Side note: This is just a review for the main single player campaign for the game because I am still waiting for someone (*cough* Zac *cough*) to play the co-op portion to the game.
Sam Fisher has gone off the map in Splinter Cell: Conviction without his gadgets, secret government agency backing him up, and without his daughter. The one thing he does have is the tenacity to find out the story behind her death. It may be a sad undertaking for him, but it sure is fun for the player to see him angry, and I sure do like him when he’s angry.
The gameplay is pretty simple in this incarnation, taking on a more action adventure feel to it in the vein of the Uncharted 2 and Arkham Asylum, which is right up my alley. In the beginning of the game Sam is working with the bare minimum of gadgets to cycle through on the controls, sticking with the basic gun/explosives combo to go about his business. With just these, a mirror (eventually a snake cam), and a soft step Sam has to work his way through some streets and buildings with some pretty dumb thugs to take out from the shadows. Unfortunately the stealth seems to take a backseat with this lean away from the way the previous games are played, making the cover system very important considering the shadows are actually a lot harder to come by (and the baddies know that not just anyone is going to be shooting lights out), and I am slightly ashamed to admit how often I spent rolling around trying to find cover as I was alerted by a white arrow that I was on the verge of getting spotted. Because of this, it becomes clear early on that the environment is going to be your best friend, and luckily moving from cover to cover is a very fluid undertaking. Furthermore, the level design is pretty good, but it is kind of humorous just how many pipes are exposed in these buildings, as if they knew that someday someone might just need to climb on them (and why on earth are there so many windows on the inside of buildings?).
It’s not until deep into the game when I finally come across Sam’s goggles that I finally felt more like a capable special agent who can take matters into his own hands in a more proactive way instead of just responding to the onslaught of baddies wandering around the world. And this is when the mark and execute system fully comes into its own because it is easier to plan out an attack before it comes to fruition. Just mark a few bad guys, perform a close range take out and then position yourself to let the bullets fly. Plus, using the goggles to mark people wandering around the environment makes it a lot easier to get out of a sticky situation when/if the plan of attack goes south, especially if you forget you are packing flash bombs and EMP grenades.
Other than the mark and execute addition, the other thing of note for the gameplay are the interrogation scenes. The first one I came across was pretty empowering and made me feel quite the BA, but by the time I came to the 3rd and 4th interrogation they become a lot more mechanical and less give and take, alternating between bashing the person against something and a divulgence of info, then bashing their head against something else and a little more info, etc. Though I am not sure if this would keep from getting the player the whole story, it would have been nice to have this feel more impulsive on our part (like deciding whether or not to press the “renegade” trigger during the game of good cop bad cop in Mass Effect 2).
Sam isn’t the only thing that is different this time, but the look has been revamped in many ways. As most of you probably know, the way that the objectives are relayed to the player have been fully integrated into the levels, which is easily one of my favorite changes to game in general, and it pretty much gets rid of the need for a menu. By doing this, the walls become a to-do list for Sam, an indication of Sam’s mindset during his calm, goal-oriented moments and his more emotionally charged mind freak-outs when he is overcome by some uncovered information, as well as visual indications of what is running through his mind and/or what is being told to him. Another change is the visual indication of Sam being hidden in which the screen changes from color to black and white depending on his visibility. Though this is a really cool idea, at some points when the word goes into black and white the environments becomes pretty muddy and much harder to read.
Overall Splinter Cell: Conviction is a really great addition to the series thanks to the innovations in gameplay and the fantastic use of storytelling devices like jumping around in time, making the already strong story all the more intriguing as more and more is revealed, all the while playing out to a spectacular soundtrack. And though there are a few things I wish I could change, like giving the bad guys more things to say, giving Sam the ability to hide bodies instead of just leaving them for someone to come across, and possibly getting rid of the Iraq level (I understand why it is there, but it was a low point for me and I didn’t really like fighting guys that kind of sound like Steve Carell yelling in a foreign language), I cannot wait to see what is up next for Sam Fisher, especially with that ending.
Final Grade: 8
Splinter Cell: Conviction is available on the XBOX 360 and PC.