Splinter Cell Conviction Review
|Release Date:||April 16th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Sam Fisher's gone rogue. After the events of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, the surly agent has left Third Echelon, the shadowy government agency keeping an eye on the world, and is looking for a reason to live.
Three years later that reason arrives - the man responsible for killing Sam's daughter, Sarah, is in the open, and Sam is back in action. His adventure takes you across the world from Malta to Washington DC and back again, and keeps you guessing as to who's got your back - and who will stab you in it.
Sam's also gone all Jack Bauer, eschewing a paced approach and a reliance on gadgets for a panther-like attacking method of close combat and instant kills. Now if, like me, you read with some trepidation that Sam's given up hiding in the shadows don't despair, yes the game has lost a lot of its stealth-based and slow gameplay and yes it's been dumbed down, but that's not to say it's bad - not by a long shot.
After having gone back to the drawing board more than once, Conviction has emerged from the shadows as a game in its own right. The gameplay is intense, the storyline gripping (if far too short - clocking in at just under 6 hours), and Sam's new aggressive approach a lot of fun.
The gameplay, which had admittedly become bogged down in recent SC games, is now a lot more fluid and fast-paced - Fisher can still hang from the ceiling, but now rather than carefully moving slowly he can zip along pipes, hang from coving and slide under low objects - not bad for a 50-year-old.
Plus, while the game's reliance on light and sound meters has sadly vanished, Ubisoft have instead replaced it with a system which is simplicity itself - when you're in shadow the screen goes into black and white, leaving enemies (and that conveniently-hanging-over-a-bunch-of-enemies chandelier) in full colour. But while this is a clever system it means you play most of the game in black and white, which is a bit too 1930s for me, and sometimes it's so dark you can't see anything.
As well as the black and white system, when Sam vanishes an imprint of his 'last known position' remains, and it's amusing to watch your enemies move to corral you when you're hanging above them waiting to trigger some death from above. And when you do that, springing from a pipe to land on an unfortunate enemy, you get to take advantage of the best part of SC: Conviction - the 'mark and execute' feature.
This allows you to mark enemies for a quick kill, with different weapons offering a different number of 'marks'. Then it's as simple as getting a melee kill, hitting a button and watching as Sam stylishly dispatches up to four enemies, who can only manage a slurred swear word before falling to the floor with a hole in their foreheads.
While Sam can sometimes shoot through objects and walls to hit his mark, spoiling the effect somewhat, it's still great fun and makes you feel like a total badass. Gadget-wise Sam's a lot less tooled up this time around. There's a good selection of pistols and rifles, all of which can be upgraded for power and number of marks, but Sam's signature trident goggles have been replaced with 'sonar' goggles, which present the world in grainy 3D and enemies in a piercing white. They work, but it's just not the same as having three different viewing modes.
Grenades and the sticky cam also make a return, but everything is thrown by hand - no SC20K this time, SC fans. Also Sam can no longer hide bodies, an odd and disappointing decision by the development team - Sam may be a panther now, but he should still be able to cover his tracks. Another interesting addition is the interrogation scenes, which seem to have been yanked wholeheartedly from 24, which have Sam using the environment to get answers - slamming heads into doors and breaking fingers by slamming a grand piano's top on a whimpering soldier's hand - brutal, but oddly good fun.
And he's not the only one willing to go that far to get what he needs- the game also features a fully-integrated co-op mode, Prologue, and it's in this that SC: Conviction really shines. Playable online or split-screen, Prologue tells the tale of Third Echelon agent Archer and Russian Voron (Raven) agent Kestrel, as they chase down some stolen tech days before Sam's return to the front.
While again a sadly short addition to the box (4 hours), the co-op is tremendously good fun, especially with a friend who is willing to skulk in the shadows and communicate constantly. Like the SC: Chaos Theory co-op before it, Prologue is a total blast. The game allows you to take out enemies your partner has marked and visa versa, and working together to clear a room silently is great fun, especially when your partner saves you from a chokehold with a pinpoint headshot from half a mile away.
And the fun doesn't stop there, there's also a Horde-alike mode called Last Stand, Hunter mode, which pits you against a certain number of enemies only to eager to call in reinforcements, and the game's only competitive mode- Face Off.
This mode pits you against another agent in a fight to the death. Killing the other agent grants some points, but the real meat are the soldiers wandering about the level looking for the both of you - it makes for an intense and gripping battle. Sadly though, the brilliant spy vs. mercenary multiplayer featured in SC: Chaos Theory and Double Agent does not return this time around, a heart-rending loss to its excited fanbase.
Graphically the game is pretty solid but there's a fair amount of rough edges and the occasional dodgy texture, and seeing the game almost constantly in black and white doesn't help, but you're going to be enjoying stalking the enemy so much you're unlikely to notice.
The control scheme is simple and effective and while Sam has lost his sense of subtlety, zooming along at speed, sprinting from cover and taking out a score of enemies at once never gets old.
Yes it's Splinter Cell dumbed down, yes it's too short and yes long-time fans like me might not get what they're expecting, but Splinter Cell: Conviction is a brilliant new angle on the series and one well worth trying out. And, if you can find someone who plays the game right, having a friend along to help is an absolute blast.
- Good story
- Great multiplayer co-op
- Fun new angle on SC action
Not so good stuff
- Too short
- Black and white view is not ideal
- No spy vs. mercs mode
- Trident goggles, SC20K and Sam's split jump are all absent
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