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'Splinter Cell' changes for the better

May 14, 2010

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Splinter CellI don't know about you but one of my guilty gaming pleasures began with 'Goldeneye' way back in 1997. That is the first game I recall to ever include a silenced weapon. To be able to sneak up on an opponent and pop them without any of their buddies knowing was and still is pure satisfaction for me. It has never, ever lost its charm.

The 'Splinter Cell' series is the unequivocal leader when it comes to stealth play. Over the years Ubisoft has really found the right balance between running-gunning and sly spying. The latest chapter in Sam Fisher's saga, 'Splinter Cell: Conviction', is another healthy split between the conflicting styles of gameplay, although it is not nearly as innovative or as exhilarating as 'Double Agent' was.

Splinter CellPicking up where 'Double Agent' left off, Sam Fisher begins the search for those who murdered his daughter as well as being constantly on the lookout for any Third Echelon shenanigans. Going rogue is no walk in the park. Everyone from underworld gangsters to government spies and sources he used to trust are out to grant the unprotected Fisher an early retirement from the espionage business. Sam's mission is a personal one and once again Ubisoft delivers another intense storyline akin to anything you might see in a Hollywood action movie.

Continuing the trend set by 'Double Agent', 'Conviction' moves even further away from the original 'Splinter Cell' gameplay yet honours the spirit of the series in a respectable way. There is certainly more gunplay in 'Conviction', far more than any other 'Splinter Cell' game, however, the stealth element is still a major factor in many of the missions.

Splinter CellMercifully, the old school missions that involved a lot of slow, methodical slinking around, avoiding detection, not assassinating anyone and being forced to start the mission over if you do, are a thing of the past. You must still hide in the shadows but there is a lot of shooting and a lot of killing. It is people you are trying to outmaneuver and get the drop on not video cameras, sensors or other such security devices. You must incessantly stalk your prey and that is the addictive hook of 'Conviction', at least it was for me.

The most common scenario you will find yourself in is hiding behind office desks, concrete barriers or doorways and plugging a baddie in the head or snapping his neck as his buddies search for you nearby. If they are alerted, the mission doesn't end, usually. You just have multiple attackers and possibly their superior firepower to deal with. There aren't a multitude of lights or alert meters to monitor either. When you are in "shadow", everything turns black and white. When you are not, the lighting will return to normal. You cannot get any simpler than that although the monochrome view might not sit well with some players.

Splinter CellTo support their new spin on things, the developers have included some gameplay elements that are all about the action. If you complete enough stealth kills, you are able to exercise the "Mark and Execute" feature which allows you to target foes using RB and then you simply hit Y to one shot kill multiple targets. Oh, yeah. It is as sweet as it sounds, especially in co-op mode.

Another addition is the "Last Known Position" feature. If spotted by your enemies, they will converge on your last known position. This can be used to your advantage. If you are clever enough, you can outflank them as they direct their fire on that former position or close in for the kill when you have already left that location.

Voiced by Michael Ironside, the Sam Fisher is a more hardened veteran killing machine than we have ever seen before. I guess you would be too if your opponents were constantly calling you "old man" and mocking your age. To augment this "take no prisoners" attitude, you are also required to interrogate people during certain stages of the game. Reminiscent of THQ's 2005 'The Punisher' from 2005, you will bounce smash people's heads into television or computer screens, electrocute them, basically pound them into a bloody pulp in all sorts of creative ways until they tell you what you want to know. Although not nearly as violent as 'The Punisher', the tussles can get real nasty, then again, if you were on the trail of those who murdered your child, you too would probably leave your decorum behind as well before loading that first chamber in preparation for what's about to come.

Splinter CellThe single player campaign is only part of the total 'Conviction' package. There is a mission challenge system to boost the replayability factor, a co-op campaign where you must work together to succeed, and a multiplayer mode which features Hunter, Infiltration, and Last Stand scenarios.

What separates 'Conviction' from 'Double Agent' is that it doesn't have that larger than life feeling to it. In 'Double Agent', one of my favourite moments was swimming underneath ice in the Arctic, seeing and hearing the baddies walking above and timing things right so you could burst through to snuff them out then silently slipping back into the water again to await your next victim. In 'Double Agent' there were many, many of those moments, in 'Conviction' there just isn't. The adventure is still thrilling but there isn't that distinctiveness that we have come to expect from a Sam Fisher adventure.



Splinter Cell'Splinter Cell: Conviction'
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
ESRB Rating: Mature
Official Site:

Rating: 8.5 / 10


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