Featured Game: Splinter Cell Conviction
The thing you have to understand is this, the Splinter Cell series that you knew is dead. During the five years that Splinter Cell: Conviction was in development, it was always going to go in a different direction from its predecessors. The Splinter Cell games are among the most popular stealth games ever made. Splinter Cell prominently featured realistic lighting effects and hiding in shadows as a central game mechanic. The first four games shared this commitment to a realistic depiction of espionage. However, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a dramatic departure from previous games. Despite these differences, Conviction is a fully satisfying experience.
After the release of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Ubisoft Montreal expressed a desire to make the series more accessible. In early 2006, details about a new Splinter Cell game began to surface. This new installment was to be a radical departure from previous games. According to an interview with Creative Director Max Beland by GamePro, Conviction originally drew heavily from The Bourne Identity. Instead of hiding in shadows, Fisher was hiding in crowds and instead of gadgets he would use improvised weapons.
However this new direction wasn’t working, so after two years of development, Ubisoft went back to the drawing board. They noticed that stealth games have a tendency to be slow and methodical. They also noticed that this trend goes against the depiction of stealth in popular media such as the James Bond movies. In light of these observations Ubisoft decided they would make a stealth game that was fast-paced and action-packed. Sam Fisher would no longer be the aging spy but instead an athletic badass closer to the likes of Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne. On April 13 2010, Ubisoft Montreal released Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Conviction is less about hiding in the shadows and more about striking from them. The game plays closer to a third-person shooter with emphasis on taking cover. Once again, Sam Fisher stars as the lead character and like always he can traverse his environment in many ways. Fisher can climb pipes, walls and hang from ledges faster than ever before. He also has a couple new tricks up his sleeve.
A notable mechanic is the mark and execute feature. At any point, the player can mark a handful of enemies. By getting up close and initiating a melée takedown, the player will earn the ability to execute. At the press of a button, Fisher will automatically kill all marked enemies in range. While this may seem to make Fisher overpowered, a frontal assault will guarantee a game over. Taking cover is a priority and Conviction features a well-integrated cover system that allows the player to move from cover to cover at the press of a button. There’s heavy emphasis on outflanking your enemies and striking from the shadows once hidden.
Unlike the rest of the game, the plot is closer to a traditional Splinter Cell game. That said, Sam Fisher is more emotional in Conviction and Michael Ironside’s voiceover is effortlessly convincing; you don’t hear Ironside’s voice, you hear Fisher’s voice. As far as plots go it’s not exactly innovative; Sam Fisher is roped into a conspiracy to overthrow the government. There are a couple memorable moments and a nice bit of tension as the story approaches its conclusion (though I could do without a rather weak level set in Iraq). The story is comparable to a good episode of 24 and Conviction achieves a similar feel.
A massive drawback is that the single-player mode is very short; it won’t last you any more than 12 hours the first time through. Luckily, Conviction features a cooperative story mode and plenty of challenge maps. The gameplay naturally lends itself to cooperative play and it’s a lot of fun to play alongside a friend.
Where Conviction wins me over is in the aesthetics. The sound design, colour palette and vibrant lighting are excellent. The soundtrack is especially moody with plenty of awesome sound cues thrown in for good measure. Playing as Sam Fisher in Conviction is a very empowering experience.
There’s just something so satisfying about having an entire room full of enemies completely at your mercy. Years after release, it’s a game that I frequently return to. There are few games that have made me feel as much of a badass as Splinter Cell: Conviction. It’s not a particularly deep experience but it hits a certain niche in a way that no other game can.