. The feature works beautifully and strikes a fine balance between the stealth and shooting gameplay. Ubisoft has also overhauled Splinter Cell’s light and dark visibility system. Players no longer have meters or coloured lights to inform them whether or not Sam is shrouded in darkness. Rather, if you are hidden in the shadows, the game turns black and white. If Sam is lit up like a Christmas tree, things go back to colour. It’s a robust system, which helps players focus more on their whereabouts than the state of lighting. New players will have no issue, but returning fans may still find themselves missing the old heads-up display.

Objectives are ‘projected’ onto scenery.

Objectives are ‘projected’ onto scenery.
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Splinter Cell: Conviction is a linear game. Mission objectives are projected onto the environment, just like Sam’s flashbacks. There is only ever one main path to follow, so you never have to worry about getting lost. The downside is that you always feel as if the developers are directing you along a pre-determined path, thereby negating any sense of immersion. Even so, players can always approach their immediate environment and surrounding enemies differently, whether it be through the front door, up a pipe or through a side window. Ubisoft have made a few other oversights in Conviction. An odd level, set in Iraq, plays like a straight-up third-person shooter. Granted, Conviction is an action game, but the complete lack of stealth – or anything, other than mindless lead-pumping – makes this particular chapter feel totally out of context. In another level, certain actions will result in an instant game over (an issue we thought was put to rest in Chaos Theory). Not only does it break the pacing, but having to restart for the slightest misstep is deeply frustrating. Sam is also strictly limited to his fists and bullets. There’s a decent range guns to choose from, but most are unusable if you want to play silently, as only a few are suppressed. The addition of a knife, as in previous iterations, would have been handy and added another layer of variety to the combat.

Splinter Cell: Conviction’s single-player campaign is very short, with a standard game reaching no more than six hours. Ubisoft nonetheless earn significant points for replayability, as hamming up the difficulty to realistic makes for very a different experience. There are also a number of multiplayer modes to delve into. Conviction features a fully-fledged co-operative campaign, which acts as a prologue to the central story. In addittion, any of the co-operative maps can be played in a variety of alternative modes; Last Stand, a form of wave defence, Hunter and Infiltration, where you have to eliminate all enemies on a map, and Face-off, in which players compete against each other and enemy AI. Being limited to no more than two players is disappointing, but there is still plenty to keep you occupied.

Splinter Cell: Conviction’s co-op story is segmented into four acts, each taking about an hour and a half to complete with a buddy. This portion of the game is almost worth the price of admission alone, owing to the entertainment factor. Players assume the identifies of Archer and Kestrel, American and Russian spies respectfully. The co-operative mode feels more like classic Splinter Cell, as there is more opportunity for stealth-based gameplay. Communication and teamwork is essential to completing objectives. Players can perform certain actions together, such as sharing mark and execute tokens and reviving each other. Some segments feel no different to other co-op shooters such as Army of Two, but if you can persist past these areas and the somewhat confusing plot, Splinter Cell: Conviction’s co-op is one of the best and most rewarding available. Finally, while we won’t spoil if for you, the conclusion to the co-op story will leave you stunned.

Down you go.

Down you go.
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From a visual perspective, the Splinter Cell’s second entry on Xbox 360 looks much the same as the last. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the presentation still stands up today. Set-pieces, objects and characters appear vivid and sharp, and as always, the modelling, textures and animations are top-notch. Conviction looks great, but graphically – it’s hard to describe – the game just doesn’t immerse you in the same way that Double Agent did.

Accompanying Splinter Cell: Conviction’s story is an excellent cast of voice actors. In particular, Michael Ironside delivers another outstanding performance as the rogue Sam Fisher. His trademark voice gives Sam an unmistakable aurora of mystery and lethality. Conviction’s soundtrack is also worthy of mention. Listening to the music is an absolute joy on the ears, with each composition perfectly conveying the theme or atmosphere of a given level.

Just how much you like Splinter Cell: Conviction will depends on how much you can embrace change. First-time players will discover an entertaining action stealth game, but series regulars might find the modifications a little too bitter to swallow. It’s a difficult game to assess, depending on which side of the equation you fall on. Nonetheless, while Conviction seldom reaches the heights of Chaos Theory, there is enough in this well-rounded package to satisfy everyone. Overcoming some minor plot and gameplay flaws, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a well-developed shooter-stealth hybrid worthy of your time and money.
The Score
Splinter Cell: Conviction features an engrossing campaign and superb co-operative mode. Ubisoft has implemented some serious changes to advance the series and create a worthy stealth-action game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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13 Comments
3 years ago
Nice review Anthony, it's one that I can most agree with (critique and score wise). Personally I found the game had nothing in common with the previous SCs; I preferred the stealth implementation from the earlier versions (more or less non-existent if you ask me, especially on the carnival level where you can't even drag bodies), the combat was cheap and lacked the fatalness of its older siblings (instant kill and the flimsy cover system screamed 'made for mainstream'), the constant verbal abuse Sam/you had to put up with from enemies was frustrating, the story line was not compelling at all and I experienced numerous graphical artifacts and combat glitches (like shotguns not hitting enemies in extremely close range combat). In fact, the only thing I did like was how objectives and other facets of the story were projected onto/into the background.

7½ is a very gracious score in my opinion, I would rate it a fair bit lower. I'm not sure who to recommend this game to; series fans would most likely despise it (which seems to be the case with people I know) and players who are not familiar with the previous games may find the system mechanics thin and the story confusing/uninspiring.
3 years ago
Quote
but the complete lack of stealth
icon_rolleyes.gif exaggeration much?
3 years ago
No, not really. It had about as much stealth as Pitfall.
3 years ago
I Think Cyph has exaggerated the lack of stealth a bit. As someone who has been more of a metal gear fan to Splinter, i can say this game is not devoid of stealh and in the way this game is presented the stealth works well.

Conviction is deserving of this score maybe even an 8 considering the newest prince of persia got that and the review basically states its another replica, at least this game has tried a new direction.

If you are iffy about the single player thats fine but if you live with firends or have people over occasionally the multiplayer is a tonne of fun and deniable ops is a great add on. And trust me you can appreciate the stealth in deniable ops, or use a stairwall and mow everyone down as they run down the stairs. Either way enjoyable game.

For those who are long time splinter cell fans I feel this game as refined the multiplayer but may feel lacking on the SP. for people who miss vegas, welcome to third person vegas and i recommend you pick this up asap.
3 years ago
The thing about the stealth is that a) it is hardly anything like the previous SCs, and b) you can play the game just fine (if not easier) completely ignoring being stealthy.
3 years ago
Might be one to get me back on the franchise.. I'm sorry to say that the over-use of stealth in the past games left me bored to death of them. I tried and tried to play them.. really liked the concepts of them.. but the stealth upon stealth is just painful to me. I am far from being a FPS-fanboi.. but too much stealth killed those titles for me.

Just saying...
3 years ago
Maybe you're playing the wrong game then light487? It's like me complaining that there's too much shooting in Call of Duty or something.

They would have been better off making a new franchise than making severe changes to an existing one.
Exactly. Why is there a sudden need for games to have bits and pieces of different genres? I know from a publishing point of view it sounds great (get as many people possible interested in the game), but it makes for all these half-arsed game mechanics (see: vehicles in FPS) and these odd bitzer games that are no more fun to play than a straight genre game. Splinter Cell is a stealth title. Always has been, always should be. They shouldn't change it just to please the people who aren't interested in stealth titles because you piss off the people who are.
3 years ago
He need to cut the ego. wrote
Exactly. Why is there a sudden need for games to have bits and pieces of different genres? I know from a publishing point of view it sounds great (get as many people possible interested in the game), but it makes for all these half-arsed game mechanics (see: vehicles in FPS) and these odd bitzer games that are no more fun to play than a straight genre game. Splinter Cell is a stealth title. Always has been, always should be. They shouldn't change it just to please the people who aren't interested in stealth titles because you piss off the people who are.
Couldn't agree more and while I can't stand Stealth games, I know alot of people love them and don't think they should be changed to accomedate more people. It doesn't bother me at all and there are plenty of other games to play.

But, its an ongoing issue with gaming now, companies are trying to get more people into there games, by adding extra things (often unwanted) and its not necessary. Just stick to the core gameplay of the series and let the fans enjoy it.
3 years ago
I think Tetris is boring. You know what, it needs some boobs and guns. Seriously, imagine how much better it would be then! icon_wink.gif
3 years ago
I've only played Double Agent (360) and Conviction but have loved both. My only complaint with Conviction would be the shortness of the single player. The non-stop action and varying levels were exhilarating and great fun to play. The stealth or feeling of being a predator was similar to Batman Arkham Asylum which I also loved.

To the people complaining about the change in gameplay very few games are able to last 5 releases without undergoing a make-over/significant change. There are still stealth elements in Conviction but if you're detected you still stand a chance instead of reloading several times until you slip through perfectly. There was very little left that they could do with the stealth elements of Chaos Theory and it seems that most people simply want a map pack for Chaos Theory instead of an entirely new experience.

Seeing as though this game went through a tumultuous development period, a longer story and a tad more polish could make SC 6 an awesome game.
3 years ago
I won't buy the next installment. I'm completely over SC now (played every title) and I think the series is dry and dull.

Conviction, while a good game, was the worst game in the series for me. If they do want to reboot the series, go back to it's hardcore PC-type roots.
3 years ago
Yes.. I have to admit I am more of a Rainbow Six fan than a Splinter Cell fan. The original Rainbow's with the tactical stage before the actual mission has been removed in later titles in the series and that's one of those things you are talking about.. they probably removed to make it more appealing to those people who just want to get in there and blow stuff up.. but that planning stage of each mission made the game unique... ahh well..
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Publisher:
  Ubisoft
Developer:
  Ubisoft Montreal

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