Review

Splinter Cell: Conviction Review (Xbox360)

Sam Fisher has seen and done a lot over the course of just five games (including the PSP instalment), saving the world on numerous occasions at the expense of his family, now tragically lost. So, when he receives word that his daughter's death was no accident, Fisher embarks upon a personal mission to track down his daughter's killer, knocking seven shades out of anyone foolhardy enough to get in the way.

Splinter Cell: Conviction (the sixth overall in the series) puts Sam Fisher on the precipice as he's outnumbered, outgunned and hunted mercilessly. Of course, the best way to counter being hunted, is by becoming the hunter yourself and so Fisher is a more confrontational customer, not averse to putting a bullet in someone's head and asking questions later. To indirectly quote Ubisoft, Conviction's Fisher is a panther – lethal in and out of the shadows, able to stalk his prey and dispatch numerous targets with a minimum of effort.


Third Echelon are no longer on Sam's side. Now they're after you instead.
Interrogations are fantastically brutal and therefore, provide sadistic fun as you torture characters for info.

More a deadly Jason Bourne than a gadget-wielding James Bond, Fisher relies on ruthless close-quarter combat techniques and uncompromising takedowns to dispatch enemies, although a well-aimed headshot never goes amiss. Successfully subduing an enemy using hand-to-hand grants the ability to mark and execute, enabling you to dispatch up to four bad guys with a quick tap of Y having tagged them with the right bumper.

It's a beautifully efficient if slightly contrived method of coolly clearing a room in the blink of an eye, but it's choice that is arguably Sam's greatest weapon, arming him with either the element of surprise or a chance to take the aggressive option and go in guns blazing, though this latter approach is invariably a bad idea. Despite no longer being under the supervision of Third Echelon, Fisher is no less well-equipped with a range of gadgets at his fingertips however, including a makeshift device for peeking underneath doors that happens to also be a car's wing mirror. You're still armed with sticky cameras and an extensive cache of various grenades that range from electronics-disabling EMP to more traditional frag and flash grenades too, as well as remote mines.

Sticky cameras and Sam's sonar goggles acquired later in the game, play a role in mark and execute, enabling you to tag enemies beyond your own cone of vision, through walls and floors. To begin with, a maximum of two marks can be tagged until you complete in-game Prepare & Execute Challenges, earning points to spend on weapon upgrades, which eventually allow you to add up to two more. And there's nothing more satisfying than marking up to four targets before kicking a door down and popping them in square the face with a simple tap of Y.

Despite the out and out aggression afforded by mark and execute, sneaking in the shadows undetected is still very much the only way to survive for any length of time, so as ever, Fisher has more than a few methods of disappearing beneath a veil of darkness up his sleeve. Helpfully, the visual indicator of colour to show that you're visible and black and white to show that you're shrouded in shadow provides immediate feedback without the need for excess HUD furniture. It's a neat device, although it requires you spend much of the time playing the game in monochrome, which is a shame given the vivid colour normally on show in much of the game's environments. Consequently, Conviction can often seem quite visually dreary, when in-fact, there's a striking palette of colour concealed beneath the predominant whites, blacks and greys.


Cover still plays and integral role in Splinter Cell, although you might want to reconsider using a pump-action shotgun to avoid attention.
Seriously, these interrogations never get old, even if they are a little limited in terms of interactivity.

Nevertheless, the mechanic makes sense, slightly impairing vision in dark areas, while indicating where you are in relation to sources of light. Sometimes, an EMP blast can be invaluable to temporarily snuff out surrounding illuminations and provide a moment of darkness in which to quietly snap some vertebrae or shimmy silently by on an overhead pipe. Suspending Sam from higher ground, such as pipes and ledges also gives you the option to perform crushing 'death from above' takedowns or over-the-ledge pulls, sending unsuspecting enemies plummeting to the ground.

Splinter Cell: Conviction's narrative meanwhile, is the usual blend of Clancy-brand cloak and dagger intrigue told with flair as images are projected on the walls and the early tutorial is relayed via a cool flashback sequence where Sam is putting his young daughter to bed. SCCs single player campaign is peppered with great moments like these, but sadly it's just a little on the short side, although frustratingly distributed checkpoints in latter portions of the game artificially make the story last longer than it otherwise would.

The relatively slight single player campaign is bolstered by a decent co-op prologue however, which lends added insight into the overall plot. Playing as Archer and Kestrel, a pair of highly trained operatives, there's a quite substantial chunk of gameplay to be gleaned as well as additional story exposition that's worth uncovering. The mode effectively uses all of the same gameplay components as the main campaign too, meaning that you're essentially the same as Fisher in the main game in terms of ability.

Each of Conviction's campaign modes, offer similar narrative structure, both incorporating interrogations, which are deliciously sadistic and gratifying instances of compartmentalised interactive torture in which you extract answers from key characters. Highlights include plunging a knife through someone's hand, smashing a head through a urinal or sink and pushing one unfortunate fellow's face into his office paper shredder, causing a spray of arterial mess all over his desk. Lovely.


Mark and Execute can be pulled off anywhere, as long as all tagged targets are visible and within range.
SCC is slickly presented throughout and the story and objectives are expertly delivered.

There's a good four hours or so of extra game time to be had infiltrating the underground EMP bunker in co-op, as well as conquering four distinct modes of multiplayer Deniable Ops, which offer hours more gameplay. Hunter, Face-off, Infiltration and Last Stand will keep you occupied long after the final credits of the single player and co-op campaigns have rolled, making Conviction a game that while not necessarily packed with longevity, is still worth a multiple playthroughs.

Sam Fisher is back with a vengeance then, leaner and meaner than ever before. Splinter Cell: Conviction, like Fisher is also rather lean in terms of narrative-based content, but there's more than enough going on in multiplayer to make SCC well worth the asking price. And we say that with conviction.

Top game moment: Seeing a piano during an interrogation and using Kobin's head to make sweet music.

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Comments

By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Apr 19, 2010
herodotus
I'd have to agree with all the points made, Richard. The one thing I really didn't like was the B&W gimmick in stealth mode (thought it was cheap), but what I really didn't like was the SOCOM--like prequel mission. Overall a good stealth game, but I'm not sure as to the replayability.
By Richie82 (SI Member) on Apr 19, 2010
Richie82
From a story perspective, you're right. There really isn't much impetus to revisit. Longevity pretty much comes entirely from the multiplayer stuff. I'm enjoying Hunter and Last Stand quite a lot lately.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 05, 2010
Wowerine
I loved this game. Even tough Ubisoft kinda crapped it up with the whole DRM - activation bull, same story with Assassins Creed 2.