Review by furiouspenguin

"Sam Fisher has finally emerged from the shadows and he seems... different."

Sam Fisher has finally emerged from the shadows in an explosive new adventure, Splinter Cell: Conviction. Can Ubisoft's new take on this stealthy franchise best it's predecessors?

The story kicks off quite explosively. It starts off with a beaten and battered Sam Fisher face to face with an old friend, Anna Grimmsdottir. At the sound of a gun, we're taken back to a few days before Sam's previously stated predicament and we're off on Sam's journey to solve the mystery surrounding his daughters death and stop a group of terrorists from attacking the United States. The story is much more of a focus this time around unlike previous titles and it'll certainly keep you pushing through so you can get the answers Sam is searching for and how he'll handle things. Conviction also sports a pretty good ending even though the story itself is a tad clichéd. Sam also has one of the best "freak out" moments in the game I've ever had the chance to play through and one fun chase sequence that ends up with Sam facing his former associates in a small café. Oh, and some of the brutal interrogations are always entertaining to watch.

Now that the single player is out of the way, Co-op is where the real action takes place. Not only does it answer some questions you'll have from the single player but Archer and Kestrel are an interesting duo. Despite their differences, the two operatives from opposing agencies work well together from a story telling perspective and come to trust each other over the course of their five or six hour adventure together. The unexpected twist of events at the end will shock players and friends will find themselves in an odd position.

Have you ever seen 24 or watched a Bourne movie? Sam Fisher and the fearsome Co-op duo are a lot like those guys but despite what the naysayer's might be telling you, the new take on the series isn't anything to fret over. Relying on the shadows and being patient may not be a necessity anymore but it is still a strong part of the game as Sam still goes down after a few bullets. Using the new "Mark & Execute" feature to mark your targets and swiftly take down each one with finesse is very fun and really gets the adrenaline going. To use the mark & execute feature however, players will have to fuel the ability with a melee take down and they must be in range of their intended targets. Moving through the dark and staying out of sight is easy with the games smooth and easy to use cover system.

The stealth has been dumbed down however so the gameplay can sport better shooting mechanics. When players are emerged in shadows, the screen will switch over to a black and white noir style. Certain objects in the environment and colors on the enemies will stand out in a room that's bathed in a black and white hue. While I enjoy this kind of style, it's not something long time fans will like even if they spent most of the previous titles with their goggles on. The operatives in Splinter Cell come with plenty of fun to use gadgets like EMP devices and sticky cam to lure their enemies into a trap with a jaunty tune. The sonar goggles are particularly useful for spotting enemies and environmental hazards through walls.

The draw back of using the Mark & Execute feature however is that your character will occasionally shoot through solid objects. You'll also mark enemies that aren't picked up by the sonar goggles or in you're direct line of sight occasionally. Enemies aren't all that bright either, they won't notice bodies or an agent prowling in the dark unless they're placed directly in front of them and in close proximity. They're also slow to react to some of your gadgets like frag grenades and don't always investigate strange occurrences like they should be.

Archer and Kestrel have the same moves as Sam but with a few more perks. The pair can share marks as well as perform a dual execute which comes in handy when one of the two is in a position to pick off marks the other cannot. They also get better interrogations than Sam. Sure stabbing a guy in the hand is cool but shoving a guys face into a paper shredder or onto a hot stove then into a freezer is much more entertaining You can also share the "informant" with your partner so they can get some sloppy seconds! If you are detect and get incapacitated or used as a human shield, it's not exactly game over. It'll be up your partner to get to you in time and free or heal you and if you so choose, you can distract your captor from shooting at your partner, mark enemies while you're incapacitated or test fate by sitting up and trying to lend your partner a hand.

Outside of the co-op, players have four other game modes to play around in all of which are only one on one unfortunately. However, players won't be disappointed with them. Face-off will have you hunting each other down and taking out as many A.I. enemies as possible. Last Stand is Ubisoft's answer to horde mode. Archer and Kestrel must survive wave after wave and keep a valuable EMP intact. Infiltration is limited to those who can connect to Ubisoft's Uplay servers and use those points they racked up by achieving specific objectives in the game. It forces players to progress through the shadows and avoid detection or else it's over. Hunter is my favorite. It's Terrorist Hunt from Rainbow Six: Vegas. Players will have to take out 10 enemies in five areas of the map. Eliminating all enemies in one area will allow players to move onto the next area. Hunting down all your targets and taking them out quietly is incredibly satisfying, especially when you have someone else with you. Detection will usually lead to reinforcements though so what could be 50 easy enemies in a map turns into 100.

There's not much to look forward to in the graphics department. The doesn't look bad and Sam looks better than he did in Double Agent yet Grims sudden change from a pretty, scientist to a flamboyant field agent that looks like a boy is rather disappointing. She looks a lot like the chick from Transporter 3. You know, the one that also looks like a boy. The voice acting however, is well done and the soundtrack is superb. DJ Shadow's "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt" accompanies Sam's rage scene and the battle that follows wonderfully.

The weak graphics may not draw you in but the gameplay certainly will. The change compliments the story well even if it's a cliché. While I will admit that I'll miss the old Splinter Cell formula, it's nice to see Ubisoft trying something new and it works well. It doesn't completely abandon all aspects of Conviction's predecessors but streamlines them into a faster and more action packed game. I applaud Ubisoft and overall Conviction is certainly one of the best titles to hit shelves this year.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/21/10

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

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