Sam Fisher has been absent from the current gen world of espionage but he’s back in Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sam is on his own in the semi-open world tale with plenty of deception, past characters, and a new system with which to play hide and seek.
This was my first entry into the Splinter Cell world as I had not played any of the others back in the day. However I had some fair expectations that were not disappointed. There are plenty of organizations and big name characters to create the world that you are supposed to be tearing apart to get back at those that stabbed you in the back. I’m sure there are many from past games that are referenced or talked about that fans of the series will be able to piece together. It’s a solid enough plot but the twists and betrayals are a bit predictable. The way that some parts of the game are presented can be confusing as well because you switch between flashbacks and even flashforwards to events that have yet to happen. Overall it isn’t a bad story it just feels like something that has been told already.
Conviction comes with a new cover and sneaking system that is pretty good at what it does. You use the left trigger to stick yourself to a piece of cover and can move between close enough objects by looking at where you want to go. This helps keep movements from being erratic and ending up in the open for enemy fire. The same is done for actions, simply look at what you want to so and press a button to do it. This new system also adds a level of firing inaccuracy to whenever you fire your weapon. Depending on the weapon of choice, you have to be pretty precise with your shots. Just like any other stealth game you have to keep to the shadows to keep from being seen which you do by shooting out the surrounding lights. While this is a nice idea the effect it creates, black and white vision when hiding out, the constant switch between color and not gets annoying. Not only does the color shift often when you move between lit and darkened areas but you lose the visual vibrancy of the rest of the color in the game. This kind of mechanic was seen in Pandemic’s The Saboteur which worked but ultimately wasn’t very practical in the overall flow of the game. The same goes with Conviction. It’s a nice idea but didn’t work out as well as hoped.
Another aspect of the new system that really irked me was how it handled crowd control. When up against a large number of enemies the system is horrible at getting things done because of the previously mentioned ‘inaccuracy’ element that exists. You will often find yourself on a path that intersects with a large number of enemies and there is no other way around. Cover is pretty limited in these conditions and the AI moves around pretty quick. With your gun being automatically inaccurate taking on these groups can be frustrating to the point of stopping. As you progress through a mission and reach a checkpoint or finish said mission, you have access to a weapons stash. This is where you do all your upgrading and selection of kit. Upgrades range from magazine sizes to accuracy increase and for a good variety of weapons. One thing that is missing, and this is a REALLY big piece that’s missing, is the ability to make a weapon silenced. This being a stealth game you need to make as little noise as possible but the lack of a silencer prevents that. Instead of being able to buy a silencer for a specific weapon you have three designated pistols that are silenced and which you can only upgrade to a certain point. This is highly problematic for those crowd control situations that you will encounter.
You are allowed to carry a max of two weapons, a pistol and other form of weapon. The pistol has an infinite amount of ammunition while the other does not. This would not be a problem if the above issues, crowd control and lack of adding on a silencer, did not exist. Some weapons like the MP5 have silencers attached to them but since they have limited ammo you have to use it very sparingly. In order to unlock more guns and weapons you have to pick up fallen enemy weapons but you don’t necessarily have to keep them. This is a plus so it doesn’t interfere with your original loadout and accidentally cause you to forget which gun you have. The upgrades system is based on achievements in the sense that you must complete challenges, such as getting ten hidden headshots, with which you receive points. This is a rather interesting manner to upgrade items as it has no real world value. What could have also been included were hidden packages or messages throughout the story that you can find for additional points or unlocks. Their absence seems very strange as it would have been a great opportunity to build a nice subplot along with the main story. There were plenty of places to hide the objects which also made the spaces that you can discover underutilized and empty. There is some added depth however with the co-op missions that are available alongside the story. You and a partner take on the roles of two different operatives and work together to get the job done. The number of enemies is much easier to handle with a second player at your side which makes co-op a more compelling part to play.
Sam’s first appearance on the current gen consoles is one that seems to have aged along with him. While there is a good amount going on on screen the level of detail just isn’t very good. Edges are rather jagged, details are rather flat, and are all around unimpressive. Ubisoft decided to take things in a rather interesting direction however with the projection of mission details and Sam’s thoughts on the walls as events unfold during cutscenes. This seems to compliment the lack of general HUD that you have which is a nice convenience. As mentioned above the level of detail just doesn’t seem there for Conviction which is a bit of a disappointment. One other noticeable problem is the lip syncing. There was never a moment where the lips seemed to come close to matching the mouths which was another disappointment to see. There are other games that are far more open than Splinter Cell that boast a more detailed pallet and accurate lip movements.
Splinter Cell: Conviction has finally made its appearance on current gen systems but it doesn’t look as if the time away has done Sam too much good. With what feels like a worn out story, cover and combat system not adequate to handle the task of more than a handful of baddies, and lackluster visuals Conviction isn’t all it was shaped up to be. Perhaps the change in direction midway through development is to blame for the performance or maybe it’s just not a direction Sam Fisher was meant for. Either way Splinter Cell: Conviction earns a “Rent” from Stuff We Like.