Splinter Cell Conviction Review

There was a time when Sam Fisher reigned supreme in the stealth genre — a time when everyone was trying to do what Ubisoft was doing so well with the Splinter Cell series. The world has changed since the last installment, and games like Assassin’s Creed II and Batman: Arkham Asylum have cast a shadow over the once-great franchise. But now, after four years of absence, Sam Fisher has returned in Splinter Cell Conviction. While the game may not have put the franchise back on top as the undeniable king of stealth, it has most certainly placed itself among the best in the genre.

When we reunite with Sam in Conviction, he has completely cut ties with his old life and former employer, Third Echelon. Fisher is now out for revenge and information regarding the death of his daughter Sarah, who was killed in a car accident three years earlier. As the story unfolds Sam finds himself confronting several faces from his past that show him his daughter’s death was not an accident, but in fact a tiny piece of a much bigger conspiracy that threatens the safety of the United States and its president.

Although it is only about six to eight hours long, the single-player campaign will keep you engaged as the plot switches back and forth between Sam’s life with his daughter, his service in Iraq, mysterious flash-forwards to the endgame, and the recent weeks that make up the bulk of the game. The twists and turns in this chapter in Sam Fisher’s life will keep your attention as you try to make sense of all the conspiring and treachery.

The game’s story doesn’t feature very many cutscenes. Instead, Conviction utilizes projected text and black-and-white video on various surfaces in the game’s environments. It’s a very interesting way to tell the story, but it works incredibly well as they all give the player the impression that they are essentially reading and viewing the thoughts that are sticking out in Sam’s head throughout the game.

The projected text and video will guide you and provide background information to the story.

One of the newest and greatest features in Conviction is the ability to mark and execute targets. These targets can be anything from enemies to chandeliers and fire extinguishers. The ability is activated by performing a hand-to-hand takedown. Once that is done, the player will be able to mark targets with the right bumper, then press Y to perform the executions. Once finished, the player must neutralize another enemy in hand-to-hand combat to be able to mark and execute again.

Never before have I felt like such a badass in a stealth game, thanks to this feature; being able to rapidly take out a group of foes with perfect precision really makes you feel like one of Third Echelon’s finest. Aside from just eliminating people quickly for the fun of it, the feature also has a level of strategy to it. Knowing when to mark and execute enemies can save you when caught against unwinnable odds or gain you a huge advantage by ambushing groups of foes. The feature will sometimes shoot through objects when executing, but it is normally through the edge of an object and never through something ridiculous such as a door or wall.

The other big change to the game’s stealth mechanics is its “Last Known Position” feature. In combat, Sam leaves behind a silhouette of where he was last seen by his enemies before slipping into the shadows. Enemies will then focus solely on this “Last Known Position.” The mechanic adds a great layer of strategy to the game’s stealth as it can be used to fool groups of enemies in order to flank and eliminate with ease. Players must be careful though, as the “Last Known Position” will ruin you if caught in a corner.

Another interesting addition to the series is upgradable weapons and gadgets. Players will be able to upgrade their arsenal with points earned by beating in-game challenges. Each gun has three upgrades that can improve a variety of factors while gadgets have two for impact radius. This adds great diversity to the game and allows players to upgrade and choose weapons that will fit their style of play best.

The game also includes challenges that are split into three categories: vanish, splinter cell, and prepare and execute. Each one gives points towards upgrades for your in-game arsenal and co-op outfits. The challenges range from pulling enemies off of ledges to reviving teammates and more. They all really add another sense of accomplishment on top of achievements and give Conviction more replayability.

Perform quick and efficient kills with the mark and execute feature.

The game’s interrogations are another wonderful sight to behold, and make you feel like a true badass. These segments see Sam physically punishing his victims with a touch of the B button to make them spill more valuable information. If you position your hostage in certain context-sensitive areas during these segments you will be able to smash their heads into TVs, slam them in doors, or smash them through urinals and sinks. They all add up to some really interesting and sickening forms of brutality that will bring smiles or grimaces to players’ faces.

The game’s graphics are pretty much on par with what you would expect from a big-name game like Conviction. Facial animations during dialogue aren’t the best, but details in clothing and the faces themselves are very nice. The environments are very well designed, with no clipping or frame rate issues at all. Where the visuals truly shine is in the way lighting is handled. Whenever a player is exposed to light, they will see the world in full color, but when hidden in the shadows, the entire screen will fade to black and white. It really adds to the sense and feeling of being hidden in the darkness, stalking your prey. The feature will also instantly let you know when you have re-exposed yourself as the colors flood back onto the screen. It creates a sense of mild panic to quickly get yourself back in cover — a feeling I thoroughly enjoyed.

Audio quality has never been a problem in the Splinter Cell series, and Conviction is no different. The game’s voice-over work is top notch, and the soundtrack will keep you engaged as it flows seamlessly from calm when hidden to frantic and fast-paced when discovered by enemies. The enemies will also taunt you with constant insults when they feel you are outnumbered after being spotted. When enemies are alone or in small numbers they will still arrogantly challenge you, but you will be able to hear the fear in their voice as their tone changes.

Sam Fisher’s part in this latest installment is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as co-op has become just as important an aspect as the single-player. The game’s co-op story is actually a prologue to the single-player adventure. Through it you will see how the final act of the conspiracy unraveled in the single-player campaign came about. It is a great addition that adds an additional four to five hours of storyline play to the game.

Work with a friend in various modes in an excellent co-op experience.

Co-op play itself is just as great as the Splinter Cell series has come to make it. Players will share their executions and will each be able to mark as many targets as their weapons allow. However, once a player chooses to execute, all marks will be used for both players. The function definitely forces players to work together in order to use mark and execute to its full potential.

Players can become incapacitated by enemies via a chokehold or gunshot. Players can then pop-up or struggle to help their friend revive them, which is a very neat way of keeping players who have been incapacitated from feeling helpless. Players who aren’t incapacitated have until a timer runs out to revive or free their teammate.

Aside from the story, the multiplayer has several other game types. From the elimination-style Hunter game, to the pure stealth of Infiltration, to the competitive Face-Off mode, there is plenty for players to do to keep themselves entertained.

With Splinter Cell Conviction, Sam Fisher has re-emerged from the shadows and once again shown why the Splinter Cell series is such an important part of the stealth-action genre. While the game does have some minor technical issues and the single-player is a tad short, its new mechanics and great expansion on cooperative play have made it another great installment in the series. It may not be a game that retakes the stealth throne for the franchise, but it has certainly adapted to the times and put itself in position to do so with future installments. Anyone who is a fan of stealth games and Splinter Cell should definitely check this title out.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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