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Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

Genres: Stealth Action All
Year of Release: 2010
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Review Date: 28-4-2010
Review Platform: XBOX360
Review Region: AU Available In Australia
Est Playtime: 7+ hrs
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Review By: Bradley Beeck

Sam Fisher has left Third Echelon and is now on the trail of his daughterís killer. However things are not as they seem, and Third Echelon isnít through with itís spy master.

splintercell_conviction007In a stealth game level design is very important, it must be in harmony with the gameís core mechanics or the game becomes frustrating. To that extent Splinter Cell Conviction mostly succeeds. However where it comes undone is where it pushes the action stakes too far, and clashes with its stealth nature.

splintercell_conviction034I've never played the previous Splinter Cell titles but in this title, Sam Fisher is a predator. He, you, sneaks around in the dark, silently killing enemies with hand to hand attacks and silenced weapons. He lures enemies out by intentionally being seen, drawing enemies to his last known position and uses the environment, like chandeliers, to kill them. Being seen is not a gameover like in other stealth games, and there are times when you just need to get into a fire fight. Itís a Hollywood version of stealth, which is fitting because the whole game feels like a Jason Bourne movie.

splintercell_conviction039You can also use a few gadgets like a mirror, a camera, sonar goggles, and an EMP generator to progress through levels in your own way. The sonar goggles let you see through walls, a mirror under doors and an EMP takes out the lights. Some of the gadgets can be used in conjunction with another gameplay mechanic: Mark and Execute. As the name implies it allows you to mark up to four enemies and quickly dispatch them in automatic fashion; thereís no player input involved once itís triggered. Itís a cheesy move, but itís up to you if you want to use it.

splintercell_conviction027I did say you can move through levels in your own way, but this only in the sense of play style because the levels are linear. You slip from cover to cover, from one set piece to another. This is what makes the game so fun to play, because every scene feels like itís been designed to exploit the gameís mechanics. Almost every scene anyway, as there are times when youíre funneled directly towards a group of enemies with little room for stealth. The Iraq level which apes Call of Duty 4 embodies this flaw. Itís full on action which Conviction isnít suited for because you donít have the health bar for it and the shooting mechanics arenít FPS grade. The game is at its best when it gives you the freedom to maneuver around enemies.

splintercell_conviction022Sam Fisher can carry two weapons, a pistol and a heavy weapon like a machine gun, as well as half dozen different grenade class weapons (remote mine, EMP grenade etc). Each weapon can be upgraded with things like a silencer or a scope and are selected at the start of the level, and they can also be taken off dead enemies. The enemy AI is acceptable but kind of dumb. They move towards explosions, and are very susceptible to door camping. They also speak incessantly, constantly calling out to Fisher with things like ĎI was at the airport Fisher!í, and ĎIf youíre the museum ghost Iím going to kill you againí. It makes you want to kill them just to shut them up.

splintercell_conviction020Much like any spy thriller movie the plot is incomprehensible, with betrayals on betrayals and motives that make no sense. It wastes no time on filling new players in on who these characters are, which leaves me looking for the manual. Itís a bit like watching the third Jason Bourne movie without having seen the first. The co-op campaign also has its own story which is a prequel to the single player story, but I didnít play it. The game includes several extra modes, of which Denial Ops is the most fun. It lets you play through maps, pitting you against clusters of enemies, and really lets the core game shine.

splintercell_conviction006Splinter Cell is the definition of slick: game instructions are projected onto the wall, the screen turns black and white when in shadow, and levels are introduced through stylish pans. This presentation style fits perfectly with the stealthy spy thriller gameplay. From a polygon standpoint it looks great as well, even when there are a lot of people on screen. The music takes a back seat to the visuals but itís pleasant the few times you notice it, such as during the Whitehouse level.

Splinter Cell Conviction was in development for years and went through radical design changes. This usually results in disaster but Conviction bucks that trend. Its mechanicís are very fun, and forgiving; thereís no game over if youíre seen. Instead you can use being spotted to your advantage and most of the time youíre given freedom in dealing with enemies. The level design gives you this freedom, although sometimes it funnels you into all out fire fights which is where the game falls over. Splinter Cell Conviction is the definition of slick, and itís the kind of stealth game Iím keen to play more of.