Review: Splinter Cell Conviction

Originally hosted on Hull Gamer, a multi-platform community based gaming website, soon to become City Gamer. Original article found here.

Splinter Cell Conviction is a good game. It’s not, however, a Splinter Cell game in the classic sense of the term. All the way back on the original Xbox, Sam Fisher sneaked his way from the shadows and into the hearts of gamers. Seen by many as the more “serious” game within the stealth genre – which had been, up until that point, dominated by Metal Gear Solid – Ubisoft used the Tom Clancy universe to create a tense and, crucially, a methodical game. Staying in the light was a bad idea, and kills were discouraged to the point of occasionally resulting in the failure of a mission.
Fast forward to present day and Sam’s had a bit of a hard time as the series has progressed. First his daughter was killed in a road accident three years ago, then after the events of Double Agent, Sam left Third Echelon (the agency he worked for as a spy) and disappeared. Receiving news that his daughter’s death was in fact, no accident, Fisher has nothing to lose and no-one to answer to. Consequently this means less avoiding bad guys and more waiting in the shadows to pounce and kill the unsuspecting goons.

So how does this translate into gameplay? Waiting in the shadows, you can take the time to examine the guards and your surroundings. Quite cleverly, the developers have removed the light meter seen in earlier games and replaced it with the colour draining from the scene when you’re hidden. Furthermore, objectives and video are projected in an abstract manner onto the surrounding walls and floor, removing further obfuscations from the screen. This HUD-less approach makes a lot of sense, as you can see more to plan your moves more thoroughly.

Once you’ve picked a target, you can use the environment, Sam’s gadgets and weapons or just his hand to hand combat skills to take them down. Ubisoft have managed to incorporate many ways to help you in this with car alarms, conveniently placed ledges and chandeliers and fire extinguishers dotted about the levels all to aid you in your mission. Of course, using as few weapons as possible is as satisfying as ever, especially landing a silent takedown from the shadows upon the head of an unsuspecting goon. However, if you are into your gunplay, you’ll be interested in the newest feature: Mark and Execute. Simply put, this feature allows you to ‘mark’ several targets while you’re spying on them, and then after you perform at least one hand to hand kill, lets you press the Y button which lets Sam swiftly execute every target you’ve marked quickly and efficiently. It’s extremely handy for tight spots, and of course for clearing up the last few stragglers in the room. It’s a great little mechanic, and there’s something deeply cool about peeking under a door with a mirror, marking three targets before busting down the door and taking them out in one swift motion.

The single player story portion of the game is pretty short, but it does take in several locations – a particularly interesting level set in Iraq introduces a nice twist. Towards the end of the game the stealth is set aside in favour of taking out as many people as quickly as possible. The interactive interrogation sequences are also a nice touch too, with some very satisfying uses of the environment to get the answers you want. Meanwhile, the Deniable Ops single player modes allow you to use your skills you’ve learned to practice in three game modes; Hunter, in which the objective is to kill everybody in the level (and being spotted adds more opponents to the mix). Last Stand in which you have to defend an EMP from a number of goons, and Infiltration where getting spotted results in an instant game over. These modes are fun to play and will probably provide the most replay value, so it’s no surprise to also find these modes available for multiplayer along with a co-op Story mode and Face Off mode in which two spies are pitted against each other.

There is, however, one last caveat. This review is about the 360 version of the game. It’s also going to be available for the PC, but with Ubisoft’s current questionable DRM measures. For the uninitiated, this means a permanent internet connection is required. Any disconnection from Ubisoft’s servers, whether it’s on your end or theirs, means you’re thrown back to the main menu and unable to play, losing any progress since the last saved checkpoint. Given the frequent attacks on the service used in other Ubisoft games since the launch of the DRM system, it’s very difficult to recommend that you get this on the PC at all. On the 360 however, Sam Fisher’s latest outing is a fairly tense, competent action game, but it’s far closer to Jason Bourne than Sam Fisher.



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