Splinter Cell: Conviction - Review

Splinter Cell Conviction on Xbox 360

Coming out of the shadows

Sam Fisher has been a mascot for Ubisoft ever since his first outing in the original Splinter Cell, but how many people would recognise him outside of his iconic goggles and stealth suit?

Not many, and perhaps that's always been the point. Fisher has always been a man of the shadows, lurking in the darkness, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Up until now, he's been a company man - getting the job done and getting out before anyone even knew he was there.

In Conviction, things are slightly different. Sam's no longer in the employ of Third Echelon, the shady intelligence agency who provided much of his recent work. He's retired, trying to live the quiet life. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game if that were the case, so it's not long before he's drawn back into the darkness, on a personal mission to find the man who killed his daughter. This time, it really is personal.

Perhaps because he's now the only one who cares about the consequences, Sam's reliance on stealth has been relaxed a bit. Conviction is still a stealth game, and a long way from a straight-up third-person shooter, but there's definitely a focus on action here that previous Splinter Cell games have avoided - and that's bound to upset a few of the old guard. However, these changes are mostly to the better, with Sam now feeling much more the military hunter and less like a fragile coward.

Splinter Cell Conviction on Xbox 360

"They told us you were a bad-ass, Fisher!"

Of course, even though he's no longer part of the Agency, Sam still packs plenty of firepower and gadgets to see him safely through his missions. EMP, frag and flash grenades are all available, as well as the cunning sticky cams, which Sam can use to distract enemies with a coy whistle - perforating their skulls whilst their backs are turned. Snake cams allow him to peek under closed doors, too - a perfect opportunity to use Conviction's excellent new Mark and Execute system.

Mark and Execute allows Sam to quickly clear a room of enemies with no fear of fluffing his shots. Once a player sees a foe a quick tap on RB highlights them with a mark, a limited number of which are available depending on the equipped weapon. Once you're ready to go, hitting Y takes out all of the marked targets in range almost instantly. Because these marks are only refilled by performing stealthy hand-to-hand kills, it never gets out of hand, requiring careful planning and prioritisation to use them properly.

It's an extremely satisfying system, allowing the player to take on massively adverse odds without getting peppered with buckshot or surviving direct grenade blasts. Shimmying up a drainpipe and bursting through a window to take out four goons with a series of well-placed headshots feels slick, stylish and believable, letting the player become a deadly assassin without all the hassle of 25 years in the special forces first.

Sadly, you'll probably find that the single-player campaign doesn't have a lot of meat to it. With even newcomers expected to finish it in around 8 hours, and old hands more like 5. Luckily, Ubisoft have included quite a few multiplayer tricks in the box, too - upping the completion time to around 15 hours total.

Splinter Cell Conviction on Xbox 360

Coming in from the cold

Firstly there's Deniable Ops - where up to two players sneak their way through maps from the main campaign's story as operatives from the US and Russia, Archer and Kestrel. These maps are playable in various modes, either clearing enemies or defending an EMP bomb from endless waves of foes.

There's also a co-op prologue, setting up the main campaign's story which adds another couple of hours of playtime. These modes are great fun, really capturing the strength of the core mechanics in a way which is emphasised by the co-op aspect. Hunting in pairs is even more empowering than playing as Fisher alone, which is why it's even more of a shame that these sections are so short.

There's more to Conviction, like the achievement-esque point reward and upgrade system, and the tremendously pantomime storyline, but I don't want to spoil it for you. The bottom line is that if you loved Splinter Cell for its fiddly acrobatics and high-tech precision, then this might not be the game you were waiting for.

However, if you're after a polished experience, with none of that awkwardness or punishment, then the new Sam might well be just what you were after.

GAME's Verdict:

The Good
  • Very empowering - Sam finally feels like all he's cracked up to be.
  • Smooth and stylish - cinematic presentation and seamless camerawork is very immersive.
  • Accessible - no more thumb-wrestling with the controller!

The Bad
  • Far too short - it could all be over in 10 hours.
  • Not for purists - Conviction isn't exactly dumbed down, but hardcore stealth fans might be disappointed.
  • Colour blind - Being hidden turns your vision black and white, so be prepared to spend most of the game this way!
SKU: Reviews-183635
Release Date: 14/04/2011