Splinter Cell Conviction: Game Review

Sam Fisher returns in Splinter Cell Conviction, and he’s not in high spirits. The decision to infuse anger into Sam’s character might be one of the best choices made by developer Ubisoft Montreal for the new Splinter Cell title.

Sam’s fury is evident in every gruff line he speaks, visible in the ruthless takedowns and interrogations, and palpable with each of his strides.

This rage and aggression are clear in the storyline and the gameplay changes. Straying from the series’ trademark trial-and-error approach was a bold move, but it ultimately paid off. Splinter Cell Conviction’s single-player campaign is nothing short of fantastic.

Regrettably, as I’ll discuss later in this review, the PC version doesn’t quite measure up to its Xbox 360 counterpart.

Splinter Cell Conviction Story

The narrative picks up a few years after the conclusion of Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Fear not, even if you never completed that game, you’ll be brought up to speed quickly. Sam’s daughter has been killed, he’s taken the life of his best friend Lambert, and he’s left Third Echelon, the government organization he was serving for years.

Splinter Cell Conviction

Armed with new evidence pointing to his daughter’s murderer, a haunted and semi-retired Sam Fisher is drawn back into the fray. It turns out that those responsible for his daughter’s demise are planning a major terrorist strike on Washington D.C. This promises to be one long day for our protagonist Sam Fisher.

Conviction distinguishes itself from its predecessors in terms of pace.

The game constantly propels you forward, so much so that I completed the entire single-player campaign in one sitting without even realizing I’d been playing all night. Ubisoft employs a few clever tactics to achieve this effect.

In-game loading screens are absent unless you meet your demise. From the moment the game begins, there’s never a dull moment. Levels load as you watch skillful cutscenes.

State-of-the-art projection technology incorporates text into the environment to guide you toward your objective, while backstories unfold through movies projected onto walls as you progress. These elements help maintain player immersion, but the real reason for the game’s fluidity lies in the better approach to stealth.

In Splinter Cell Conviction, Stealth is Speed.

Sam’s movements are swift. Incredibly swift. He can duck in and out of cover with ease, traverse ledges faster than the Prince of Persia, and make a speedy getaway if needed. Sam’s Third Echelon codename is “panther,” which couldn’t be more fitting.

Unlike in previous Splinter Cell games where you were to kill enemies, in Conviction, Sam assumes the role of a predator. He’s not evading enemies; he’s stalking them.

Sam conceals himself in the shadows, seizes the perfect opportunity to strike, and delivers lethal blows. Even when faced with a dozen heavily armed and highly trained opponents, Sam remains a force to be reckoned with. The game’s generous aiming assists enable players to effortlessly take down approaching adversaries, making them feel like the ultimate badass.

Keyboard & Mouse Issue

No doubt, Conviction is playable with a keyboard and mouse, but it’s pretty obvious the game was meant for a gamepad. The experience is just so much smoother with a controller. But hey, if you don’t have a gamepad, don’t sweat it – you can still get by with a keyboard. Just a heads up, though: don’t bother looking for quick save or quick load options. They’re mysteriously missing in Conviction. The reason? Beats us.

Splinter Cell Conviction Gameplay

Ubisoft cleverly eliminated the need for players to constantly monitor various meters for stealth assessment. The game shifts to black and white when you’re hidden in shadows and color returns once you’re exposed to light. This intuitive mechanism allows for swift navigation and on-the-fly strategy development.

Stealth gameplay depends not only on light and shadow but also on a well-designed cover system. Unlike Gears of War, you don’t get stuck to a wall; simply press the left trigger to take cover behind an object and release it to disengage.

You can even crouch in the open by holding down the trigger. This cover system is unparalleled, setting a new standard for games in the genre.

If detected, it’s best to retreat and utilize the Last Known Position mechanic. A white silhouette marks your location, and the intelligent AI focuses its attention there. Capitalize on this by flanking enemies while they’re distracted by the silhouette. On Realistic difficulty, the AI is particularly sharp and not easily fooled.

Using shadows and cover, you can approach enemies for hand-to-hand takedowns. There’s a vast array of these satisfying moves, with one standout being shooting an enemy in the leg and then delivering a silenced pistol blow to their chin. However, the system has its flaws; attempting a stealth kill near a door may result in accidentally bashing the door open and causing a commotion.

Weapons

The Mark & Execute system has been a hot topic among Splinter Cell fans. It allows players to tag enemies with large arrows and eliminate them with a single button press. Although it may seem overpowered, players must earn the right to use it. Execution capability must be regained through another stealth takedown, and careless execution can expose you to other enemies. Moreover, there are usually more enemies than available marks, so the game doesn’t simply devolve into mindless tagging and killing.

Each weapon in the game has its unique attributes, including the number of marks available. This approach effectively balances gameplay while incorporating an element of strategy in selecting your gear before diving into the action. Will you choose the less potent Five-Seven pistol, boasting the most marks (four), or opt for a more powerful weapon at the expense of marks?

The Mark & Execute feature is an excellent addition that doesn’t detract from the Splinter Cell experience. The only downside is that occasionally, executing a marked enemy may result in your bullet defying the laws of physics by phasing through a wall to hit the target.

Game Modes

The new gameplay elements are quickly introduced in the single-player campaign, and their intuitiveness makes the tutorial a breeze. The campaign is a fast-paced, enjoyable five-hour journey with only two peculiar moments.

An early flashback to 20 years ago in Iraq transforms Splinter Cell into a simple third-person shooter, devoid of any stealth elements. Another section features an instant-fail mechanism if you are spotted, a gameplay concept that Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory addressed five years prior. Instant-fail gameplay is an unwelcome return.

Single-Player Mode

While the single-player campaign may be short-lived, even on Realistic difficulty, it’s just one part of the comprehensive package. Conviction offers a separate co-op campaign, Hunter, Infiltration, and Last Stand modes, as well as an in-game challenge system to hone your stealth abilities.

Deniable Ops introduces three additional modes, playable solo or with a friend. Hunter tasks you with eliminating a set number of enemies across levels; Infiltration is akin to Hunter but with intricate laser alarms and instant failure upon detection; and Last Stand involves defending an EMP device from waves of adversaries.

Before diving into a co-op, it’s essential to highlight the online frustrations in Splinter Cell. Firstly, Conviction employs Ubisoft’s stringent verification system that demands a continuous internet connection, and even a momentary lapse results in being kicked out of the game.

Moreover, the lack of matchmaking customization is concerning. Co-op with a friend in private matches works well, but playing with a random individual is a different story. There’s no way to check a player’s connection or limit searches geographically, leading to unpredictable and potentially unplayable lag. This inconsistency indicates a general disregard for optimizing Conviction for PC gamers.

It’s unfortunate, as the co-op experience surpasses the single-player campaign. You and a friend assume the roles of Third Echelon agent Archer and Russian Voron agent Ketrel, embarking on a prequel story to hunt down missing WMDs. Archer and Kestrel share the same moves as Sam and must collaborate to navigate four unique environments.

Co-Op Mantra

The co-op mantra is “live together or die alone.” If your partner dies, the mission fails, emphasizing teamwork and mutual support. Fortunately, you can revive a fallen comrade before they bleed out or rescue them from enemy clutches.

Co-op’s crowning achievement is the synchronized marking and execution of enemies. Archer and Kestrel share their marks, enabling either player to execute a marked target. When both have a line of sight on marked enemies, time slows down momentarily during execution, allowing for impressive double shots to an enemy’s head.

Splinter Cell Conviction Review – Verdict

In conclusion, Conviction is a Splinter Cell game in name more than anything else. The gameplay is fast-paced, transforming Sam into the ultimate killer. While it’s an incredible game, the departure from its predecessors may make it unrecognizable to some.

The PC version of Conviction is a half-hearted effort by Ubisoft. The game is better suited for a controller, and the primary issue lies in the inadequate online interface. The sparse options render matchmaking unpredictable, leading to occasional lag and crashes.

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