Game: Splinter Cell: Conviction
Release Date: April 13th 2010
Platform: Xbox360/PS3/PC

Splinter Cell has been in production for an extremely long time. First officially announced in 2007 it has suffered several major delays and at one point was put on indefinite hold. It resurfaced with a major change in both its gameplay direction and visual style. The game completely reinvents the current take on the stealth genre, and is a fresh and addictive addition to the series itself. If you haven’t played the previous title, Double Agent, then that is no major problem here, the game fills you in on the basics of the back-story and you don’t feel like you are missing out on any past details having not played its predecessor. Splinter Cell changes the way the player views the stealth approach to games, you no longer have to wait in the shadows endlessly until you are able to silently take out your victims. The game makes you feel like a deadly weapon, with stealth kills and lightning fast attack combos at the touch of a button. The pacing is consistent and intense the entire way through.

Presentation

Splinter Cell has a few intuitive design features that make the presentation of the game quite unique. Throughout the campaign, your mission objectives and important information are projected onto nearby walls or the sides of buildings, thus discarding the need for an intrusive HUD. This is a really cool aspect of that game, which, while simple, is really effective. This feature is then expanded on in some points in the game where flashbacks are also projected, which fill in the player on some of the back-story.

Another new feature is the colour drain when you are hidden in cover. This feature is cool for the first portion of the game, however, if you are the kind of player that is able to play the game without being spotted, spending the majority of play time unseen, this feature can lead to almost the entirety of the game spent in a drab black and white mode. This is quite a downfall in the initially great idea and was quite a big drawback for me.

Another major drawback Conviction suffers from is its length. The campaign is short. Very short. I played through on the default difficulty setting in just about 5-6 hours, adding another 2ish hours when I replayed it on the hardest difficulty. This is very disappointing for a game, which I found so enjoyable, and was really let down with its length. The story itself is good. Just good. It’s a shame that more original material couldn’t have been interwoven in the story. It all seems a little cliché and predictable, and Sam’s frustration gets a little tedious by the end of the game. It’s the way the story is told that makes the game a standout achievement; with the new features adding a fresh intuitive feel. The ending is also absolutely awesome. Its simple, and again, a little cliché, but I had to laugh at how the game wrapped itself up, utterly cool.

Apart from the single player, there is a co-op campaign separate from the single player which adds another 5-6 hours, along with the absolutely addictive Deniable Ops. These are a selection of missions that are the missions you play through in the co-op campaign, however you can play alone or with a friend, making your way through several stages trying to stay undetected, or not if you please. I can say that this is an absolutely great mode, and stands up to the campaign itself. Overall it’s quite a full package, especially if you delve into the deniable ops and really get going with the harder difficulties.

Splinter Cell isn’t the greatest looking game around. It feels very rough around the edges. The environments you are placed in look authentic and gives you a good sense of placement but the game doesn’t look up to scratch compared to most high production 2010 releases. The game is built on the old Unreal 2 engine, and while it is clear that the game squeezes every last ounce of graphic power out of the engine, it doesn’t feel to me like a title that came even close to impressing me graphically. The textures are muddy and undefined and the lighting is dull and unimpressive, a shame for a title which is quite dependent on its sense of light and dark environments.



The audio presentation however is top notch, featuring great voice acting and a spot on sound track.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Conviction is rightly, as it should be in games, its greatest achievement. The game does its very best to make you feel like a weapon of stealthy prowess if you’d like to play that way, as well as appealing to players who might prefer to play guns blazing. It is a far less challenging title that the previous entries in the series, appealing to a wider array of players who may not like the slow pace of standard Splinter Cell’s and other games in the stealth genre.

It introduces a number of new gameplay features, which in turn make the game an absolute joy to play. The first of these features is ‘Mark and Execute’; this enables the player to earn points by killing enemies using melee kills. These points can then be used to Mark enemies or objects. You can then position yourself where you please before attacking, and at the touch of the button you will initiate a killing combo to the various enemies you’ve marked. This is a sleek and fun way to play the game, making you earn satisfying kills without the hassle of having to play in a standard stealth way. This might upset the hardcore Splinter Cell nuts, but it is definitely a great addition to the gameplay mechanics. It really enables the player to feel like a kick ass agent, without necessarily being THAT good at the game. The feature includes some cool slow mo and zoom effects, which add to the cinematic feel.

The additional new feature is ‘Last Known Position’. This is a white outline of Sam that appears where the enemy last saw him. The AI will then investigate this position, giving the player the opportunity to flank the enemy and commit more satisfying kills. This gives a more open-ended aspect to the combat and encourages you to explore the environments in more depth to use it against your enemies. Jumping out of windows and scaling pipes cant get boring, can it?

Other than these features, Conviction also includes weapon progression, cool gadgets and a phenomenally good cover system. You earn points as you progress through the story and can spend these points on gun upgrades such as silencers and scopes. This is a really cool aspect especially if you prefer a certain load out and wish to upgrade it as you go. The gadgets are equally upgradeable, however some of them may get slightly overlooked in the single player campaign if you are playing on an easier difficulty, as they are rarely needed. There are a variety of different gadgets, such as sticky cameras which you can use to attract your enemies attention and then detonate it remotely or EMP grenades which stun enemies for a short period so you can relocate unseen, or take them out in close combat.

Verdict

Splinter Cell: Conviction reinvents the stealth genre in a really good way. Its satisfying and fun to play, while still retaining some challenging aspects if you choose to play it on a harder difficulty (if you can, you should). The story, while short and slightly clichéd, is intense and concise, and I still can’t get over the awesome ending. The gameplay mechanics come together to make a really great and fluid feeling experience that in which I can only really fault the visual quality or length. For those who are looking for a brilliant and fresh new take on the stealth genre and a great new addition to the series, then this is definitely for you.

8/10

Presentation – 9

The intuitive design features, great co-op, intense story make this a worthy purchase

Gameplay – 9

The thrillingly satisfying combat make this game a pleasure to experience with the Mark and Execute and Last Known Position elements adding a fantastic pace

Visuals – 7

Great, authentic design is let down greatly by the game engine

Audio – 8

Tight soundtrack, believable voice acting and lifelike sound effects

Lasting Appeal – 8

A short campaign let the proceedings down a little, while the inclusion of co-op and deniable ops add other modes for you to enjoy.

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