|Splinter Cell Conviction|
Release Date: Out Now
Players: player campaign, 2 player competitive and co-op multiplayer via System Link, Xbox Live or split-screen
Splinter Cell Conviction marks a change in direction for the long-running Splinter Cell series; Sam Fisher, the series protagonist, has gone off the rails and into retirement following the death of his daughter and a mission that ended badly for a friend of his (all events from previous games, but covered well enough here for players new to the series). The tone of the game is darker and more brutal than previous instalments, especially the new interrogation sequences where Sam abuses enemies for information by bouncing them off the scenery, like in the controversial Punisher game on the original Xbox.
The game starts off with Sam investigating a lead on the drunk driver responsible for his daughter’s death, but before long he’s back in action fighting a far-reaching conspiracy threatening the entire US Government. The game does a great job of integrating the tutorials into the main story, including a flashback where Sam explains the use of shadows to his young daughter while persuading her there’s no need to be afraid of the dark. Moments later, three burglars break into the house and the new “Mark & Execute” mechanic is introduced. This lets you Mark a certain number of enemies (up to a maximum of four, depending on the weapon you’re using), then Execute them all with a single press of the ‘Y’ button, provided they’re in range. To stop this making the game pointlessly easy, Sam must take down an enemy with a hand-to-hand move to enable the actual Execute phase. This works very well and can make you feel like a real action hero if you set it up carefully, allowing you to kick down a door and kill everyone inside in one move, or drop through a glass ceiling onto one enemy before shooting another two in a split second.
The game handles very well, with shooting and movement feeling very natural and the controls are much simplified from earlier versions. Unfortunately, they are a little too simplified; almost every in-game action is mapped to the ‘A’ button, which often means you end up accidentally swapping your favourite stealthy weapon for a shotgun, repeatedly jump over a railing instead of healing your partner in co-op or even open a door onto an enemy instead of peeping under it.
The game as a whole looks very nice, although it does suffer from screen tearing problems and the occasional lack of attention to detail in the level design. One level set in an art gallery has whole rooms of identical pictures, for example. The most jarring thing though is Michael Ironside, once again voicing Sam Fisher. It’s a shame to have to say it, but it’s time Sam had a new voice; he sounds too old; nothing like the voice of a fit 40-something Special Forces veteran, and it breaks the immersion every time he speaks. Even worse, it seems like he really phoned in his performance, often lacking any emotion whatsoever, which is weird for what is supposed to be such a personal story. What about casting Randy Couture, former UFC Champion, US Army veteran and stand-out acting star of the otherwise incredibly hammy Red Alert 3 next time?
There’s also Face-Off, which pits Archer and Kestrel against each other (and a non-stop stream of enemies) in a deathmatch situation. This is actually quite tense, mainly because you know that for once there’s someone out there who won’t be fooled quite as easily as the AI and might actually manage to sneak up on you instead, but not likely to hold your interest for too long. You can also play Hunter, Infiltration (unlocked through Ubisoft’s pointless UPlay system) and Last Stand either alone or with a friend. Hunter sees you trying to clear out levels from the co-op game with the enemy calling reinforcements if they see you, and is probably the most entertaining of the multiplayer modes. Infiltration is basically identical to Hunter, but with an immediate “Game Over” instead of reinforcements if you get detected. Last Stand has you defending an EMP device against 20 waves of increasingly difficult enemies in what may be the most tedious multiplayer mode ever invented. It tries ape the addictive Horde mode from Gears of War 2, or ODST’s Firefight and might have worked as a “quick blast” lasting 10 minutes or so, but going through all 20 waves could easily take over an hour, all of which are spent in the same room (which you will already be overly familiar with from every other co-op mode) defending a non-descript box. The Achievement for completing all the Last Stand maps will be far and away the hardest unless you’ve got an incredible boredom threshold.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is a good game, but it’s over far too quickly. There’s no real replay value and the multiplayer modes also lose their appeal fairly quickly, although kudos to Ubisoft for including both System Link and a truly excellent split-screen option. The single player story is gripping and well told, at least the first time through, and the co-op mode is good fun. Competitive multiplayer options are a bit lacklustre, and the lack of in-game scoreboards for the other modes is baffling. Enemy AI is pretty dumb, making the game very easy once you know how it works, and stealth game fans will be disappointed to find the action side of the game so heavily emphasised, but it’s still good fun while it lasts. Overall, it’s really an ideal rental title rather than a must-buy, even for die-hard Splinter Cell fans.
- Exciting story, well told
- Split-screen works well
- Co-op campaign is entertaining
- Story makes sense even without prior knowledge of the series
- Mark & Execute makes you feel like a real action hero
- Short single player story
- Very little replay value
- Extremely easy once you’ve got the hang of it
- Controls are a little too simplified; why is everything mapped to A?