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Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
developer: Ubisoft Montreal
genre: Action Adventure
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 13, 10 (released)
|» All About Splinter Cell: Conviction on ActionTrip|
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell took the gaming world by storm back in 2002, when we first sighted it on the original Xbox console. Playing the PC port one year later was equally engaging. Unsurprisingly, Ubisoft churned out a number of sequels a few years later - Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Splinter Cell: Double Agent. These were all decent games, but it was the very first Splinter Cell game that made the biggest impact, gaining support fans and positive feedback from critics all around the world. And yet as with every other game, there's always room for improvement.
In Splinter Cell: Conviction, you'll find that Sam Fisher is a changed man. Everything he believed and fought for at Third Echelon has been turned against him. Hunted by his former employers and operatives from an organization called Black Arrow, Sam fights his way towards the truth as well as finding the one responsible for the murder of his daughter Sarah. You can imagine how Sam feels. The company he once worked for betrayed him and his only daughter is gone.
Although I confess this isn't most brilliant story ever told, it's certainly wrapped in a stylish and well-designed package. For a decent single-player experience, having compelling art direction, good voice actors and plenty of plot twists is all you need really. Splinter Cell: Conviction hasn't shown any weaknesses in that department. We can't help but praise the fabulous visual style of this game, along with a superb soundtrack and realistic sound effects. The voice talent of Michael Ironside genuinely depicts Sam's sense of loss and thirst for justice. The rest of the cast is good as well.
Sometimes it's just best to hide and shut up.
I feel like I've been here before...
The Splinter Cell series is known for its stealth based gameplay. Ubisoft has improved upon this throughout the entire series. In this game, things were altered quite a bit to suit Fisher's character. Creeping through the shadows and hiding behind cover is still very much what Sam does best. While we're on the subject of cover, it's amazing to see what the developers achieved here. Seeking out proper cover is carried out easily and leaves a lot of room for improvising as you make your way through the levels. What's more, it finally brings an interesting new twist on the Gears of War-style cover system. Staying out of sight and taking down enemies quietly is the key. Very often, gamers can choose to attack foes openly with everything they've got, be it a sub-machine gun, shotgun, Desert Eagle or any one of the available assault rifles. In most cases, it's difficult to survive open shootouts, so it's best to stick to the shadows and attack silently. As expected, stealth-based gameplay is the attraction here, although don't think you'll be engulfed in exceptionally complex combat situations. Much of the Sam's classic moves and stunts are gone and completing missions has become less challenging that way. There's also the cool new interrogation system, which is fun, but ultimately, just another effort by the developers to spruce up the cinematic feel of the game. Gameplay wise, it's not all that innovative.
Okay, I'm not saying you can finish this game with your eyes closed and one hand tied between your back. It's just that the whole experience feels somewhat restricted, as it points a bit more towards action and less towards combat tactics and stealth moves. However, the new takedowns are without much doubt a great addition to the gameplay. Sam has to finish off one opponent without being noticed, which unlocks the ability to speedily gun down two, three or more opponents in one fancy Hollywood-style combo. This is where the challenge lies. First you have to make an effort to mark your targets. Achieving so in real-time takes some skill. The swift takedowns perpetuate a dynamic and cinematic ambience, plus they don't diminish the stealth aspect too much.
None of the aforementioned ingredients would work if the developers haven't created a very solid AI, which I impressed me on more than one occasion. It's also been ages since I've seen an AI this good. It's not so much as the notion that enemies are smart, but the way they react to what's going on in the environment or if Sam makes a noise by mistake (yeah... not that kind of noise... oh grow up!). Also, they're not insanely accurate or too alert. Instead they react just as you'd expect. It's blatant enough the developers wanted to create realistic AI behavior patterns and from our experience they've succeeded in doing so.
Sam Fisher's intriguing backdrop and fine characterization kept us going through the main story, although it's the outstanding art direction, cool soundtrack and powerful voice acting of folks like Michael Ironside that convey a fitting sense of immersion, the new cover mechanics work smoothly and represent a great addition to the gameplay, the new stylish takedowns are a superb addition to coop play and multiplayer in general, well-balanced and responsive AI;
Most of the good stuff about this game won't matter to a lot of people because it's over very quickly (the story is good but won't take more than 5 hours to beat), while I did enjoy every mode available, there's little in here that moves the series forward.