Review by horror_spooky

"Three green lights of death"

Tom Clancy, at this point, is just as iconic in the video game industry as the names “Mario” and “Sonic.” While Mr. Clancy himself isn't really that involved in the production of the games carrying his name, these titles have become very successful franchises that have spawned numerous sequels and other media. From Rainbow Six to Ghost Recon, gamers everywhere have enjoyed the ultra-realistic challenges that Clancy's games provide with each outing. However, one of the more successful series under the Tom Clancy banner is Splinter Cell, a spy-based series of games that follow the brutal adventures of Sam Fisher. Splinter Cell: Conviction marks Fisher's first seventh generation adventure after many delays and changes, so was it worth the wait?

Conviction integrates plenty of new gameplay mechanics into the tried-and-true Splinter Cell formula, and also tweaks things to create a better experience. The Splinter Cell games, you see, are stealth-action titles in the vein of Metal Gear Solid, but the older games in the series have relied too much on trial-and-error progression. Conviction allows a more open-ended approach to different situations in the game, and you'll have to be creative and think on your feet to make it through each action-packed level.

As you sneakily put a round into an unknowing guard's head or as you crack the neck of an enemy completing his daily patrol, you will complete various challenges. These challenges are similar to the multiplayer challenges found in the Call of Duty games, and when you complete them, you are rewarded with points. You can spend these points at weapon stashes generally placed in the middle of every level or in the game's main menu. You use these points to upgrade your weapons and gadgets, or you can use them to edit the attire of your multiplayer character.

There are many weapons at your disposal, and while the silenced pistol is easily the most useful, you can try to rush through the game with a shotgun or an assault rifle if you so please. The gadgets that you can use are relatively sweet, and they include remote mines, a portable EMP, and a sticky camera. I especially enjoyed using the sticky camera, as you can throw it on walls, look through it, make noise to attract guards, and then blow up an entire squad with the simple press of a button.

While you could most certainly blast your way through the game if you are playing on an easier setting, the most entertaining approach to Splinter Cell games is to be stealthy. This remains true for Conviction, and sneaking up on your enemies and taking them down with a melee kill can be very rewarding. Whenever you kill someone with your bare hands, you earn the right to use the “execute” mechanic. You mark a number of enemies with the right bumper and then press Y to swiftly kill them all in one quick cut-scene. I loved this feature, and I felt as though it really made some combat situations in the game that much more exhilarating.

One issue I have with the stealth mechanics though is the way the game tells you that you aren't seen. The screen changes to black and white, and while this isn't a huge deal, it does make it difficult to tell if you are in the cover of darkness or if you are standing in light that could make you easily detectable by enemy forces. This is a huge problem on higher difficulties and can cost you cheap deaths, and there's no reason why there couldn't have been a more efficient way to display this information.

A new mechanic that I absolutely loved was the interrogation techniques. When you interrogate enemies, you can move around the room and lean them over various objects. By tapping a button, Sam beats the living hell out of them using whatever in the environment you are standing by. These sequences are brutal and provide a much more entertaining way to receive information than just reading files or something clichéd like that.

I have to self-edit a little bit here. At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Conviction was the first Splinter Cell game in the seventh generation. This information is technically wrong, but Conviction really is the first Splinter Cell game developed for seventh generation technology exclusively, and that uses mechanics that consoles in the previous generation wouldn't be able to successfully pull off. Double Agent was released on the Xbox 360 a few years back, but it actually had even less features than its PlayStation 2 counterpart, focusing solely on online multiplayer and not supporting the series' trademark awesome split-screen co-op modes.

Thankfully, Conviction is different. Split-screen co-op, online co-op, and LAN co-op return and it's a blast. The co-op gameplay and the gameplay from the main game aren't that different, except the co-op campaign gives you a lot more to play with and allows you to fully flesh out your stealthy strategies just a bit more. Teamwork is a requirement to ensure success in these levels as well, considering the co-op game is substantially more difficult than the single-player adventure.

There isn't just a cooperative campaign mode either; there are now versus multiplayer options for split-screen players and there are other co-op modes including a mode where you sneak around maps and kill every single enemy that you see. In the versus mode, you and the other player compete to see who can earn the most points by the end of each round by killing enemies as well as one another.

Conviction is much more story-driven than some of the older games. Sam is much more fleshed out as a character, but he's almost too reminiscent of Liam Neeson in Taken, which is a ridiculously overrated film. Well, Sam is dragged back into the world of espionage to find answers about his family and about the company he used to work for, Third Echelon, and if I went into any more detail than that, I would spoil huge plot points, and I'm not that kind of guy. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout the game, and the plot plays out brilliantly.

Environments are nicely detailed, if not a little on the boring side and a tad repetitive. Character models are extremely impressive and the animation is also of the highest quality. Cut-scenes are gorgeous and the lighting effects are beautiful as well. I didn't like the black and white mechanic they tried to employ, but other than that, there's really nothing negative to say about the graphics. A huge plus is that even if you have a standard definition television, you'll actually be able to read the words on the screen! There are a couple of glitches and technical mishaps here and there (one time I got stuck inside of a wall and had to kill myself with a frag grenade to revert to the previous checkpoint), but there isn't anything that will make you rip your hair out or punch a hole in the wall or something.

Most of the voice acting is fine, and the background music will get your blood-pumping. That being said, I did have issues with the voice actor playing Sam Fisher. The guy sounded way too old, and while I understand that Sam has gone under a lot of stress and has obviously aged over the years, he just sounds hokey and unrealistic. It doesn't help that the voice doesn't match his face at all, and while the actual acting and dialogue isn't necessarily bad, it was just a poor choice by the developers to choose the voice actor that they did.

Conviction can be completed in six hours easily, but after that there is plenty left to do and see. The multiplayer options are expansive and deep, and will provide many more hours of quality entertainment. There are unlockable features and plenty of stuff to upgrade, not to mention an alternate ending. Achievements add even more to the replay value of the game, and the achievements aren't all that bad, unlike most Ubisoft games nowadays.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction is my favorite Splinter Cell game to date. The game manages to be gritty and brutal as hell, while still maintaining the core stealth elements that made the series popular. There are some issues here and there, like with the black and white cover mechanic, the occasional bug, and the voice acting issues I had, but if you're looking for an explosive espionage adventure on the Xbox 360, then look no further than Splinter Cell: Conviction.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/24/10

Game Release: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction (US, 04/13/10)


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