What do you get when you take the world's greatest spy, kill his daughter, and then try to kill him? You get one very angry, very badass spy. And the madness that ensues, well, great balls of fire, it makes a great game!The Story(Spoiler free) :
As the story begins, Sam is enjoying a nice cup of tea, when he's suddenly contacted by an old friend. This old friend tell hims that he's going to die unless he does everything she says. So he does, and sure enough he lives to tell the tale. As time goes by, he finds that his past is catching with him, and he's back to his old ways. This time, however, he's not limited to non-lethal means, or "Laws." And yes, to answer your question, you'll have to fight other splinter cells.
The story line will take you about nine hours to complete on realistic, perhaps more like six or seven on the easier difficulties.The Gameplay:
Conviction's gameplay is surrounded in a bit of controversy, because it so drastically changes that ol' Splinter Cell formula that we've come to know and love. All things considered, it works pretty well. There are a few downsides, but let's skip those for now, and talk about the good. The stealth action is still there, it's just a little faster paced. You'll stalk your enemies(Slightly faster than before) and dispose of them in all manors of different ways. From grabbing them and smashing them through a door or throwing them off a balcony, to sneaking up behind them and performing any one of the hundred different kill animations. Bit of an exaggeration, but there's a ton of 'em! Sam's pissed, and he doesn't care who knows. It shows in the gameplay.
One of the new additions is the interrogation feature. Every now and then Sam will be required to beat information out of someone who's about to have an EXTREMELY bad day. When you're interrogating someone, you'll move around the environment, and smash their head and/or other body parts into various objects. It's a lot of fun. Very satisfying.
Another new addition to the gameplay is the Mark & Execute system. It's also a lot of fun. When you kill an enemy with hand to hand combat, you'll gain a mark. You can mark an enemy, or any number of different environmental objects, and press Y to execute, at which point Sam will go into badass overdrive, and shoot everything you've marked in a matter of super-badass seconds.
Another new addition is the P.E.C. system, and P.E.C. challenges. If you've played Rainbow Six Vegas, you'll be familiar with the P.E.C.(Persistent Elite Creation) system. It's had a few changes, though. In singleplayer or multiplayer, you can earn P.E.C. points by completing various challenges. These challenges range from killing three enemies with a single frag grenade, to completing an entire level without firing a shot. With the P.E.C. points, you can purchase upgrades for weapons, uniforms to use online, and camouflage and upgrades for said uniforms.
The enemy AI is sort of hit or miss. Sometimes they're quite smart, but other times they're a bit dull. They scream "You think I'm stupid?! I'm not moving!" Yes. Yes, I think you are stupid. Because you just told me exactly what your entire plan is. When they actually attempt to hunt you down, however, they're quite smart about it. They search in a fan pattern, and move fast. The same goes for when you're in a firefight, they're quite smart. They'll pin you down with fire as one or two attempt to flank you, or they'll toss a grenade at you and rush you. Needless to say, it often requires thought. Assuming of course, they have decided not to be idiots and scream what their plan of attack is at you. Or, their plan of inaction, as the case may be.
The series' old faithful multiplayer mode Spies Vs. Mercs has been shot down like Goose, but there's still very much a multiplayer, and it's very good. There's an entire co-op campaign, which will take you about six hours to complete. You and a friend play as Archer and Kestrel, two Splinter Cells from Third Echelon and Voron, the Russian counterpart to Third Echelon (Translate: Raven.). They're both interesting characters. The co-op campaign takes place two months prior to the events of the singleplayer campaign, although, you won't miss out on any key details if you play the singleplayer first!
Archer and Kestrel are tasked with tracking down four stolen EMP bombs. This search takes them all over the place, and requires them to.. Extract.. Information from unfortunate targets. They don't trust each other at first, but as time goes by, they warm up to each other.
The gameplay in the co-op campaign is similar to the singleplayer campaign, but with more enemies, more teamwork, and more badassery. There isn't as much teamwork this time around as there was in Chaos Theory. There's no ledge boosting to be had, no disabling cameras or lights for your partner(With that special device), no speaking quietly into the mic so as not to alert nearby enemies,\ and no hiding of the bodies(Obviously.) Make no mistake, it's still a lot of fun.
The other online game modes include Hunter, in which you - and optionally, a friend - are tasked with killing all the enemies in a map. Each map consists of several zones, with several enemies. Kill all them enemies, move on to next zone, repeat until end. It's quite a bit more fun than it sounds. Last Stand is where you and a friend are tasked with defending an EMP bomb for 20 waves of attacks. This might sound like fun, but unfortunately, it just goes on way too long. There's not much stealth involved, and you're stuck in the same area the entire time. The amount of enemies per wave gradually increases as you progress. Another game mode is Face Off. This is a 1vs1 spy vs. spy death match, but with a twist: Enemy AI is present on the map. They're just as likely to kill you as the other spy is, so you've gotta watch out. Last but not least is Infiltration. This mode has to be unlocked VIA spending 40 Uplay points. Uplay is a free service from Ubisoft, and you earn Uplay points by unlocking various achievements in Ubisoft games. It won't take you long to earn 40 points. Anyway.. In Infiltration, you and a friend are tasked with killing all the enemies on a given map without being detected. It's a mode that reward thought and patience over brute force and accuracy. A return to the old Splinter Cell formula.The Sound:
The sound quality is there. Sam's voice actor(A Mr. Michael Ironside) is brilliant, as always, and the rest of the voice cast is quite good, as well. The original music fits the game nicely, and there's one licensed song in the game "Building Steam With A Grain of Salt" by DJ Shadow, that actually, believe it or not, works very well with the situation in which it's played. The gunfire all sounds realistic and satisfying.The Graphics:
Are nothing to write home about, but they're still good. Explosions look particularly bad, but the environments, character and weapon details and animations are all great. There's no texture popping to speak of, and the lighting quality is great, as it should be in a game like this. Although, it would be better if at least one character was voiced by Tom Cruise.The Bad Stuff:
Now then, that's all the goods.. I know, I know, I didn't want this review to come to this, either, but it's time we discuss the bads. Sad face.
Unfortunately, there are bads. One of them is a major component of the game. When Sam(Or Archer/Kestrel) is hidden in the shadows, the screen turns black and white to signify that you're invisible. This is a fun gimmick at first, but it quickly becomes an annoyance. Playing your game in constant black and white is just irritating. There's not even that brownish color palette that Gears of War uses, it's just colorless(Actually black and white). I know it's supposed to look stylized, but it doesn't. Blood is red, and enemies are colored, but everything else is black and white. It honestly took me awhile to realize how depressing it was that basically the entire game is presented in black and white. It's more vibrant and alive, and easier to see in color. It's a vexing decision to make; go out there guns blazing, and enjoy a beautiful colorful fight, or enjoy that Splinter Cell stealth action, with the most bland color scheme ever. I would absolutely kill for that little gadget with the lights that goes on Sam's back, and tells you how hidden you are.
You remember that old staple of the Splinter Cell franchise? Yeah, the night vision goggles - They're gone. You get sonar goggles this time. I wish I could say the sonar goggles were as cool as the night vision goggles, but they just aren't. In fact, you could go far as to say they're a bit cheap. When you flip them on, enemies and electronics within quite a large radius are revealed to you. Moving around with sonar goggles on will make your vision blurry, I suppose this is to make it so you can't always
know where everything is, but unfortunately, it doesn't work. Why? Because you can mark enemies while using your sonar goggles. You can mark them through walls, too. This makes it so it's basically impossible for the enemies to surprise you in any way, shape or form. You will always know where they are, because when they don't appear as giant white blocks while using sonar goggles, if you've marked them, they'll have giant arrows over their heads.
And that's pretty much the extent of the bads. The Achievements: *Keep in mind, this has NO bearing on the score of the game.. At least, in my review it doesn't.*
The achievements are, unfortunately, pretty grindy. 320 can be earned by playing through the campaign on Realistic. Pretty much all the rest can be earned offline, either in splitscreen co-op, or with a second controller. The only one that truly requires another person is Quality Time, which requires you to invite someone from your friend list into your game.
By the time you finish story mode, there will be a lot of challenges left for you to complete. Not because they're super difficult, but because you have to do each challenge a ridiculous number of times before it's considered completed. The challenges are broken into 3 categories: Stealth, Vanish and Prepare & Execute. There's an achievement for completing every challenge in a category, as well as an achievement for completing all challenges, which you'll obviously get if you get the other 3 achievements related to challenges.
You'll be spending most of your time doing those challenge achievements, but there are others that will take some time, too. Namely, the last stand achievements:
In my opinion, Last Stand is a very boring game mode. It's just too much of the same to be fun. Fighting the same enemies, with the same weapons, in the same area(Probably in black & white) for far too much time.
If you're not too good at stealth games, Perfect Hunter may take you some time to complete, as well. I'm great at stealth games and it took me some time, too.
Realistic difficulty can also prove.. difficult. That is, if you're not too great at stealth games. It's certainly not Call of Duty Veteran difficult, but it's rough at times. Luckily, there is an excellent solution with some excellent tips courtesy of a magnificent hunk of a man:*Excellency of tips and hunkiness of man not guaranteed. Based solely on one extremely hunky and excellent man's opinion.*The Final Verdict:
To sum it all up, Splinter Cell Conviction is an excellent re-visioning of the franchise, and I highly recommend it. The one thing that holds it back is a very huge gameplay mechanic, and even if it had no impact on gameplay, playing your game in black and white is simply less fun than playing it in color. The game is still good enough to earn five stars, though. Albeit just barely. If you enjoy stealth action, do yourself a favor and at least rent it.
I hope you've enjoyed this review, and I hope it makes your "To buy or not to buy" decision that much easier.