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Old 04-20-2010, 11:41 AM   #1
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[360/PC] - Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

Title: Splinter Cell: Conviction
Platform: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

Pewwww. That was my impression of night-vision goggles.

It's been a long, long time since we've had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Sam Fisher. He left us in 2006 with the enjoyable, if slightly concerning Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Why has it taken nearly four years to deliver the next in the series? It would appear that the delays have been the consequence of change. You'll all know by now that the game's development saw a reboot after this change proved too much for the development team, however, you'd be foolish to think they have stayed away from it entirely on this second time around.

As a rogue agent Sam has gone off the grid, angered by the death of his daughter, but finds himself drawn back in with promises of discovering the truth about her fate. He's an angry guy, understandably, and this anger has made him a more deadly, ruthless opponent for his old employers and the hapless guards you'll dispatch. To the game's detriment, life has become rather cheap in the world of Splinter Cells. You are now actively encouraged to kill rather than immobilize or avoid the enemies that fill the levels. This development team are keen on the works of their colleagues with 'Death From Above' moves being introduced. It looks like Assassin's Creed has been of significant influence and not just when it comes to dealing death – the movement mechanics feel extremely familiar and Sam now moves quickly across building ledges.


Sam may have been spending his time away from the spy game to hone his marksmanship. You can now execute tagged enemies, tagging returning once again, with a single button press should you build up the right to do so through hand-to-hand combat. The executions look cool, with slick animation placing bullets cleanly into the skulls of enemies, but including them as an incentive for successful stealthy behavior feels odd. If you are successfully moving from shadow to shadow, eliminating enemies without raising an alert then exactly why would Sam resort to firing his weapon? Unfortunately Mr Fisher's change in mentality results in more features being removed from the franchise than being added.

The team have added these executions and made assassinations from above much more like those of Ezio or Altair but the list of absent features is extensive. Ready, set, go: split jumps, inverted kills, hiding dead bodies, lock-picking mini-game, hacking mini-game, bomb diffusion mini-game, night vision, thermal vision and don't expect a sniper rifle to enter your hands. Leaving all of these features out, and failing to replace them with anything significant, leads to the game feeling like a step back for the franchise – albeit a very smooth step thanks to the new movement mechanics. Developers might dispute the comment that thermal and night vision have been removed because they, at least, have a replacement, however, the new sonar goggles are a disorientating jack of all trades, master of none.

Narratively the game doesn't succeed in either the single or multiplayer modes. The latter's story is a prelude to the former and is fairly forgettable in all regards. When dealing with Sam directly his character motivation drives things forward, constantly pursuing the truth about his daughter, while political and military chaos erupts. It could have worked and the new method of projecting story elements into the environment gave the developers the scope to deliver a lot of information without disconnecting the player with more frequent cutscenes. Unfortunately it's the facial animation that lets things down. Fisher has a pretty static expression, even when he is rather upset, and so it is impossibly difficult to feel sympathetic toward him.


That would be the extent of my negativity toward Splinter Cell: Conviction as it does a lot of things right. The new cover system is excellent, once you've got used to it. With a pull of the left trigger you'll snap into cover and releasing it frees you from its grip – much smoother than requiring a separate button press to move away from an object. While in cover you can move quickly between objects with the speed of movement being facilitated by an easy, accurate targeting system, just look in the right direction. Sam's agility is similarly accurate, it now being a far rarer occurrence to find yourself frustrated by his sense of direction. Weapons have a sturdy feel and obvious pros and cons for each of their uses although the sticky cam will now be used far less than the frag grenade.

The game features some brilliantly varied locations too with particular highlights being a fairground, a major obstacle course for a fan of the shadows, and an incredibly vertical industrial complex. Not every level is a hit though – the White House feels cliché and a flashback sequence in Iraq, complete with gung-ho attitude, is particularly unwelcome. The generally strong level design really sells the game, the variety they offer giving some consolation to those, like me, who are bothered by the developers ripping out so much of what makes Splinter Cell special.

The point is that when you are entertained it doesn't matter particularly that so much has disappeared and that makes the game worth renting at least. The difference being, of course, that Splinter Cell used to be a 'must buy' franchise, and that attribute could, especially in the latter titles, be awarded on the basis of the game's multiplayer. Conviction features multiplayer, but its all co-operative, bar a one-on-one mode, and the exclusion of Spies vs. Mercs is the game's biggest crime. With the single-player being short, the co-operative story shorter, the game struggles to assert its value. The 'Persistent Elite Creation' challenges will pass most players by – they may well complete actions that offer reward and never know about it.


Splinter Cell: Conviction is an enjoyable game thanks only to its pedigree, although it often feels as though that rich history of success never happened. Given the fractious development cycle fans should maybe just be pleased with the fact that Sam finally made it back to games consoles. If this game needed to happen in order to get the series back on track then it is a pleasant way for such a 'reboot' to be done. Perhaps many of the game's failings can actually be attributed to the general dumbing-down of the Tom Clancy branded titles. Who knows, but that doesn't stop this being the weakest entry in a franchise that used to out-stealth Metal Gear Solid.

Score: 3 out of 5


The Good
  • Good level design with some interesting locations.
  • The Assassin's Creed style movement works well as does the brilliant new cover system.
  • There's still enough of that stealthy magic to be found for the game to be enjoyable.
The Bad
  • The long, long list of lost features.
  • I really hated the Modern Warfare level.
  • The sonar goggles are a poor replacement for night and thermal vision.
  • Likewise the new black and white effect used to tell the player where they are hidden can be disorientating.
The Ugly
  • It took this long to deliver a step back in the series.
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:42 AM   #2
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Writers Notes
Difficulty Setting: Normal
Most Used Gadgets: Remote Mine and Frag Grenade
Completion Time of Single-player: Around 5 hours, as expected

Screenshots
(Courtesy of Ubisoft)











Trailer
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:04 PM   #3
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Wow, by all accounts this looked to be an awesome title. After reading your review, it simply seems mediocre.


Glad I didn't pick it up considering I'd be advocating Ubisoft.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:13 PM   #4
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Nah the game is actually quite good, I'm not a hardcore SC fan so I'm just enjoying the flow, the MP is a blast giving it unlimited replay value.
There truly is diversity to each level, some levels you've gotta chase a dude others you're going balls deep in action and then there are still painful stealth missions. I don't know what other game has offered so many varied objectives in the last while of gaming.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:14 PM   #5
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Good review, I'm about halfway through and really enjoying it, it's different but I never get sick of putting the hurt on someone. The Iraq level was pretty out of place though.
I also thought the endless stream of cursing by the bad guys got a bit tired, but still I love me some Splinter Cell.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:29 PM   #6
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Hopefully I didn't make anybody think its a bad game. It's not, just nowhere near the quality and diversity that the rest of the series boasts.

'Mediocre' is a bit rough - just feels like a proof of concept at times, lacking features.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lost View Post
Hopefully I didn't make anybody think its a bad game. It's not, just nowhere near the quality and diversity that the rest of the series boasts.

'Mediocre' is a bit rough - just feels like a proof of concept at times, lacking features.
Think it should have had more substance for taking so long to develope?
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:34 PM   #8
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Are they still using that "constant internet connection" DRM solution for the PC version?
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:39 PM   #9
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Think it should have had more substance for taking so long to develope?
Aww, absolutely!

Want to know what I think happened? Helpful timeline below.

*Develop on the original version haults
*Management panics
*Management looks at what they have that is working
*Tells dev team to take Assassin's Creed code, add guns and a cover system
*Old and new concepts are cobbled together with adapted code

It would explain the lack of Splinter Cell features, they didn't have time to implement and test it all within the framework of the Assassin's Creed mechanics. Its a wonder it all worked out as well as it did.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:42 PM   #10
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Sounds about right, although I wasn't to keen on emo Sam that was in the first iteration of the game, does seem like a lot more man hours went into getting AC off the ground.
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Old 04-20-2010, 12:47 PM   #11
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Especially in the co-op it just feels really familiar. His whole directional method and how well the climbing mechanics work.

I didn't like emo Sam either - especially when it looked like the game was going to be a beat-em-up. If Conviction is what is needed to get the series back on track, I welcome that.
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:01 PM   #12
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I played through the single player on realistic and for the most part I like it. I liked the stealth parts more than the later parts in the White House where you just have to clear room after room. And I felt some of the areas were very limited in how I can approach them. I'd rather be sneaking around snapping necks then tossing frag grenades.

If they take this game and just bring it back to more stealthy gameplay, then add more to it. You got yourself a winner.

Haven't played the coop yet.
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:06 PM   #13
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I like your review a lot more than Gerstman's. He's become a softy.
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:10 PM   #14
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I'm about 1/2 through the single player campaign, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I'm not a big stealth person myself, so I'm not a big fan of the previous Splinter Cell games. With that said, I can't help but feel that this game was designed for gamers like me that didn't do well at sneaker games. True, it still has plenty of it in this game (for me), but it doesn't penalize you as bad when you blow your cover.

If that is considered "dumbing" it down for the SC fans, just know it helps with Ubisoft going forward to flesh out what works and how to appeal to a broader audience. I wouldn't have purchased this title otherwise. Reading online reviews pointed out a less stealth reliant game which changed my opinion from pass on release to purchase. I think there is plenty of game play options for future SC fans. Just my opinion.
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:12 PM   #15
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There are actually complaints that this game brings back instant fail bits. They had disappeared.
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:29 PM   #16
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There are actually complaints that this game brings back instant fail bits. They had disappeared.
Not sure, I ran into one mission that you had to take out three guys without alerting the crowd, but that was the only failure mission I've encountered so far.
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Old 04-20-2010, 03:20 PM   #17
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My review wouldve been titled, "Get The Crack Pipe Outa Your Ass"

I thought the single player game was alot of fun and did enjoy the new mechanics the latest SC had BUT what is with no Spies vs Mercs? That just killed the replayabilty in my book. After beating the single player and going through alot of the multiplayer I just dont see it having much longevity at all. I would say this is a great rental, but if you slap $60 down on this baby..its going to be collecting dust within a week and a half.
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Old 04-20-2010, 10:36 PM   #18
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I payed $47
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Old 04-20-2010, 11:48 PM   #19
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The Black and White vision mode was terrible. It made it really hard to locate where the light sources were so you could shoot them. If you stepped into the light it was easy to identify lights and take them out (except for the mysterious phantom light sources). The game was not meant to be played fully stealth. I did my best to play it fully stealth, but it wasn't easy. They really wanted you to mark targets, stealth kill one, kill them all instantly with one button press, rinse, repeat. I refused to do that.
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Old 04-21-2010, 01:37 AM   #20
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The Black and White vision mode was terrible. It made it really hard to locate where the light sources were so you could shoot them. If you stepped into the light it was easy to identify lights and take them out (except for the mysterious phantom light sources). The game was not meant to be played fully stealth. I did my best to play it fully stealth, but it wasn't easy. They really wanted you to mark targets, stealth kill one, kill them all instantly with one button press, rinse, repeat. I refused to do that.
This should have been included in the review in greater depth but didn't really fit in with how it was reading. The black and white mode was completely disorientating for me and, like you said, made judging lit areas pretty difficult. I just found myself edging out of the dark and seeing how it went, or, just taking everybody out so I could jog to the next checkpoint.

Speaking of which - anybody think it was weird that you weren't pursued past a checkpoint? Just wrong.

Again, not a bad game just way off the mark for the franchise.
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