Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series is now one of the most mature in gaming. With a best-selling author’s name attached and a metric shit-load of titles before it, Splinter Cell: Conviction has a lot to live up to. You expect nonstop action with a storyline straight out of a movie (or book) with twists and turns at every corner, and, as a whole, Conviction delivers.
As always Conviction brings back Sam Fisher – however he is now older, jaded and full of rage after his daughter Sarah was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Determined to find out what happened, Sam has spent the last three years looking for answers and detaching himself from the rest of society. This is where the game begins. There isn’t much I can say about the story which doesn’t give it away, however I can say all the common action storyline traits are there: hired goons, the friend keeping a painful secret to protect someone, a conspiracy at the highest level, and an impossible mission. This game wouldn’t only translate well into a movie, but already feels like it is a game based on a movie that has somehow avoided the curse of the cinematic tie-in. The gameplay as a rule was what you’d expect from all third person shooters – the vast majority was sneak or shoot your way through, with the occasional puzzle to make your way through laser sensors – although some of the game was set in more open areas, most of it was indoors and pretty linear as the story unfolded.
If you have played a Splinter Cell game before, you would know on the highest setting they are hard, really hard. (I’m talking getting a date with a super-model hard.) The game took me around seven hours to play, however I think it would be an hour or two less if I wasn’t such a PC gamer and could aim using a controller. Even with my noobish console ability this was still a very short game, however what Conviction lacked in story it made up for in gameplay. Unlike other Splinter Cell games, you could play Sam in a more flexible manner. The game is still very much about stealth and hiding behind anything and everything, however you can also rush in and start throwing grenades and shooting everything that moves if you’re that way inclined (although Sam will observe that you are ‘doing it the hard way’). As someone who likes this run-n-gun type of gameplay, that suited me, however you are still expected to be stealthy in some parts and attack dog in others (I personally like to make sure everyone is good and dead).
Conviction also introduces new features to the game, one of these being the “Mark and Execute” feature. This encourages you to use hand-to-hand combat by rewarding you with the ability to mark multiple enemies (two or three) and then quickly multi-kill them. This feature comes in very handy when you need to walk through a door to find multiple enemies, as you can mark them using the goggles from behind walls.
The importance of stealth is still very prevalent in Conviction, whether it is walking through crowds, making sure they don’t run off screaming because they saw a gun (or you kill someone), or simply trying not be seen and overwhelmed with enemies. The game lets you know if you have been seen by adding a white or red half-circle to your crosshair. You really want to avoid the red, as that means you have definitely been spotted. Once this happens, a ghost outline of Sam is left on the screen, in your last known location. If this appears, you want to find a new spot to hide as quickly as possible. This can be quite a task if you have a room full of enemies, and the high quality of the game’s AI doesn’t help! The enemy’s AI is more than adequate – they are aware of what is going on around them, run away from grenades and bullets, will try to flank you and continually mix up their movement so it doesn’t feel like a duck hunting game at a circus. The only complaint I have is that on a couple of occasions, the enemies would run in through a door and all stop in the same position. This made it easy to target one spot to take out multiple enemies with ease. But overall the AI was pretty good.
The Unreal engine has traditionally run very well on consoles and this is no exception, the video was smooth and didn’t suffer from randomly-appearing items like some other titles. The realism of the faces was quite good and movement was fairly realistic. The voice acting was excellent, the enemies were very chatty, possibly a little too much to be realistic, but it did let you know where they were and that they were still alive, which was handy. Sam also had the occasional comment that he muttered under his voice at the end of every gunfight. I did however notice that if you left a couple of maps going too long, the characters started repeating themselves (yes, I know an armed gate is a bad place for an oil tanker).
The controls were also easy to use, everything where it should be and no control juggling to achieve what you were required to do. The only thing that caused me continuous trouble was the fact I kept setting off car alarms instead of silently killing someone. This caused me to have to restart the mission in the garage a number of times. This of course could also once again just be my console skills coming up lacking.
Overall Splinter Cell: Conviction is an excellent game with just a one or two of things letting it down. The stand out issue is the shortness of the game: I really expect games to have at least 8 hours of gameplay and this really came up short. However, the time I did spend playing the game I thoroughly enjoyed. It also gains longevity thanks to the multiplayer missions included in the title (and of course, the new addition of co-op!).
If you are a Tom Clancy fan you won’t be disappointed: Conviction has all the twists and turns you would want with fast action gameplay that leaves you wanting more, a lot more.