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Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
Posted on April 12, 2010 by Oscar Gonzalez

Splinter Cell: Conviction take place two years after the previous game, Double Agent. Sam Fisher has gone rogue yet just like the mafia, Fisher wants out keeps out but they keep pulling him back in. The reason for his return into this life of covert ops is to find the truth about the death of his daughter. Fisher will uncover a conspiracy that goes much deeper than he could have expected with the fate of the U.S. at stake.

The Splinter Cell series has always been about stealth, and in Conviction, stealth has been changed for the better. Gone is any meter or gauges to see if you're hidden. Instead, whenever Fisher is in the shadows, whether it is a dark room or in the shadow of cover, the screen will go into black and white. At this point, Fisher cannot be seen allowing for free movement as long as you stay quiet. This allows for a clear, concise indicator that you are hidden, no guess work.

Naturally with shadows being your friend, light is your biggest nemesis. Lamps, flashlights, and so on will make the screen go from black and white to color thus indicating that Fisher can be seen by anyone. Later on, Fisher will get access to special sonar goggles that have that signature look he's been known for. When activated, you switch to a black and white sonar mode where you can see all enemies, traps, and items to interact with. Now the stealth mechanic is simple but very effects, however this sonar tool is annoying and unpractical. My annoyance with it is that every step you take will make the screen fuzzy to simulate the reality of too much noise. There's no way to prevent this even with walking at the slowest pace. Towards the end of the game I would have to stop, use the goggles to get an idea on my surroundings, take them off and go to the next room, and repeat. It was incredibly tedious.

Along with this new way of doing stealth is a new way of being discovered. Once an enemy discovers you, a "ghost" of Fisher will be in the exact position where they discover you. Enemies will focus on your last position until they either discover you somewhere else or decide to look around for you. By doing this Ubisoft has made it a little easier to evade enemies once you're discovered since you can quickly move to another area while they're still looking for you at the original position, making it a breeze to flank them.

Among the Splinter Cell fanbase there was a bit of controversy over the new Mark and Execute element. When you take down an enemy in a close-quarters kill (pressing the B button up close), then that will give you the option to Execute, but first you have to Mark you enemies. Each weapon has a certain amount of Marks available. They will be displayed at the bottom right with your weapon info. Through upgrading and acquiring better weapons, you can increase the amount of Marks. Enemies can be Marked by pressing the RB button when you have them in your crosshairs. At any time after they've been Marked, hit the Y button to Execute everyone that marked and within range. Fisher will then proceed to do headshot kills on all the enemies. This becomes a great way to clear out a room when you have the amount of Marks.

I can see why the controversy over Mark and Execute with the ability for players to take down 3-6 enemies in exchange for one proper stealth kill (the kills don’t even need to be that stealthy). It does make the game more action oriented and fast paced, in exchange for the slower, calculated stealth gameplay. You still have a reason t be stealthy as Fisher can't take that much damage and this rewards you for doing stealth kills, but this is an obvious way to make the game more attractive to a broader audience.

Another new addition to Splinter Cell: Conviction is the cover system. Holding down the LT button will put Fisher behind the nearest cover. Behind cover, he'll be safe. However, if you decide to start aiming from behind cover, you can be damaged, so always be aware when you decide to target enemies. What I liked most about the cover system was the inclusion of having the choice of how you want to position yourself when moving to your next cover. By doing this, you won't find yourself on the wrong side of cover. The downside is that this can take an extra second to do, and if you don't select the right cover you'll be right in the line of enemy fire. Also, when there's a lot of cover available in a small area, several boxes for example, cover is everywhere so you may accidently find yourself on the wrong side. Still, the cover system works very well, and was probably the least frustrating of any game I've played.

Interrogations were largely emphasized in the game's early trailers, but prove to be nothing special in the actual game itself. At certain points, you come across an enemy that Fisher needs to interrogate. The guy says something like "I ain't talkin'!" and you can press the B button to interrogate. Depending where you're at in the room, Fisher may slam the poor bastard into a TV, a urinal, or stick him with something unpleasant.

So why is this not special? Well there's no choice, no consequence, or anything; these interrogations are simple interactive cutscenes. Not a Quick Time Event, but just something to see as you press a button to make the story continue. It seems that the game was taking a cue from the 24 video game in dealing with interrogation of a prisoner, but instead it's a brutal way of carrying on with the story.

At Fisher's disposal is a nice arsenal of weapons including handguns, SMGs, assault rifles, and shotgun. Every weapon can be upgraded by spending your PEC points that you acquired through the game. Upgrades will increase power, accuracy, ammo capacity, and the Marks available. Fisher also has a few gadgets to make use of include remote mines, emp grenades to turn off the lights for a bit and stun enemies, and a remote cam to distract enemies, Mark enemies that you can't see, or kill enemies if they're in close proximity of the camera once you detonate it. I personally found myself sticking with one of the handguns because it had the most Marks and took care of the job silently. You can carry two weapons so I compensated with an SMG if I need extra firepower.

PEC points are received by completing various PEC challenges that the game has. Some of them are very simple like using a certain weapon type to kill enemies, stealth kills, and Executing a certain amount of enemies. Others are a little more difficult as they require a bit more planning such as "Cat and Mouse" where you let the enemy discover you, come around to flank them while they're investigating your last position. Towards the end, I found myself with way more points than needed because I had found the one or two weapons I was going to use. Like achievements, these PEC challenges are really there to satisfy that inner OCD in a gamer.

As good as single player is, co-op is the real jewel here. Deniable Ops is a prequel story, if you will, where two agents from the U.S. And Russian infiltrate various enemy stronghold in search of WMDs. You can take on the challenges by yourself, but it's way more fun with a friend. System, online or split-screen will let the two of you take down enemies in four game modes including story, Hunter, Face-Off, and Last Stand. Hunter is a contest between players to see who gets the most kill in a stage, Last Stand is Conviction’s Survival mode as you fend of waves upon waves of enemies who are looking to destroy an EMP device you’re protecting, and Face-Off which is a match between players with enemies being thrown into the mix. There are plenty of options in Deniable Ops making for a dynamic experience to round out the game as a whole.

Regarding Splinter Cell: Conviction’s presentation, it is simply fantastic. Graphics are great, but that’s not the real eye-opener here. I loved the black and white films that would play on the walls during scenes, and the billboard-like directions you’re given. The films offered this great cinematic touch of letting you, as the gamer; remember certain moments as if you were Sam Fisher. As they run through Fisher’s head, you see them right there taking it all in. It makes you really feel for him in a way that games don’t normally do. The billboard-like directions are a real sight to see, especially in a chase scene where they pop up urging you to move faster making for a more thrilling chase.

When it comes to voice acting and music, the Splinter Cell series has always been of the highest caliber. Michael Ironside continues his role as the voice of Sam Fisher with another great performance. From the dramatic moment to the simple badass comments, he is completely on point. The same can’t be said for the rest of the voice acting cast who pale in comparison to Ironside. From the bad timing during the dialogue to the same voice actor apparently voicing every enemy soldier in the game, I was simply waiting for everyone to stop talking to I could hear more of Sam Fisher. Returning to do the score is Amon Tobin who did the music for Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. All the music helps add to the scenes giving them an added effect.

If I were judging Splinter Cell: Conviction on single player alone, the 5-6 hour campaign would have hurt the score. Thankfully, it’s not because there is a lot of extra content in the game. If anything, this particular made the transition were the multiplayer comes out on top over the single player. Some fans may hate that, but Deniable Ops is an exceptional addition to the game making a great value for any lover of stealth games.

Oscar Gonzalez - Editor-in-Chief og (@) original-gamer.com | all author's articles

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