The lights are on
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Pros: Mark and Execute never gets old, Co-op is a blast, Variety of ways to approach any situation, Interrogation becomes an interesting break in the action, various weapons and upgrades keep you coming back, Projected Objectives and "Last Known Position" are a nice touch
Cons: Visuals are meh at a few points, upgrades require playing a certain way, relatively short campaign, somewhat easy with Mark and Execute
Splinter Cell has always been high up there in providing really fun, stealthy action and a solid story. The cliffhanger ending of the previous installment, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, left Sam's fate unknown. Conviction was originally announced around 2007, before being scrapped and completely redone. The result is a much more fast-paced action game, where stealth and gun-play are combined for an incredible experience.
This is a Tom Clancy game, so the typical formula for a story is in place. You have big conspiracies, a plot of takeover, and the horde of baddies other people don't realize are bad. The story is all well and good, but it's Sam's involvement that makes it so unique. Taking place immediately after the previous Splinter Cell game, Sam is now a fugitive on the run, looking for answers as to who killed his daughter. Revelations are made along the way along with a few surprises. The truly great moments are the occasional flashbacks in Sam's life that delve further into who he used to be.
Visually the game holds up well enough. Character models prove to be the high point, especially that of Sam who is now equipped with rugged beard abilities. There are even certain segments of the game in broad daylight that prove incredibly detailed. Thankfully, the nightvision has been replaced so you are not looking at things through a green filter most of the time. There are certain textures and surfaces that look a bit dated, but overall there is nothing that will bother you too much.
The voice acting once again delivers, with Michael Ironside behind the voice of Sam Fischer with a much darker tone. Without spoilers a few past supporting cast also return to lend their voice, each on-par with Ironside in delivering believable performances. The music adapts to the situation well, heightening upon discovery and smoothing out as you creep through the shadows.
The typical Splinter Cell player may be surprised by the turn in gameplay. Much like Mass Effect 2's direction, the slower gameplay has been shifted to a much more fast paced experience. Gone are the lockpicking segments and continual moving of bodies to a better location, replaced with seamless transition and precise executions. The game still maintains its stealth elements, but with the large variety of weaponry available it almost encourages you to break away from being completely sneaky and go in loud. This allows you to approach any situation to your own preference: Stealthy take downs or go in guns blazing.
The most distinct addition to gameplay is the "Mark and Execute". This feature allows you to plan ahead and take out targets with a single button. This never gets old, as it is ultimately satisfying to drop on top of a dude in the middle of the room, and take out three of his buddies in less than 10 seconds with just the push of a button. This is not readily available, as you must execute a melee kill in order to get the ability to execute. While this prerequisite can be challenging at times, this does give you an "Easy" button. Sure taking out a group of dudes with one button is awesome, but the challenge of the single player is a little lost.
In addition to the Mark and Execute a few other features make their appearance. Interrogation sequences occur in which you use your imagination to torture answers out of select individuals. Sure you could punch him in the face right where you stand, but there is a perfectly good refrigerator door ajar that you could slam his head into. No option in using your surroundings will influence how fast/efficient the information is at all, but they prove a satisfying break in the action. There is also the new "Last Known Position" feature that leaves a shadowy highlight of where enemies think you are placed. This is extremely helpful in getting the upper hand by flanking an enemy or knowing where the enemy could be looking to avoid the area.
The campaign acts a rollercoaster ride of how-to's in the game. There are plenty of epic moments, interrogations, and mixes in the combat to keep you interested. Though the campaign holds its own, it mainly acts as a very well put together tutorial. I say this for two reasons: One is the slow introduction of Sam's equipment (Flashbangs, sonar goggles, etc) and the other is because by the time the real challenge comes into play....the game is over. We are talking about a 6-7 hour experience. Luckily it is enjoyable enough to warrant a second play through on the higher difficulty, both to test your ability and raise the lack of challenge on Normal. I actually forgot I had gadgets at certain points, simply due to the fact that I had no trouble disposing of the enemies.
While the campaign may be short, the true shining portion of this game lies in the co-op campaign and Deniable Ops. This is no tacked on side mission replay of the single player campaign missions, it is a fully well designed and lengthy four level co-op campaign acting as a prologue to Sam's adventure. It follows Archer and Kestrel, two lone ranger splinter cells forced to work together. You have all the same features as before, including a Dual Mark and Execute in which you team up to mow down a handful of enemies. The latter campaign levels can actually get pretty challenging, requiring you to work together to overcome the odds. Deniable Ops adds on a "versus mode" of sorts with guards thrown in known as Face Off, as well as Hunter, Last Stand, and Infiltrate mode. Each proves incredibly enjoyable, and it is always fun to combine a gung ho player with a stealthy one to see the outcome.
In both Campaigns you have access to a pretty big supply of weaponry. Playing through the game unlocks bigger and better guns and gadgets. Using points gained from specific actions (kill 4 with mark and execute, kill enemies while stunned), you can upgrade your existing weaponry. While playing normally will allow you to upgrade what you want, unlocking everything requires you to play a certain way. In a game that is very open and allows you to approach every situation differently, this sort of forces you to use certain actions.
Overlooking a few minor flaws, Splinter Cell: Conviction adds intense action to the classic stealthy gameplay. While the campaign is short, it's very much worth the play through and acts as training for the insanely satisfying co-op. Considering the amount of content, there sure is a lot of variety in the way you can play the game. Conviction is a welcome addition to the Splinter Cell series, tailored for fans and newbies alike.
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