Review by Das_Regal
"Fun, but repetitive."
The core gameplay mechanics of Splinter Cell remain pretty much the same in Conviction, but they are simplified and streamlined in this installment to provide a rewarding, challenging experience. There is however one addition, the Mark and Execute ability. After performing a hand to hand takedown, you can essentially designate enemies then press the Y button to kill all of the enemies you designated immediately (2-4 of them maximum depending on the gun you use). This is a useful, interesting function, though I don't think it's anywhere near as innovative as people have praised it for being. It's essentially a simplified version of VATS from Fallout 3 that instantly kills multiple enemies in series of stylish shots.
There's not much remarkable about your arsenal because while there are a multitude of weapons available, you'll probably develop a preference early on and stick with the same guns throughout. This is especially true for the secondary weapon category, where your primary focus will be on choosing a gun with either a sight, a silencer, or simply to use the shotgun for raw firepower. There are no sniper rifles, the sub-machines and assault rifles blend together, and gadgets are equally as lackluster. Don't expect to find anything here to play with you haven't seen in numerous video games before.
While the basic shooting mechanics are fairly solid, the cover system is easy to use, and the stealth mechanics are well done, there is another bright spot this game has to offer. The upgrading system is persistent between multiplayer and singleplayer (though there are more things to upgrade for non-campaign use only) and it allows you a degree of customization and choice. Essentially you perform challenges (killing enemies or escaping in certain ways - though there are other ways to earn points in multiplayer) and are rewarded points which you use to upgrade weapons, gadgets, and uniforms for doing so. Gadget upgrades increase the basic effectiveness of your utilities and uniform upgrades give you various bonuses (such as extra clips). Weapon upgrades increase the effectiveness of your weapons and also sometimes add new functions, such as a scope or a silencer. If you're a completionist, this game will keep you busy long after you burn through the campaign content with refining every last piece of gear you've got.
Oftentimes a video game will attempt to pull off a grandiose story involving complicated human emotions and butcher things in the process with poor voice-acting, dialogue writing, and gigantic plot holes. This isn't the mistake that Splinter Cell: Conviction makes, the game simply never tries for anything that impressive. The storyline is predictable, the flash-forwards spoil plot progression for you, and lead you up to the ultimately predictable end in a truly disappointing fashion. The interrogation scenes, which involve a little interactive gameplay, quickly become irritating, pointless sequences you can't skip through.
Worst of all, for the most part the game lacks any feel of immersion. The ridiculous things the guards yell leave you laughing or wondering if you have a fourteen year old in your Xbox Live party who's playing Modern Warfare 2. There are no boss fights, and the only dramatic gameplay moment I can think of was insanely easy because you get infinite mark and execute tokens during it (which made absolutely no sense either). The story is a shell, it exists only to string together the scenarios that the game designer wanted you to experience, which is too bad because what voice acting and scripting they have is of a fairly high quality.
The menu sound effects, gunshot reports, ambient sounds are amazing. The music is barely noticable, but no one really expects an orchestral soundtrack to blow them away in a stealth-based shooter. Voice acting is good for the center-piece characters, although it's incredibly bad for the enemies you're fighting; almost like they hired a completely different writer to come up with the lines that the mercenaries spout off at you.
They did a truly phenomenal job with the graphics. The minimized hud, environment-integrated objectives, character models, and colorization are all top notch. My only complaint really is that since you spend so much time hanging out in the shadows, you don't get to experience the vivid details of the environment often enough (the game goes to gray when you're sneaking). The visuals during the mark and execute maneuver are impressively stylized; reminiscent of Quinton Tarantino film. My only real complaint is that there are no truly beautiful environments in the game, Splinter Cell: Conviction is spartan to its core.
While I wanted to score it lower than this because of my own negative experiences with it, if you're a co-op gamer and have a dedicated partner in mind Splinter Cell: Conviction delivers fairly well with its online component. The problem is, everything involves a maximum of 2 players, and games go out of sync fairly often. Lag is a real problem, as is people leaving your game for no reason whatsoever. Because the difficulty level is so high, playing with a stranger does not work out very well in practice, but there is a lot of multiplayer content to sift through if you have a partner in mind. Co-op campaign, hunters (think Mercenaries in Resident Evil), Last Stand (think horde/firefight), and infiltration (Mercenaries meets stealth) all provide interesting experiences that could've been so much better if the matchmaking and online experiences were more stable.
Not even the Ubisoft's Uplay system is particularly stable, it seems like the servers are never online.
I only had a few problems with getting Sam to do what I wanted while playing through the campaign, and they were never enough to warrant a controller-breaking rage toss against the nearest wall, however the controls are not customizable aside from y-axis inversion and some of the decisions they made are very counter-intuitive. LB serves as crouch and L1 as cover, with R-stick as the toggled aim; Conviction's controls make no attempt to conform to the shooter standard and don't even offer other control profiles to let you modify them to fit that. I also would've liked it if cover was toggle instead of hold considering the amount of time that you spend in cover.
Some people may find quite a bit of content in this game to explore, but that certainly wasn't my experience. You'll get around 10-15 hours of playtime between both campaigns (assuming you can find a decent partner for the co-op campaign), and while they're definitely short, by the end of the game you've had about all you can take of that style of gameplay anyway. Things get very repetitive very fast, with a lackluster story, and a surprisingly non-responsive difficulty slider (halfway through I switched from realistic to normal and couldn't tell the difference at all). You can play the Last Stand and Hunter modes alone, which thankfully allows you to bypass the horrible online functionality to experience that part of the game if you so choose.
Conviction is fun to play, especially for the first few hours, but the game is sorely lacking in diversity. If your taste in games is at all like mine by the time you finish the game you'll be glad you only rented it and didn't shell out $60 for such a short, shallow experience. To be fair however, Conviction handles stealth masterfully and the challenges are fun to complete. If you're a stealth junkie, you'll probably love this game. I think there's a good chance that it's the best that gaming has to offer for that genre currently.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/20/10
Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction (US, 04/13/10)
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