Jeff Markiewicz On April 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

There seems to be a fracture brewing in the Splinter Cell fanbase. The hardcore thinks that Choas Theory was perfect and any deviation from those core gameplay elements are bad. The rest welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed the new additions Double Agent brought, particularly with the addition to choice and competing objectives. Conviction appears to further push the envelope with a style closer to that of Jack Bauer than the old methodical stealth action. It is being done by Ubisoft Montreal who is considered the better developer of Splinter Cell titles and was behind the more successful versions, including the fabled Chaos Theory. With full title in hand, does Sam Fisher shine in the shadows once more or has he changed too much in his old age?

With the loss of his daughter haunting him, Sam Fisher is out to write his masterpiece when he hears that her death may not be such an accident. No longer with Third Echelon, he now operates outside of rules of engagement and he’ll stop at nothing to get the answers he needs. Along the way he meets an old face who recruits him back into the game to unearth a grand conspiracy that threatens the United States. The new emotional angry-edged of Sam is amazing. He feels more like Jack Bauer from the television show 24 than his old self and it works really well.  Sam Fisher is finally becoming a character with some depth rather than just a spy with a cool voice. Conviction is a sequel to Double Agent and if you haven’t played that title to completion, you’ll lose out on some of the background foundation for Sam’s personal story. Other than that, it is a complete story from start to finish so even newcomers won’t get too lost. In the end the story is pretty decent, not the most original, but it’s the fact that Sam Fisher is now a real character than bumps it up to something special.

Sam is a much sleeker and agile adversary this time around. You’re able to move quickly and kill quicker. The game is still remains a stealth game at its heart though and if you forget about that, you’ll get punished severely. Darkness is still your main friend and instead of relying on the tried and true light meter of the previous titles, the screen will saturate and desaturate depending on if you’re hidden or not. The cover system has been highly evolved and now you can quickly go cover to cover to get the jump on people. You also can use some of the tried and true acrobatics like climbing on pipes and moving along ledges. If an enemy comes close enough to you, you can instantly execute a takedown. Peaking under doors once again makes reappearance and you can bash them open if someone is behind them. This ends up working exceptionally well and is quite stylish. The one issue that comes up is that most of your actions revolve around a single button so occasionally instead of doing something that you want; it’ll do an action that’s nearby.

There are a slew of major additions to the gameplay this time around. The largest is Mark and Execute. This feature allows you to tag targets and with a press of a button immediately take them all out. The amount of people you can tag depends on the weapon you are wielding and the upgrades that you have for it. This ability is not a freebie though and requires you to do hand-to-hand takedowns. You have a new vision mode that allows you to see through walls which meshes really well with this feature allowing you to plan out your attacks. If your plan fails though, the game doesn’t end once you’re detected; it just starts the second act of the fight which is more of a cat and mouse game. In the world, you will see a silhouette of yourself called the Last Known Position. This is the location that the enemy is going to focus on which gives you the ability to go around and flank them. It’s a lot of fun but unfortunately some levels are once again instant fail upon detection. These parts can be frustrating and remove access to half the fun. After learning the system, you’ll feel more like a ninja elegantly swiftly and efficiently taking down bad guys.

On each mission you are allowed your pistol, a secondary weapon, and a myriad of grenades and gadgets. Your pistol always has infinite ammo so you never have to worry about it, even on realistic difficulty. The secondary weapon ranges are shotguns, submachine guns, and rifles. The accessories are just simple grenades and gadgets like flashbangs, EMPs, and sticky cameras. Periodically throughout the level, you’ll encounter a safe zone with a weapon cache. This allows you to resupply your ammo and accessories as well as letting you outfit with different weapons. There are a lot of weapons to choose from and if you’ve taken advantage of certain promotions, you’ll even have access to a couple more. All of these can be upgraded in three different areas like accuracy, silencer, and amount of marks. Even the accessories can be upgraded but they are not as interesting. There is a new system called P.E.C. which are challenges that if you complete, you get points to upgrade. It’s a nice little perk but doesn’t drastically change anything. You’ll earn the ability to upgrade and have access to nearly all the weapons in a single playthrough.

The levels are well done and typically give you enough room to play around and approach as you see fit. Your objectives are always quite varied and always give you something new to do. You can see some influences from the previously shown Conviction with the addition of civilians in some of the levels which will react to your actions. Sometimes you’re practically forced to engage though which will disappoint some fans who wish to go through without killing but the whole experience is well worth it for the small things that are lost.

Torture is now the means to extract information from enemies. You will be bashing their heads in and using the environment in interesting ways. This is really cool but it seems that nearly everyone you talk to requires several rounds of beatings and at times, you may even wish you could avoid it but that is not a choice. In fact, all the nice choices and multiple objectives you enjoyed during Double Agent are largely absent from this title which is kind of disappointing. It definitely makes you feel like a badass but it would’ve been nice if they varied them up more.

In addition to mark and execute, last known position, and torture, hardcore stealth fans will also be upset with a couple other changes. The hand-to-hand takedowns are quite violent and often involve you discharging your firearm. They also don’t require so much precision anymore as you don’t have to sneak up directly behind them. Most of your victims will die at your hand without the choice of knocking them out; you have no nonlethal avenues of attack. Once dead, you cannot hide the bodies. In the middle of missions you have safe zones where you can resupply and switch weapons instead of selecting a load out. Despite all these changes, the game is still a Splinter Cell. They just significantly speed up the game by trimming the fat. It also adds a nice cushion when you get detected to right the sinking ship so you don’t always have to be perfect. Plus they make you feel like a badass and are a ton of fun. It you’re an ardent fan on the franchise and a little weary of the new direction, dive right in. You’ll be at home.

There is a full featured cooperative campaign for you and a friend to take down. It’s a prequel to the single player game that has you preventing a rouge element of the Russian army from selling three advanced warheads. You take the role of either Archer or Kestrel who are from Third Echelon and Voron, respectively. Voron is basically the Russian equivalence of Third Echelon.  Throughout the lengthy six-hour campaign, you’ll travel down the rabbit hole and learn more about what’s happening and learn a bit more about your characters. It’s well-worth the playthrough, especially if you play with someone good. The gameplay is largely the same as the single-player with some cooperative bonuses. When you take out an enemy with hand-to-hand, you both earn the ability to execute. You can tag enemies for your teammate and take them out simultaneously. This prevents the wasting of the skill when enemies are out of range or behind cover.  If an enemy sees you coming straight at them, they have a chance to put you into a choke hold which forces your teammate to rescue you with a well-placed shot. If you go down, you can decide to play dead and save health or sit up and continue the fight until your partner comes to revive you. The set pieces and locations are quite different from the single player which keeps the entire experience fresh and visually interesting. There are some instant fail sections though which can get frustrating if your teammate is not up to par but overall it’s a wonderful addition that unfortunately won’t get too much play. Beware though after the conclusion, the bonus audio clip from the single-player campaign that gets played several minutes into the credits is also present here which can be a fairly big spoiler for those who choose to play this prequel before the main story.

Since the campaign is just like the single player, it has cutscenes and the fairly lengthy torture scenes that hinder quick replayability so they have you covered with a couple other gametypes. They mostly take place on the same maps that the cooperative campaign takes place in so to not spoil yourself, you may want to hold off until you finish it. There are four other modes, most of which can be played alone as well as with another person. They are Hunter, Last Stand, Face-off, and Infiltration. Hunter is essentially a terrorist hunt where you take down enemies anyway you can. Last Stand has you defending an EMP generator against waves of enemies. Face-off is the only competitive mode where you battle a friend while the level is filled with enemies to get in your way. Infiltration is basically Hunter except you can’t be detected. It also must be unlocked via Ubisoft’s Uplay system. The noticeable absence is Spy versus Merc but for most it won’t be missed due to the incredibly high learning curve. These new modes here are relatively easy to jump into and have fun because everything you’ve learned from the single-player translates in full.

This bonus is a great addition to the game but it comes with a price, the fact that you must have a teammate to play. If you already have a friend, you’ll ready to go either split screen or over Xbox Live. If you don’t, they have included Matchmaking support which is awesome but it’s still like playing the lottery because you’re trying to find a good partner who wants to play on the setting you want. The search widens after about a minute of searching you so can’t sit there idling to play with specific preferences. Supposedly Ubisoft is going to help with a site at but it’s not up at the current time and there is not much more they can do to help people find friends.

The riskiest move was the in-world text and video displays and I must profess, it’s a resounding success. It keeps you in the game and gives you a glimpse into the chaos that is Sam Fisher’s mind. The levels look great for the most part except for one. Even the single-player and online campaigns are quite varied from a graphical standpoint which keeps everything fresh. There is quite a lot of aliasing in the game but the dark conceals it well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sam moves fluidly and has quite a repertoire of moves that never get repetitive. Cinematics seamlessly bridge the gap between missions are exceptionally well animated. When you headshot people you get a satisfying squirt of blood and torture scenes are even more gruesome. There might be some blemishes to this visually but overall you’re in store for a very stylish game.

Michael Ironsides delivers an awesome performance reprising Sam Fisher. Supported by a multitude of great voice acting for the other main characters helps this game become a great cinematic experience. Your enemies will have nice quips referencing things you’ve done earlier in the game, which is nice, but they do tend to become repetitive after awhile. The music is also pretty good and the theme elicits a near movie-esque quality. It gets your heart pumping during the high tension scenes and makes it stop during the more awe inspiring ones.  The weapons and everything sound great and you’ll jump when a grenade hits near your feet nearby. The best part is just the great voice acting and gives it the extra oomph though.

Similarly to the divide between those who prefer the first three Resident Evils over the new ones, it appears that there will too be a chasm between the two factions as this franchise continues to evolve. What I can say is though, Sam Fisher is a bad ass and if you enjoy characters like Jason Bourne or Jack Bauer, you definitely won’t be disappoint with this new incarnation. Splinter Cell has trimmed the fat and has taken to the offensive. Despite all of the changes, it feels like they are definitely for the better while staying true to the feel of the franchise. The story is pretty good and Sam Fisher continues to become a character instead of just a voice. The cooperative storyline is also well done and full featured. The gameplay has shifted more to speed and action but it doesn’t forget its roots. Mark and Execute and Last Known Position are awesome and well balanced. The new echo vision mode meshes perfectly with these and definitely makes you think about how you’re going to approach a situation before diving in. On realistic difficulty, the AI will actually actively hunt you down and do things differently than on the other modes which is really cool. The cooperative campaign is quite lengthy and provides a lot of cool missions. The other modes can be played with another or by yourself and can easily give you a quick fix. The graphics are great except for a lot of aliasing and one of the levels not looking too hot. The sound design is great and the main characters offer an amazing performance. Splinter Cell Conviction has evolved and while slightly different that its former self, offers an amazing experience.


Single player is a little short but awesome and makes you feel like a badass. Torture, while cool, can get a little repetitive and have no purpose other than to make Sam a badass. Instant fail missions can be frustrating. One level is dull because the gameplay was boiled down to being a straight shooter. Cooperative campaign is full-featured and has great length. Online is fun if you can find a good partner.


Sam looks great and moves around fluidly with great animations. Hand-to-hand takedowns are awesome and varied. In-level text and video works beautifully. Cinematics seamlessly bridge the gap between levels and look great. The levels mostly visually interesting and their lighting is great. One particular level sticks out like a sore thumb. Levels are plagued with aliasing but not very noticeable in the dark, it is in the light that it becomes a problem.


Michael Ironsides and the supporting cast of main characters give an awesome performance. Enemy characters do tend to get repetitive though when hunting down Sam. Music is well-done with the theme being near movie-quality. Enemies do get repetitive with their sayings though.


Sam Fisher is a badass and is on the prowl. This game offers great gameplay that essentially unleashes you onto a playground to have fun. While it is slightly different than its previous incarnations, the new additions make it a worthwhile and awesome experience.

Comments are closed.