Review by Archmonk Iga

"An emotional storyline and some excellent new gameplay additions make this exciting (though brief) Splinter Cell worth checking out."

Although I knew there were going to be some major gameplay changes in Splinter Cell: Conviction, and despite my general dislike for Sam's previous outing in Double Agent, I had extremely high expectations for Sam's latest in this beloved series. Slowly working your way through heavily guarded settings and keeping violence to a minimum has always been a staple of the Splinter Cell games. But Conviction tweaks that system just so, resulting in a much crisper and more refined way to play as a splinter cell. Ubisoft undoubtedly saw how much the SC's gameplay was aging upon the release of Double Agent, so all these major and minor alterations are very welcome to newcomers and old fans alike.

Conviction takes place a few years after the end of Double Agent. Sam has killed his best friend, his daughter has been murdered, and he has um… “retired” from Third Echelon. That is, until the secret government agency gets in touch with him for the first time since all that went down, bringing news of his daughter's murder and how it ties in with a terrorist organization targeting, of course, our nation's capital.

If Double Agent gave us any hint of a real, human story, then Conviction gives us the whole thing. Conviction's storyline delivers better than any of the previous SC titles. Gripping flashbacks help us to understand where Sam has come from and why he is who he is. Sam's uncomfortable return to his former friends and coworkers proves how much he has changed these past few years. And of course, the fact that the terrorist group threatening the safety of the United States has a direct link to Sam's late daughter brings in a real, believable, human sense of true hatred and anger from him. Sam has always been “The Man” in my mind (and he still is!)… but I've never really seen Sam as “a man.” What I mean is, beyond the Gulf War veteran, beyond the Splinter Cell agent, Sam is an American man with true values and true passions. Conviction finally has us recognize that.

Even if you have never played a Splinter Cell game, if you want to know Sam Fisher as a character and not just a trademark, play Conviction. His latest mission is personal. There are plenty of surprises and shockers in store as with any other SC game, but this time Sam has a whole new reason to do his job.
STORY: 9/10

Double Agent's dated visuals left some ugly scars in my memory, so playing Conviction is a real pleasure. Sam's stiff movements are now much more real, and the character designs are generally very cool. Environments are standard Splinter Cell fare, only much sharper than ever before. The locations in Conviction may not pull you in as much as before, but they definitely look better.

Beyond the expected action-movie score (which is far less distracting than before) and the typical gunshots and footsteps, Conviction really shines with its voice acting and script. The distance between Sam and NPC's has never been illustrated as well in an SC game as it is in Conviction, with voices fading in and out more realistically than ever before. Most importantly, however, are the voices themselves. Enemies have more lines, more believable accents, and more variety in their voice actors. Sam sounds great as usual, as do all the other main characters.
SOUNDS: 8.5/10

Remember how I said that slowly making your way through levels was a staple in Splinter Cell? Well, this time that's not quite the case. Sam has places to go and people to headshot, so creeping around like a sloth won't cut it in Conviction. You've got to move fast this time around.

Oh, and remember how I said that keeping violence to a minimum was also a staple in Splinter Cell? Hm, no, not anymore. As I said, Sam is passionate about this mission. He's out for blood. If these terrorists have something to do with his daughter's death, then he'd prefer every last one of them with a bullet in the head (which WILL happen… more on that in a bit). That said, much of the stealth from before has been essentially reversed into the complete opposite of what we are used to. Of course, taking to the shadows and avoiding being seen and heard is still of the utmost importance… there's just a little more bloodlust this time around. With no health or light meters, all we need to watch is our bullet count and if our screen's color goes out. You've never realized how nice it could be to play a game with such a minimalist HUD.

Conviction also introduces a new cover mechanic, one that is much more user-friendly than the previous entries. Simply hold down the button and Sam will take cover behind whatever he runs into. If there is no cover available then he'll crouch. I still don't think action games have perfected taking cover, but this is a step in the right direction.

Smaller changes to stealth still bring on some good strategy. Your gadgets, for one, are most likely going to take a backseat (as if they didn't before). More of note is when you are spotted—be it on accident or on purpose. A sort of “shell” of Sam will appear in his last known position where an enemy has seen him. Being spotted means that you're either using the shell to distract and take out the enemy from another angle or that you're going to have to slip back into a new hiding spot to calm things down a bit.

But I mentioned Conviction is about bloodlust… so how about we get to that part now? Conviction introduces the awesome new “Mark & Execute” command, which ends up playing a huge role throughout the game's entirety. Once you meet certain requirements to earn the M&E points, you can “mark” several enemies and take them all out in one fell swoop—or in this case, a few bullets to the brain. Marked enemies aren't guaranteed to get hit—keep an eye on the colors of the marks above their heads, or else your shots may be less stealthy than planned. You also need to make sure you know your surroundings. An out-of-sight guard will mostly likely notice one of his comrades dropping dead to the ground, silent kill or not.

Mark & Execute is pure stealth-kill bliss, but another addition in Conviction is equally fun—interrogating enemies. Instead of restraining them in a chokehold like previous entries (booooring), this time Sam legitimately interrogates them. I mean, thrusting their heads through glass, kicking them off balconies and shooting their legs kind of interrogating. This is his daughter we're talking about, people. He'd like some answers.

Sam's new methods of stealth are a huge change to the SC series—and maybe even a huge risk. In my mind, it all pays off. I look forward to stealth-action games reusing and improving these mechanics. But in addition to Sam's campaign, we also have an excellent co-op campaign. It's got its very own story and two protagonists. Actually, it uses the exact same gameplay as Sam's campaign, only this time it's doubled. The two characters must use each other to proceed through the levels, adding a whole new depth to Conviction. For the first time since becoming a SC fan, I have to recommend this entry because of both the single-player campaign AND the co-op campaign.

Speaking of co-op, I can't help but bring up some bad decision making by Ubisoft. First off, co-op is pretty much dominant in Conviction's multiplayer. Deniable Ops is fairly basic and for many will get stale, especially compared to the awesome co-op campaign. I only tread shallowly in multiplayer gaming, but I know I would have liked to see some more competition against other players rather than mostly working together with them. Another problem with Conviction involves some shady button commands here and there that can really mess up your game, such as moving into cover that isn't really cover and being spotted. There is also this one lengthy flashback level that is about as far from Splinter Cell gameplay as you can get… it could have been reduced to five minutes, and it seems like it was thrown in there at the last minute.

But many of these complaints are just that—complaints. Sure, they make the gameplay a bit less than it could have been, but the new interrogation methods and the relentlessly fun Mark & Execute system make the tiny bothers quite worth it. And anyway, none of these complaints are as big as the next section's.
GAMEPLAY: 8.5/10

There are multiple difficulties. There are several modes in Deniable Ops. There's the single campaign and the co-op campaign. This is all great, sure. But both campaigns will barely get you past the ten-hour mark… and that's just not cool. Deniable Ops is fun, but as I mentioned earlier it is so cut-and-dry that many will lose interest before long. Plus with the lack of competitive multiplayer this score goes down even more. Conviction is a powerful game in nearly every respect, but it's time in your 360's disc slot is so short that many will see it as nothing more than a rental. And this cost you $60? Sam deserves better, I say.

A fantastic new view into the person of Sam Fisher and an edge-of-your seat story are only the icing on the cake of what makes Conviction so great. Mark & Execute and a gruesome new interrogation system are what make this entry's gameplay stand above the first four titles. It's just a shame that Conviction is so temporary, because lengthier campaigns and more multiplayer would have been more than welcome—the gameplay sure as hell is good enough to put in many days worth of playtime, so long as we get something new every time. Still, the Splinter Cell series has certainly grown up, and even if you are remotely interested in Conviction or the character of Sam Fisher, I highly recommend picking this up.
OVERALL: 7.0/10

Thanks for reading =)

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/18/11, Updated 08/23/11

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

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