As a long time fan of the Splinter Cell series, all I hoped was that Splinter Cell Conviction (SCC) was a significant improvement on the previous instalment, Double Agent. Thankfully, it was.
Cinematic and fluid, the story is told retrospectively through the eyes of Victor Coste, Sam Fisher’s long time friend and military companion. Coste is being interrogated by government agents in order to understand the events of the previous week, with game play unfolding as more information is revealed.
The game starts in Malta, with Fisher still mourning the untimely death of his daughter, Sarah. He is no longer associated with Third Echelon and is trying to live the quiet life. Fisher is soon presented with information about the events surrounding his daughter’s death and is lured back into duty once again.
In typical Tom Clancy style, this leads to a much bigger situation and results in a domestic terrorist plot within the United States.
Although SCC is a giant leap forward from Double Agent, it is still very different from the original game and the first sequel. Despite being a franchise about lurking in the shadows and being an effective and silent killer, the combat is much more full on and brought out of the shadows. There is a lot more unavoidable lighting and sometimes offers little to no effective cover to take out the waves of Black Arrow soldiers trying to find you (such as when outside the White House).
This was a major source of frustration for me due to the accuracy of weapons varying in different situations. Yes I realise this is an excuse used by someone who can’t shoot well, however, head shots from a distance were no problem; taking out enemies at close range was the issue. At times it took up to six rounds to drop an enemy. This was a problem that I faced too often and gave away my position too many times to overlook. As far as I’m concerned, a head shot is a head shot, and if I’m in range (according to the little red cross hairs), then the enemy should be dead instantly.
Furthermore, the AI was a little predictable, with enemies walking the same path every time, acting the same way when they discover a dead body (why can’t they be moved in this game? Aren’t I meant to be a covert operative?) and saying the same phrases whether there was one or multiple soldiers in the area.
New features such as the cover system and shadow identification system are both welcome additions but can be a hindrance at times. Apparently, take cover means to crouch. I spent most of the game crouching (and ultimately dying) because I’d take cover and then try to go elsewhere but be stuck crouching. Yes I should’ve pressed ‘crouch’ to correct it. Yes I should’ve learned after the first time, but I didn’t (and standing after taking cover should be a standard move). That said, Fisher does move quite quickly between cover and can effectively defend himself when in combat situations.
The new shadow identification system is an interesting idea. When you are in the shadows, you are invisible to enemies. To indicate this, the entire display turns black and white. In theory, this is a very cool feature – it is clear, simple and gives you the feeling of being submersed in darkness with a touch of film noir. In reality, it can prevent the identification of lights until it is too late and can get a little tired. In all honesty, it’s not that bad but it did get on my nerves at times. On occasion it even assists with the identification of traps, such as exploding BBQ’s or falling chandeliers, as they stay in full colour while everything else is monotone.
Outside of the minor issues, SCC is a great game. Its cinematic style is quite captivating and boasts helpful new killing features including a mark-and-execute system, improved stealth kills and an in-game points system to enable weapons upgrades.
The mark-and-execute system is a reward for hand-to-hand combat. Every time you sneak up on an enemy and kill them, you are given the ability to mark targets and take them out in a style befitting a professional killer. Some weapons are able to mark more targets than others and if you want to mark more enemies, all guns can be upgraded in-game.
This is done with points gained by performing tasks such as evading enemies after detection and executing stealth kills etc. This is a great incentive for players as all the moves are fairly simple and staples for survival within the Splinter Cell franchise. The stealth kills are fun to perform, with classic moves such as pulling enemies from ledges and dropping from an above pipe still proving to be entertaining.
8.0/10 - The fifth game in a stellar series, Splinter Cell Conviction is everything you expect from a Tom Clancy franchise. Challenging, visually appealing and well acted, it is one of the few games that makes me want to do better, rather than instil the feeling of having to do better. The storyline isn’t anything new however the method of storytelling (retrospective, cinematic style, flashbacks etc) creates an interesting flow of events. While some aspects of the game might be frustrating, they aren’t big enough to put down the controller and stop caring. Splinter Cell Conviction is a must have for any Tom Clancy or Splinter Cell fan, creating many hours of gaming in both the single player, co-op or multiplayer game modes.