Splinter Cell has always been one of those games that I wanted to play but could never get into. I game both the original Splinter Cell and Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow a shot and wasn’t a fan of the way the game played. I suppose you could chalk it up to me being young and impatient as the game required a lot of sneaking and avoiding enemies. It was the only alternative to Metal Gear for tactical espionage action. Steam had a super sale a week or so ago where you could purchase every Splinter Cell (with the exception of Pandora Tomorrow) for the low low price of around $45. This included the deluxe edition of Conviction which costs around $64.99 regularly. I figured why not give it another go… and I’m glad I did!
The game’s look, sound, and controls are all up to par with any current gen game out on the market now. Splinter Cell has always been about stealth and how it’s handled it with realistic high tech gadgets. In the original games the main character, Sam Fisher, had a fairly high tech stealth suit with photo cells that would determine your visibility. In this iteration, the screen will turn black and white when you are hidden in the shadows. You can still shoot out lights to create dark areas, however, the game relies more on action and less on stealth. While it is easier to take your time and do stealth kills, it is entirely possible to gun down enemies and take them out by just using cover.
This would feel like any other third person shooter if it wasn’t for the mark & execution and last known position mechanics. Mark & execution allows you to select a certain number of enemies and then execute an instant kill on all marked targets. Think of it kind of like the Bourne movies where he takes out 2 or 3 guys in seconds. This is especially useful when you’re being searched for by numerous enemies. You can only mark & execute after you’ve done at least one stealth/melee kill. After you use it, you have to do another stealth/melee kill to mark & execute again as they do not stack.
The last known position mechanic is a little more interesting. The game focuses heavily on cover and bouncing back and bouncing between them. When an enemy spots you, it’s possible to move to a different location when they are reloading or not looking. This will cause your silhouette to appear in the area that they think you are. This allows you to bounce from cover to cover and either escape when outnumbered, or sneak up for a quick melee kill to gain a mark & execute.
Beyond those mechanics, game play feels pretty standard. The question now becomes how is the story? The short answer is that it makes very little sense compared to other Splinter Cells. It’s very personal for Sam Fisher as it revolves around him finding out who killed his daughter and escalates into an crazy national crisis. It’s also narrated in the past tense by one of Fisher’s buddies that ends up helping him through the whole story. At times it’s dope and other times they’re spitting out some of the most absurd shit I’ve seen in a game. The only reason it seems absurd is due to my misconception that stuff that happens in Splinter Cell could possibly happen in real life. While I think the reaction is a bit harsh, Penny Arcade sums up how absurd Splinter Cell: Conviction’s story can be.
The single player campaign weighed in at about 7 hours for me which most people would say is a bit short. There are some multiplayer modes that can extend the life of the game. One is a prequel co-op campaign that, due to owning it on PC, I haven’t had some pals to run through it with. The other modes are a kind of horde mode and a mode to kill all enemies on a map. Both can be played co-op or against each other.
In the end, I do not regret my purchase. Splinter Cell: Conviction is a solid game that I think anybody can enjoy. It does have it’s flaws that keep it from being stellar though. Stuff like the monochrome view getting annoying, having unlimited pistol ammo (makes the game a bit easy), and a short and bat shit crazy single player drag it down a bit. Fans of the previous games and hardcore stealth action aficionados might want to apply elsewhere as it seems Conviction did seem to stray from it’s roots in that regard. At the price I paid for entry though, I don’t regret my purchase at all and it actually got me excited to play the previous entries.