Feels like it's been a long time since I last played a Splinter Cell game and that was Chaos Theory so I've probably missed out on some of the story since then.
In this latest title Conviction, Sam Fisher is out to find out what happened to his daughter who he had expected dead. However, he is contacted by an old friend Grim and learn it's time to get involved with covert ops again to deal with corrupt politics.
Those of you who have been following the series since the first title will probably wonder where the stealth part of the series has gone when you first start playing.
For most of the game, you'll be gunning your way through the enemies because there's so many of them patrolling in brightly lit areas, closing in on you quickly and forcing you to act fast. In fact, you can now find "weapon stashes" here and there as if Ubisoft's actually encouraging you to upgrade your guns for more fire power. You don't even have to worry about ammo because the enemies provide you with plenty of them and weaponry. It feels like Call of Duty in a way because you can die very quickly and have to pull off the right moves.
If you shoot out a light the enemies are immediately alerted unlike previous games. When you are spotted and manage to go back into hiding without the enemy seeing you, you leave a silhouette behind to show where the enemies are focused. Then you can take advantage of that situation and quickly move in behind them, repeating to kill them all quickly. It makes the pace of the game quicker than before and can be pretty satisfying when you manage to pull it off.
You can now dive dramatically from cover to cover simply by holding the right mouse button and point to the place you want to run or dash to. It can be done so easily in fact it feels a bit silly because I found you don't need any timing at all. Even if you dive while an enemy is looking in your direction and in the light, the worst you get is a warning. No alarms at all.
It makes you wonder if Ubisoft's turning this series into an action game. You are even rewarded with an "execute" move if you do manage a stealth kill, allowing you to mark a number of enemies and then take them out quickly with your weapon in one swift action.
Fortunately stealth isn't completely gone and there are some slight changes to the system.
There's no longer a light gauge to show how exposed you are. Instead the screen turns greyscale if you're hidden in the dark. I guess this is a good change and saves switching to the night vision goggles all the time as in previous games but at the same time, it's harder to spot where the lights are and you have to rely on the crosshair turning red. I actually prefer the old way.
Gone is the cautious body hiding and whistling to distract the guards so it's harder to carry out stealth attacks and easy for you to be spotted. I miss the good old lock picking, using the goggles to find out what keys the enemy pressed and other gadgets.
On the bright side, you can still peek under doors but as mentioned earlier, you'll hardly have the need to since the enemy's expecting you and are closing in your position. At least until late into the game anyway.
That said there are plenty of tense moments to keep the excitement going. And when there is stealth involved, it's still as satisfying and fun as before. The AI, while slightly smarter at smoking you out than before, is still stupid enough to fall for the same tricks. Many times I found that I could simply hang down from a wall or outside a window and pull every single enemy out of the window. Kind of similar to the prequels really.
In the prequels when you finally catch your target, you simply let Fisher do all the work interrogating. Now you have the find objects around you and take part in the brutal interrogating yourself such as smashing the subject's head into a mirror. It's not all that fun with the added gore thrown in.
As with most games, the Unreal engine has once again been chosen as the graphics engine. First impressions since playing CT is that everything looks smoother with the high levels of anti-aliasing and anisotropic available on the powerful multi-core graphics cards these days which smooths out edges and sharpens textures but this is pretty standard. There's also the usual ragdoll physics and environments are big and pretty crowded.
With the extra graphics power means the scenes are more violent than before. Victims bleed but not as exaggerated as in a lot of Japanese works.
A fair bit of the game feels like Assassin's Creed... The way you can bump into people, Sam scaling the walls, objectives marked with a distance pointer, long loading screens, projected memories and flashbacks. It all feels over-dramatic.
5.1 surround sound support is there if you have the speaker set up and even that has a bit of comedy thrown in when you switch to it in options. I really don't like the music that's supposed to make the game more intense and exciting. Voice acting is still good with the usual witty remark thrown in from Fisher.
The latest title in the Splinter Cell series, Conviction might seem all run and gun at first but it slowly returns to its original gameplay late into the game. A lot of it is still missing such as hiding bodies and all the old gadgets but you get more chance to work stealthily than you initially do. Otherwise the new gaming elements will have you moving fast like Fisher's nickname "Panther" and take advantage of your enemies closing in on your position which can be pretty satisfying. However, I'd prefer it if Ubisoft went back to the old slower paced formula.
Time Completed 8 hours
- Sam Fisher hasn't lost his witty remarks.
- Diving from cover to cover works pretty well.
- Distracting enemies with your position can be satisfying.
- New grey scale colours make it hard to tell where lights are.
- A bit over-cool with the new "execute" move?
- Most of the time you're gunning down enemies than being stealthy.
- Giant projected mission objectives make it feel over-dramatic.
- Have to cycle through Weapon Stash to get to the right items.
- DRM requires you to have a stable connection online.