Splinter Cell: Conviction

Sam Fisher is finally back in the saddle. He has cut his emo hair and thrown his night vision goggles aside. You’re hunting people that need to be hunted and taking out anyone who stands in your way, no messing around. It’s out with the old and in with the new, gameplay that is. It’s Splinter Cell on steroids. It’s shoot first and neck snap later. You might still crawl on the pipes and shoot out some lights, but you really don’t need to waste your time with that sneaking stuff. Nothing says Splinter Cell like a sprinting chop to the neck followed by the instant execution of 4 mercenaries, right? Apparently!

Not so subtle

They see my rolling

Gone are the days of waiting in the darkness with night vision goggles on studying walking patterns. The old Splinter Cell mechanics have been tossed out a very high window and replaced with a new set of moves with an emphasis on fast movement and close quarter brawls. They say speed kills. They might have been talking about Sam Fisher. Unlike the previous games in the franchise which focused on methodical movement, Fisher can now crawl along edges with super-human speed and scale pipes and walls like he was raised by apes. Hiding in the darkness is more of a suggestion now, rather then a commandment. It’s a lot different then the previous games. It feels like the game doesn’t know what genre it belongs in. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none. It’s okay as a stealth game and okay as a third person shooter, but certainly not top of the pack in either category. It’s constantly lurching forward with speed but being held back at the same time. Like a stallion bred for racing being forced to trot around a field at a kids birthday party, the games potential is being hampered at every turn.

Tools of the trade.

Say hi to the sidewalk for me

Throughout the game completing certain actions will earn you points to spend on weapon and equipment upgrades. Some are easy like killing 5 guys in a row without being detected, others are more demanding, such as finishing an entire level without being spotted even once. These side-quests will add some life to the game and help tip the odds in your favor when it comes to weaponry. Picking up your foes weapons will store them in your safe, accessible throughout select locations in each level. Upgrade your weapons with silencers, bigger clips and the ability to tag more people in your mark and execute move. You’re aloud to bring one pistol and one machine gun with you, so make them good ones. It’s a shame the third person shooting mechanics are so rough around the edges, making a barn burning shoot out a frustrating and fidgety experience. Your main weapons will be your fists. Anyone in the game can be killed in one button push, from behind or face to face. Since you have the ability to run and your melee kills are so devastatingly effective, I developed a strategy of getting just close enough with gun fire to sprint and melee the closest enemy while simultaneously marking other enemies in the room.  You also have equipment such as grenades and sticky cameras, but they feel a little unimportant. Like Metal Gear Solid 4, the game gives you tons of things that you will never ever need to use. The equipment is either ineffective or just less efficient then a melee kill or bullets.

Multiplayer

The most fun I had with the game was in co-op. Online or splitscreen, you and a friend can tackle 4 different missions as an American operative and a Russian operative. The game does a nice job of throwing in a few tricks for co-op fun (dual executions) but it’s pretty much the same experience, but you’ve got a buddy! Lots of melee kills and lots of shooting. Voice communication and timing are key, because a well played scenario can have 10 mercenaries dying in an instant after each of you tag four and take the fifth as a hostage. Situations like that are where the game really clicks and feels awesome, it’s a shame they don’t occur more often. Aside from straight up co-op, you can go head to head with your partner in some online modes. Theirs some fun to be had, but it won’t keep you coming back for very long.

Highs and  lows

Not long for this world

For a game that has been in development for so long, you’d think the story and graphics would be top notched. Neither impress. The games visuals look outdated almost immediately with some shockingly basic textures rearing their ugly heads every once and a while. The game looks fine in motion, just don’t stop to smell the pixels. While the visuals are jumping up and down, so are the mechanics. Every now and then Conviction throws a new little mechanic at you which can frustrate players quickly. Dodging lasers, lights you can’t shoot out..enemies that can see you through walls. Those ultra-violent interrogation scenes you drooled over in the games previews are nothing special after a go or two. The core game is fun, but it’s just got a bunch of nagging issues that keep it from achieving elite status.

Expect twists and familiar faces throughout the Convictions 6-7 hour length. Conviction is by no means a bad game, just a confused one. It tip toes on the edge of greatest but is held just short by its flaws. The game balances pace throughout  before it abandons the earlier design docs and flops around like a fish on the floor of a boat gasping for air.

[starreview tpl=46 size=’30’]

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