A Game Forgotten: Splinter Cell: Conviction

Besides being unusually high-profile, the first half of 2010 has been unusually busy. As such, we’ve endeavored to write a series of brief newspaper-style reviews (without scores) to highlight the games that might have been forgotten – particularly by those who might just be joining this generation – in favor of this holiday season’s blockbusters.

Sam Fisher – a man once inclined to stay in the shadows – is now a brutal, unforgiving and relentless killer. Not content with the ‘cup of tea and a crumpet’ method of interrogation, the ex-NSA (National Security Agency) employee wants answers, and for good reason – somebody killed his daughter. Now, he wants details.

Within seconds it’s obvious that Fisher – brilliantly voiced by Michael Ironside – isn’t quite the same man. This iteration, without the rules and regulations of Government holding him back, is willing to go to any lengths to get what he wants. As a result, Splinter Cell: Conviction is about aggressive stealth. Of course, Ubisoft’s seminal third-person ‘sneak-em-up’ used to be about defensive stealth – avoiding a small army of faceless, nameless armed guards. This time, however, the guards have returned – equally faceless, equally nameless – but Fisher, much to the enjoyment of gamers, is out to bloody a few noses.

Furthermore, it’s this aggressive, predatory approach informs the game’s mechanics. Mark and Execute, for example, lets you to ‘tag’ up to four foes (the number is dependant on your weapon of choice) and then, with a single press of a button, swiftly plant a bullet into the head of each target. This ability, arguably Fisher’s most lethal, is a privilege, though. For every close-quarters take down on a single target, the ability to mark is earned. Moreover, they become a resource: you could use them to dispatch the occupiers of a single room, or use them to strategically pick-off unwitting individuals. Be warned, though. If you have the option to mark four targets, and only choose to eliminate a single enemy, the remaining marks are immediately sacrificed – tagging won’t be available until after your next close-quarters take down.

And that’s the most exciting aspect of Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sam’s tool set is expansive enough to accommodate almost any style of play. If anything, though, it’s hampered by the game’s brief, five-hour campaign. But, this is one component to an otherwise well-developed, fleshed-out package. In fact, it’s a package that, besides providing an enjoyable single player campaign, offers an entirely separately co-operative campaign, too. No rehashed content here, folks – both are unique, separate experiences both touting entirely exclusive content.

At times, influence from ‘revenge-porn’ cinema – particularly in the interrogation scenes – can be a little too obvious. Sam, once an interesting an compelling character in his own right, is perhaps too similar to Liam Neeson’s fatherly portrayal in ‘Taken’, or Matt Damon’s take on the amnesia-ridden assassin (the video game counter-part of which was also developed by Ubisoft). Regardless of whether or not you agree with this comparison, it’s difficult to argue against their influence.

If you walk into the experience expecting similar offerings to prior entries, the chances are you’ll be inconsolably disappointed. This isn’t the Splinter Cell, or the Sam Fisher of past, but a new, more volatile, more violent, and more action-oriented game. If developer Ubisoft Montreal sticks to its convictions – and is willing to introduce some aspects of old – Sam’s future looks to be encouraging one. And, as a gamer, that’s something you can’t not appreciate.

Correction: Bourne was developed by High Moon Studios and was published by Sierra Entertainment, not Ubisoft.

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