It seems that this game almost snuck up on us after all these years of waiting quietly in the shadows. I think we knew that the game was coming but didn’t know when considering the delays, reboots and changes in what the game originally was intended to be. Finally the biggest change in the Splinter Cell series history, Splinter Cell: Conviction is here. So what is the verdict on the single player campaign?
To put it bluntly got a mixed reaction from the game; in some areas it feels like the perfect blend of stealth and action. In others it feels soulless and without direction, sometimes trying to be Gears of War and failing. You die really quickly in this game and once you are detected the enemies start shooting incredibly accurately later in the game. This is the games biggest problem, yes it is easier than other Splinter Cells to hold your own in a gun fight, but in sections where you have to hold a location against 10-15 enemies it just becomes frustrating instead of fun.
Cover and shadows are your friends, but being spotted isn’t all bad. There is a new Last Known Position mechanic; once you have been spotted and then successfully hide you see a silhouette of where your enemies think you are hiding. This makes it easy to flank your opponents since they aren’t super intelligent at times. Combining this with the “Mark and Execute” function is can be extremely rewarding to clear a room after being spotted.
Luckily the game has a great cover system; holding the left trigger down will hold you to cover, releasing this pops you straight out of cover (while still crouching.) While in cover, you just aim in the direction of the next piece of cover you want to use (there is an indicator on the cover) press the A button and you are there. It is not as quick as something like Wanted: Weapons of Fate, easily the best part of that game, but it is fairly intuitive and you don’t often die because of the cover system sticking unlike a lot of games out there.
Playing Splinter Cell of old, as anyone who has played one can tell you, can be really hit and miss with feeling like a super spy. Knowing this Ubisoft Montréal made a great decision giving us Mark and Execute. This is a simple mechanic, where you mark your targets and Sam Fisher goes super spy and kills the marked targets (maximum of 4) automatically, but this isn’t unlimited. You need to melee someone to get use the ability, at the beginning of the game this is ok. By the end of the game though, I was wishing I could use it almost like grenade ammo, collecting it when I do a melee and then not feeling compelled to use it straight away before I melee someone again due to enemies grouping in two’s and three’s.
Back at E3 last year when the game was demoed the graphics looked stunning. Unfortunately getting the game home seems to reduce some of that graphics fidelity. The lack of resolution (the game runs at 576p) is noticeable as is the sub par Anti Aliasing. Also the most noticeable visual imperfection in the game is the terrible lip syncing, given the amount of cut scenes in the game, you would think that the lip syncing would be at a level that reflects the great voice acting in the game. There are also a few levels with views off into the distance, these have very little detail and can be really off-putting for the few seconds they are on screen. These little things are disappointing because the game overall still looks great, if a little uneven, and the detail of Sam and some of the environments you are in look great.
Style is something that Splinter Cell Conviction does well; one of the best effects in the game is when you are hidden in shadows the game becomes devoid of colour letting you know you are hidden. The other little touches such as the objectives being projected on buildings, objects in the direction you need to go and video’s being placed on the walls during certain conversations and the interrogation missions.
The interrogations in the game are interesting because you need to discover the sections of the environment that will convince the person to give you the information you are after and ruthlessly beat the person using the environment. If you miss you don’t get the information or the environmental beatings. Disappointingly if you succeed or fail doesn’t change the outcome of the game or it’s objectives at all
Being a Splinter Cell game there obviously needs to be a lot of toys; guns, grenades and EMP’s are all standard tools of the game, as are shotguns, silenced pistols, rifles and mini-guns. These are all upgradeable; with the upgrade system you can increase accuracy, damage, number of marks, radius of effect and all the usual upgrades. Not that you notice a big difference out side of the number of people you can mark and execute because headshots are still the most effective method of taking out enemies. Probably the most useful gadget would be the sticky camera, being able to throw the camera then view it, make noise or blow it up is great.
The story is told mainly via narration and cut scenes, but is done in a way that makes the game feel disjointed at the beginning. In the end it all makes sense, the problem is that you don’t really know what is going on for the first half of the game. The game ends on a slight cliff-hanger ending that comes much quicker than the rest of the plot points in the game. In the end you are left with a feeling of uncertainty of what just happened. The flashbacks in the game do little to explain things and move the story forward. It really feels like there should have been a few more scenes in the game that ended up on that cutting room floor. That isn’t saying the game is too short, it’s not as bad as people have been complaining about, any longer and it probably would have dragged on.
Despite all my negativity Splinter Cell: Conviction is a good game. It is really fun to play but its single player does have its flaws. Not knowing what sort of game it really wanted to be, the super accuracy of the AI and the graphical anomalies are the biggest ones. Taking into account that I haven’t played the multiplayer and co-op to an extent that I feel comfortable reviewing them, the game just doesn’t feel worth the wait for new comers and Splinter Cell fans alike.