Splinter Cell Conviction: review

Brutality is something that a lot of games characters can be quite keen to show off in cut scenes, but when it comes down to gameplay the end result is often just a simple case of point and click shooting adventures. This is definitely not the case with Splinter Cell Conviction, with the mysteriously un-aged Sam Fisher being the very definition of brutal.

Conviction has gutted a lot of what made the landmark series what it is and very bravely refined it to create a different kind of Splinter Cell. You still have the shadows; but instead of being a thin veil to mask your presence, they are now a deadly tool for taking down a room full of thugs. Whilst you can try to sneak by undetected, the game seems to have been designed for you to remove all witnesses if possible. This is reinforced further as Sam can no longer hide bodies, meaning that unless you take a guy out in a secluded area, it is very easy to spook the nasty men with guns.

This is where the heightened brutality comes into play with the genius mark and execute system. Simply put, first you need to take somebody down in hand to hand combat, which rather surprisingly still seems to result in them eating a bullet. This will earn you a mark and execute token, which means you can mark a limited number of enemies patrolling around a room and with the tap of a button, insta-headshot them all.

Mark and Execute - shooting guys in the head on autopilot

Now, this may sound like room clearing on easy mode, but it really doesn’t feel like it in the game. You need to earn each mark and execute with a close quarter take down, and you can only store one at a time meaning you have to think very tactically when you want to use one or save it for what might be around the corner. It becomes very handy for planning your assault or even as a valid escape tactic should you get busted whilst trying to sneak by. It not only serves as an excellent way to even the odds, but also looks unbelievably cool, letting you do things that you see in the movies which would be far too tricky to pull off without a slightly autonomous system.

With these tools in place it means that should your stealthing backfire, you can get out of most situations and execute your plan B fairly fluently and not need to reload an earlier checkpoint. This doesn’t mean that when you are spotted you can outgun enemies as the game still keeps the tradition of Sam Fisher being fairly squishy in the face of gunfire, but it is clearer how to outsmart the enemies with another new tool, Last Known Position.

If you are spotted not being the most subtle person in the world, it is a good idea to disappear into the shadows, round the corner or behind a wall. When you have eluded a guard’s field of vision, your last known position will be projected as a ghostly apparition, and the AI will plan an assault on this area, usually with a mix of suppressing fire and flanking manoeuvres.

Takedowns can also be used with the environment, such as windows and railings

The clever bit in this is that it actually lets you visualise to some extent what the enemy is thinking, allowing for you to come up with your own scheme to out-flank the flankers. At times it feels like Tom and Jerry, with Sam being the mouse that outwits the cat every single time, just with more neck snapping and bullet lobotomies than the lovable children’s cartoon.

The singleplayer campaign sees a bitter and twisted Sam Fisher on a path of revenge for his daughter’s murder, which provides a substantial reason for his new levels of rage and violence. The predator like gameplay is interspersed with some clever plot twists which are often beaten out of people in the new interrogation scenes. Certain characters are singled out as wells of information, allowing them to be grappled and then pummelled off of various surfaces during questioning sessions that make Jack Bauer look like a sugar coated kitten from Santa’s workshop. Locations can be turned into instant torture rooms which allow for heads to be slammed in doors, faces punched through urinals and faces burned on stoves. The only slight disappointment in these scenes are the invisible walls within the interrogation zone, which often feel like a limitation on your sadistic ingenuity when it comes to information extraction.

Co-op deserves a special mention as it might as well be its own game, featuring an entire prequel campaign for you and a mate to play through over Xbox Live or via splitscreen, which is really nice in a world dominated by online gaming. You play as agents Archer and Kestrel wearing more traditional looking Splinter Cell garb, chasing after stolen warheads that sets the background for the main adventure nicely. The controls and new abilities from the singleplayer carry over exactly the same to give another three to four hours of excellent stealth action gameplay.

Objectives are projected onto easy to read places, just to keep you in the loop

Other multiplayer modes include Hunter, seeing the both of you hunting down guards through different environments, Last Stand where both players must fight off waves of enemies as you defend a target, and Face-Off, a battle to kill more henchmen than your fellow player whilst also trying to take them out for extra points.

Splinter Cell Conviction is definitely a new direction for the series, which you need to be prepared for if you intend to slink about like you would in previous titles. The stealth elements are definitely in there, but now focus more on sneaky combat rather than complete evasion. As such, the controls are tighter giving you much more freedom and the new gameplay features really shine through. Criticisms are mainly petty, and a couple more hours of gameplay (you get 6 – 8 in singleplayer, depending on difficulty and your own skill) would have been nice; but make no mistake about it, Splinter Cell is back, more gripping and explosive than ever.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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