- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
et the record state that I’ve never been a big fan of stealth-based games like Ubisoft’s “Splinter Cell” series. They require patience and time, and quite frankly, I’ve never had much of either. So when the latest installment, “Splinter Cell: Conviction,” arrived at the office for review, my reaction wasn’t exactly one of jubilation. After all, I've been known to throw in the towel a little prematurely when it comes to stealth games, so I was hesitant about committing to review it for the site. But after working my way through the first few levels, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, while "Conviction" has all the markings of a "Splinter Cell" game, it's ultimately a more accessible version of the stealth subgenre that should please both diehard fans and newcomers alike.
The game picks up two years after the events of “Splinter Cell: Double Agent,” or so says Wikipedia. No longer a company man for Third Echelon, Sam Fisher has dedicated his time to hunting down the drunk driver who killed his daughter, Sarah. When his former colleague, Anna Grimsdottir, calls him with new information regarding Sarah’s death, Sam teams up with Grim to unravel a web of conspiracy connecting his family to a terrorist threat against the President of the United States. And now that he’s no longer playing by the rules, it makes sense that Sam’s M.O. would change as well. He still likes to sneak around in the darkness, but he does so with the insolence of Jack Bauer.
Anyone who thinks that this gives them free reign to just shoot enemies out in the open will learn the hard way that “Conviction” is still very much a game about stealth – although one that is slightly more lenient with the rules. Sam Fisher is only human, and while he can definitely take a beating with the best of them, trying to run-and-gun your way through every obstacle is just going to get yourself killed. Still, while there are a few sections that require you to get around without being detected, “Conviction” is more about taking advantage of your surroundings and improvising on the fly. This ties directly into one of the game’s new features, Last Known Position, which provides you with a visual silhouette of where your enemies think you're hiding. Whether they’ve spotted you due to your own recklessness or because you’re purposefully trying to draw them out, you can use your LKP as a decoy to flank them or pick them off one at a time.
Keeping to the shadows works just as well (even if it's not the most economic way to spend your time), and in a clever visual style used to differentiate between when you're protected by the darkness and when you're exposed, the game shifts between color and black and white. Sam can still see in the dark, of course, although it’s a little difficult with your sonar goggles powered on. Other new additions include a Mark and Execute feature that allows you to quickly dispose of nearby enemies (an ability that you earn by successfully completing hand-to-hand attacks), as well as real-time interrogations with fully destructible environments perfect for roughing up stubborn hostages "24"-style.
With so many changes to the “Splinter Cell” formula, it’s only natural to question whether “Conviction” strays too far from what fans loved about the other games in the series, but most of the new additions make for such entertaining gameplay that it’s hard to argue otherwise. Unfortunately, the single-player campaign is far too short for boasting such an overly complicated story (it clocks in at around six hours), and though the inclusion of a co-op prequel mission and some generic multiplayer modes help to beef up the final product, they feel more like an afterthought than something that actually belongs. That doesn’t change the fact that “Splinter Cell: Conviction” delivers one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences of the year, but you’d probably be better of renting it than paying full price for what ultimately amounts to only a couple of days of fun.