Review: Splinter Cell: Conviction
It's no secret that I never liked the Splinter Cell series mostly due to the way they handle stealth. That being said, I got caught up in the hype for Splinter Cell Conviction and to my surprise, actually liked it. The story this time around for Sam Fisher is that he finds himself looking for his daughter's killer in hopes to exact revenge from the bastard. He get's a lead from an old friend that tells Sam that someone has info on the killer's whereabouts and Sam should go "meet" him. After finding the man and Sam convincing him to talk by smashing his head into various objects (cause we all know a swift blow to the head makes you remember REAL fast), Sam gets tricked back into his old life by people that will not give him info about his daughter until he does a little work for them. Simplistic in nature, yes, but it works for how well the game is paced. I know some people that are use to the old Splinter Cell games and how it was slower paced, I think the direction Ubisoft went this time around is better for the people, like me, that always wanted to play as Sam Fisher, but in a more action based role versus sneaking in the shadows the whole game. You can still do the stealth approach if that's what you are into as such is the beauty of this game. Whether you like to bust out that AK-47 and mow baddies down or sneak around like Batman and snap a couple necks, this game lets you do both. I feel this game is enjoyable for long time fans of the series as well as newcomers that have always wanted to play a Splinter Cell game but was thrown off by the steep learning curve of the stealth mechanics.
The game mechanics are good enough to enjoy either stealth or fast paced action. As with every Splinter Cell game, Sam Fisher gets really cool toys to use to take down enemies. Things like EMP grenades, Remote Mines (my fav), and some old staples to the series Sticky Cams and Flashbangs help you in your way through the game. 2 new features in Splinter Cell: Conviction are Mark & Execute and Last Known Position. Mark & Execute is your insta-kill move in which by taking down an enemy using a hand-to-hand takedown move you receive the option to mark up to 4 enemies (depending on what weapon you have equipped). Once marked, you can at any time, as long as the enemies are all in range, hit the execute button and Sam will go into a really cool quick kill animation dropping all the marked enemies with a shot to the head. I understand that this seems like a "Win" button but you can only store 1 use of this move. After that, you have to earn the right to use it again by doing a hand-to-hand takedown. I never really used this more than 5 times during the game. I had more fun dropping from the ceiling with my knee in the enemies face than Mark & Execute.
The other new feature is Last Know Position. Really basic in what it is, it can help you circle around enemies by fooling them into going to the last place they saw you. This kinda makes the A.I. in the game stupid but I guess they have to in order for this feature to work. I again never saw a use for it since I was so good at the game (yeah who believes I am any good at games?). Other things that Ubisoft was showing off in early previews was how they project your objective onto the environment which also doubles as a waypoint since it is projected in the direction you need to go. This made the game feel more cinematic and was a cool way to show you where the next place to Jason Bourne some bastards.
Overall feel of the controls are adequate enough to get the most out of the game although I have to question why Ubisoft thought to make the controls non-changeable as well as having the reload button be pushing the left analog stick in. It takes some getting use to but I still found the location of the reload button awkward. I also had an issue with the movement in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Not sure if it's just me but the movement in this game felt a little "loose" in the sense that it was precise enough. I would tap over to the right and it would seem Sam would move more than I told him to do. It wasn't a game breaker but it did make me climb up from a railing a couple of times right into the path of a security camera.
You do get upgrades in this game that carries over to Co-op/Multiplayer. In Splinter Cell: Conviction, you get an assortment of weapons at your disposal and some that unlock as you get further in the game. I found that although I had machine pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, sub-machine guns, I never needed anything but my trusty pistol with a silencer. I did upgrade all my weapons just to do it. The usual upgrades like silencers, laser scopes, bigger clips, stronger ammo, etc are there for you to upgrade your arsenal with. Even when you are in a firefight, all you really need is your gadgets and pistol since Splinter Cell Conviction has the cover system from the Rainbow Six series. Still, it's nice to have options.
Getting points to spend on upgrades is where the fun was at for me. You have to complete in-game challenges called P.E.C. (Persistent Elite Creation). Challenges range from kill 5 enemies without being detected to make it through a whole level without being detected or firing shot. There are varying levels to each challenge so you can do the same one over and over until you mastered it and cannot gain any more points from it. This is once of the things that has kept me playing this game over and over. I love doing these challenges and I assume that's what Ubisoft wanted to accomplish with these said challenges. Well done sirs.
The other thing in this game that makes Splinter Cell: Conviction a must buy is Co-op/Multiplayer. I played with a buddy, which is crucial to enjoy co-op to it's fullest, and had a blast. There are 3 modes (4 if you sign up for U-Play) to co-op that you can enjoy. Campaign, Hunter, Last Stand are your options in what mode you want to play. The Campaign mode has a story that is a prelude to the main story of the game so if you paid attention during the main story, you will like this prelude since it sets up the main story well enough. This mode also has a wonderful ending that will surprise a few of you. Hunter mode is where you go through checkpoints on a map and kill the required amount of enemies at each checkpoint. Alerting the enemies increases the amount you have to eliminate so there is a challenge to be had here. Last Stand is what could be the equivalent of Horde mode in Gears of War 2 which most people are copying now into their games. I feel that most of you will have a lot of fun playing co-op and that it will keep this game in your rotation for games to play with your buddies on a Friday night for weeks to come.
If you have always been a fan of the Splinter Cell series, Conviction might be a step back for you but there is still enjoyment to be had. If you are a new to the series and would like an easy stealth mechanic mixed in with some great action set pieces, this is well worth your time to play.