Overview Title: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction Release Date: UK/Continental Europe 16 April 2010, United States 13 April 2010 Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal Genre: Action, Stealth, Adventure Storyline Sam Fisher is back and with more rage than a sack full of angry badgers. We meet our pissed-off protagonist on a mission in Malta where he seeks the revenge on the man who killed his daughter Sarah three years ago. While there he is contacted by his former Third Echelon colleague, Anna Grimsdottir, and informed that despite all his attempts to disappear he is on the radar of “enemy forces”. Cue 7hrs of cat and mouse while Sam attempts to take down fiendish foe, whoever they may be, and their plot of taking down the President of the United State. Splinter Cell: Conviction is a fast moving game full of tricky take-downs, intense interrogations and brutal backstabbing. The pacing of the single-player story is spot-on and there is a playable flashback to the Gulf War that provides gamers a nice break from the game’s main objective. While I would love to delve more into the story itself, I really do not wish to ruin the twists ‘n turns of this intricate tale for gamers who have not had a chance to get the hands on this top title. I will say this however; the ending is not one you want to miss. Gameplay As with the previous Splinter Cell games, Conviction has gamers on edge and thinking outside of the box. I have played through all of Sam Fisher’s past exploits and I am pleased to say that the decision to overhaul the series has worked very well in its favour. The real-time objective mapping and use of wall/floor space to add to the back story is unique, sleek and keeps the game flowing smoothly, something the previous titles stumbled over. Keeping well within the “stealth action” genre, Conviction allows you to assess a situation and tackle it the way that you want to; in pure stealth mode, in sneaky hitman style or in a gun-blazing macho-man method. The latter will probably have you taking far too many hits than Sam Fisher needs, but the option is there for you shooter fanatics. There are two new great features in Conviction that need to be acknowledged. The first is the “Mark & Execute” element that allows gamers to place a mark on an enemy (or an object) before exiting cover or entering a room. This means that you can choose to silently snuff out enemies with a silenced pistol or create a distraction by taking out a few light bulbs and causing your foe to freak out about your presence. The game developers haven’t made it that easy for you though; you must earn each Mark & Execute option by successfully completing a hand-to-hand take-down with an enemy. Whatever way you want to approach a situation, you will have an easier, and more exciting, time when using Mark & Execute. The second feature that deserves recognition is “Last Known Position”. Sam is hiding behind a wall; he peaks out and is spotted by an enemy who then proceeds cautiously to the whereabouts of his “last known position”. The more intelligent gamer will utilise this feature by retreating to a new position where they can have an advantage over the guard (or guards) who are now heading to where they spotted Sam earlier. A handy little shadow outline remains at that place so you are able to keep an eye on it. What you decide to do with the feature is up to you however; you can choose to flank your opponents and take them down with close-quarter combat (earning you a Mark & Execute), you can get yourself to a safe distance and use your Mark & Execute ability or you can even sneak onwards to your objective without having to kill a soul. Regardless of what kind of Fisher you wish to be, this nifty little aspect is another one you will find yourself using quite often indeed. I cannot give a Splinter Cell: Conviction review without at least mentioning the interrogation system that has been implemented by Ubisoft. While it ends up getting a tad repetitive, the first encounter you have with an enemy that enables you to smash their head against a wall or break their nose on a bathroom sink, will not be something forgotten any time soon. The achievement for utilising the environment around you while cross-examining a suspect just adds to the guilty pleasure you receive from being a complete and utter badass. Coop has been given the most attention and its certainly apparent that Ubisoft have taken all their knowledge from developing Rainbow Six Vegas and packaged up a coop experience Splinter Cell style. One of the biggest things that has been taken from Rainbow Six Vegas is the Perk system – by playing the game in a certain manner and completing P.E.C. challenges points are awarded which may be redeemed to upgrade weapons and armour. So before jumping into any Multiplayer game get ahead and play some campaign to get a stock of points to spruce up your weaponry. Weapons are also unlocked GRAW style and will be available for use when a certain model has been found in a level. Terrorist hunt mode from Rainbow Six Vegas was one of the best game modes for a coop experience and in Splinter Cell it makes an appearance as the games main focal point for multiplayer – naturally Ubisoft have given it the Splinter Cell treatment and a set of varying modes – Hunter is a straight forward terrorist hunt, where alerting the enemy to your presence increases the amount of enemies that need to be ‘dealt’ with, slowly as you progress by killing the current quota of enemies more of the level is unveiled for you to progress through. Last stand is a wave defence game mode which sees you attempting to protect an EMP generator – revealing your position takes the pressure of the generator allowing it time to repair. Infiltration (unlocked in uPlay) is similar to terrorist hunt but the aim is to eliminate all enemies without being detected. If like me you spent many an hour in Rainbow Six coop playing terrorist mode, then what Splinter Cell has to offer is cause enough to make this purchase extremely worth while. Deniable ops features all the above game modes but you play as a lone player where as the online multiplayer sees you playing with others and includes the edition of Face off which is basically a wave mode style game but with the inclusion of another real life player, think spy vs spy vs waves. This mode is very similar to the Resident Evil 5 multiplayer. Multiplayer can be enjoyed over Xbox Live in player or private match. Split screen is also on offer and not only are there Multiplayer modes to enjoy but Ubisoft have also put in a coop story campaign which can take just as long to finish as the Single player. Serving as a prequel to the main storyline, team up with a second player to play as Third Echelon and Voron characters, Archer and Kestrel. Watch each others back though as if one falls the mission is a failure – luckily there is a ‘bleed out’ period before you have to restart but without careful planning enemies will overwhelm you and healing up just isn’t an option. Similar to the single player marking targets is included and you each share the mark so there is a lot of scope for tagging and bagging enemies from multiple directions. Graphics The environments play a huge part in the game as you are constantly evaluating your surrounds for means of an escape or a way to out manoeuvre your enemies and a grand job has been done to make everything feel just right and look like it could exist in the real world, which naturally helps you to identify items in the game that can be used to your advantage. The floating text display over the environments serves as a nice pointer, everything can be a bit too much sometimes in the bigger environments and handy little short-cuts or places to crawl into can be missed. I feel this is here to help newcomers rather than long term fans of the series and would have been nice to have been able to switch this off in the options – ala ‘Pro’ on Mirrors Edge. The light is a huge part of the game and everything, being a stealth game! When the screen goes black and white you know you are masked in darkness, enemies and explosive items are in colour still so its never unclear of your objectives and although this has been developed with the uttermost care I still feel the series has been dumbed down a bit. The quality of the graphics is something we have come to expect from an Ubisoft title and Splinter Cell certainly doesn’t let us down. Audio Sam is voiced by Michael Ironside and the voice acting is superb – tied in with great cutscenes of action and a superb musical score the games sound is perfect and fitting – my only complaint with the sound though was that sometimes enemies sounded far too loud when they were nowhere near me. This almost felt as a cheap device to letting you know you hadn’t cleared out an area of enemies yet – lets be honest Sam is a bad ass and the guys he is hunting know it – would they really be shouting about finding you? No, they would equally be creeping round to try and out smart Sam rather than shouting, they may as well just paint a big bulls eye on their heads! Overall While the new gameplay really made this game enjoyable for me, I was disappointed to see the franchise slip very far away from it’s stealth roots and lean very heavily towards action, action, action. While I understand this move was to attract new gamers to it, there are a few diehard fans of the series that are left feeling a little deflated from it. The most noticeable difference between Conviction and its predecessors is the simple action of moving and disposing of bodies to evade attention from guards/security cameras etc. Ubisoft have created a universally satisfying game, but have clearly forgotten a few things that made the Splinter Cell games the classics that they are today. The series has very much moved away from the online we have been accustomed to – Ubisoft have retained the stealth aspect, agility and rules of shadow combat and mixed in the terrorist hunt system of Vegas with a whole bunch of tweaks and game modes. If you are purely after a single player game then the main story and deniable ops will keep you happy for a while – but like Rainbow Six Vegas the beauty of this game lies in coop play online or split screen. It will keep any Terrorist Hunt fan happy for months to come – Conviction really is a new breed of Splinter Cell that has capitalised on the success of the Rainbow Six Vegas online experience of Terrorist Hunt. Oh and naturally – play it on realistic!