Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Ubisoft – Developer – Ubisoft Montreal – Genre – Stealth – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
Splinter Cell: Conviction was once a very different game, but perhaps it was so far removed from the norm that Ubisoft decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with something a bit closer to what we’re all used to, thus dropping features such as the makeshift weapons. It’s definitely more like the Splinter Cell that many of us know and love, although it’s also an evolution of both the series and its protagonist.
Sam Fisher is no longer a Third Echelon agent, but when he receives a lead on his daughter’s killer, he obviously follows it and leaves a pile of bodies on his route of revenge. The pace of the story can be hard to keep up with and many have struggled to follow it, and the early promise of better humanising the character of Sam Fisher is soon lost as he leaves a trail of broken necks and bloody bullet wounds. In fact, this is an all around more ruthless and violent version of the character, although at least this evolution has happened for a quite suitable reason.
This ruthlessness is present in the game itself – Fisher is now a more violent and efficient killing machine, and happens to be very swift at neutralising targets from the comfort of shadows. The melee moves are also a lot more vicious but are very stylish sequences of animations, and taking down an enemy with such a move will earn you a new feature: Mark & Execute. This feature allows you to tag targets with the bumper, the number of which can be selected is determined by your weapon, and then a press of the Y button sees Sam shoot his targets down in an uninterrupted sequence, which is both stylish and almost superhuman-like in speed. Oddly, though, tagged enemies that slip out of sight can be shot through walls, which is rather silly and perhaps a design oversight. More positively, you can even tag enemies before going through a door: killing them before they hardly know you’re even there. Mark & Execute gives Splinter Cell a more arcade like feel and encourages a more hurried mindset, although due to the fragility of Sam’s health, in no way has Splinter Cell suddenly become an action game.
Lights can still be shot out to hide in the cloaking protection of the shadows, something which the Splinter Cell series has done so successfully, and here the screen turns black and white when out of sight – Sam no longer has the colour coded device on his back that indicated how well he was hidden during Double Agent, nor does he have the night vision goggles.
The cover system when hiding and dodging lead is also excellent – holding down the right trigger to go into cover and releasing it when you want to detach, and moving from cover to cover is also a simple case of lining up a set of arrows and then pressing the A button, which results in Sam automatically running to the selected position. It’s quick and effective, much like Sam himself.
The enemies are relatively smart and when they spot you a silhouette of Fisher is left behind on the screen, showing you the position where enemies will look for you, giving you the chance for some sneaky flanking manoeuvres if you scarper when the time calls for it. It’s a good tactic, but with the little amount of damage that Fisher takes before he croaks, to be purposely spotted is often suicide.
The controls have been streamlined and, because of this, it’s the easiest Splinter Cell to just pick up and play so far. It’s become a trend with Ubisoft to attract a wider audience and it’s obvious that this is what they were attempting to do with Splinter Cell: Conviction: making it more user friendly and enjoyable to control for those who found past games too clunky and complex.
Visually, Conviction is disappointing for a Splinter Cell game, don’t get me wrong it looks nice enough but it’s just nothing remarkable and pales in comparison to Double Agent’s more detailed visuals. Better is the excellent presentation: mission objectives are projected onto walls, which is a fantastic manner in which to let you know what to do next, and the screen turning from colour to black and white and vice versa is a nice, stylish design choice.
While it is good whilst it lasts, the single player Story mode is over and done with by the five or six hour mark; this is remedied of course by the multiplayer options. The popular Spies vs. Mercs mode is sadly no more, although there’s still some lovely modes in the package, which can all be played via split screen, system link and online. First up, the game has its own cooperative storyline, set before the events of Sam Fisher’s darkness dwelling exploits. There are four large levels to play through as you and your teammate Mark & Execute targets together and just help each other out to get through levels without raising alarms. It’s once again an excellent way in which to play the game and essentially means that the game has two connected storylines, which is all well and good as, like I said, the single player is so short.
The other four multiplayer modes include Hunter, which has you quietly taking out each levels enemies, although raising an alarm will result in the number increasing, Infiltration (unlocked through UPlay) is pretty much the same, but foolishly raising an alarm will result in mission failure – one for the hardcore player, then. Last Stand has you protecting an EMP device from being destroyed by waves of enemies and, finally, Face-Off pits two players against each other as well as AI enemies, aiming to get the most kills and earning extra points for killing the human opponent. Spies vs. Mercs is definitely missed, although the multiplayer options on offer here are still excellent, each in their own unique way.
Splinter Cell: Conviction may present a brand of stealth that appears to be pandering towards the player that couldn’t put up with all that slow sneaking about, although Ubisoft Montreal has done a fantastic job in balancing Sam Fisher as an ultimate killing machine whilst making sure that it remains a stealth game. It may not be perfect, but it’s certainly a very interesting and fun take on the franchise.