Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction PC Game Review
There are many things to like about this game- the storytelling, the gameplay, and how fun it is. Though along with those praises, come some broken elements that hinder the game’s ability to be given a perfect rating. There are many glitches and technical issues that ultimately dampen the game experience. Read on for the detailed review.
Story- Splinter Cell Conviction follows the story of Splinter Cell Double Agent. This time around Sam Fisher is being hunted by the organization he worked for- Third Echelon. He has tried to lay low, yet rattling news about his daughter pulls him back into the action. I don’t want to disclose any specific storyline information because not only is it convoluted; it also helps to know the story of the previous games. Plus, I don’t like spoilers. But to give you an idea, each level feels like a mash-up of the TV show 24, with the intensity of Max Payne and the cinematic feel of the Bourne series.
Gameplay- Conviction adds some new gameplay mechanics that help push the series in a new direction. To complement the storyline, some core changes were made. In the previous Splinter Cell games, Fisher had an indicator light on his back which determines if he is visible (like in open light areas) and when he is undetectable (in the darkness). This worked well when he was still in Third Echelon, but it started becoming impractical, especially in Double Agent, where he wore it and no one in the group he was infiltrating seemed to question him about it.
This time, stealth works in a simpler manner- when Sam is visible, the game shows up in color. When he’s undetectable, the game is in black and white. The color shift is seamless. Although it’s a cool feature in the first few levels, there is this unshakeable feeling that you’re playing a bland, black and white game for most of its levels because stealth is its key mechanic. Heck, sometimes it felt better to go guns blazing just to see the character in color. But that’s just me.
A new feature in this game is called “Mark and Execute”. The way it works is, each time you kill an enemy using melee or hand to hand moves, Fisher gains the M&E ability. You can then mark enemies (like in Rainbox Six Vegas) and perform the execute, automatically killing the marked targets without manually targeting each. The number of “Marks” is determined by the weapon Fisher is carrying, which can be increased through weapon upgrades. It’s a useful feature, especially in situations where Sam is highly outnumbered. Let’s say there are 4 henchmen in a room and you only have 3 Marks – you can Mark 3, manually headshot the unmarked one , then press the Execute button to kill the rest easily. This may make the game sound easy but remember, you would need to perform a hand to hand kill first to get the M&E ability.
Another new feature is called “Last Position Known”. This means when Fisher is caught in a firefight, he can relocate himself and he will cast a transparent image of where the enemies saw him last. This is a useful strategic element, which allows players to plan their next move- such as ambush or going around to the enemy’s location for a melee kill.
What may turn off many players is the exclusion of some of the core mechanics that made Splinter Cell unique. Gone are the “hardcore” moments where everything has to be perfectly timed or else it’s game over. There are a couple of levels in this game where you cannot be detected, but you can still leave a bunch of dead bodies and even if they discover it, as long as Sam isn’t detected, they’re just put on a higher alert but the game keeps going. Funny thing is, you cannot pick up and hide bodies in this game. They also got rid of the mini-game features like lockpicking and hacking. He just does this by pressing the Space bar and going into a short animated sequence. Fisher seemed to be more agile this time around. Climbing pipes and buildings are a lot faster; I thought I was playing Ezio (of Assassin's Creed 2 fame) for a bit there. Ubisoft has blurred the lines between the stealth and action elements in this installment. It makes for a fast-paced, stealth game.
The interrogation feature has been changed as well. Sam cannot interrogate every henchman he sees, instead, only certain enemies who would seem to have actual valuable information are interrogated. These interrogation scenes are done in a set location where each time the player presses the interrogation key, Sam punishes the target by smashing his head onto breakable objects nearby. Some of these objects are toilets, urinals, faucets, mirrors, and even pianos and TV sets. It all depends on where the interrogation is happening. This certainly adds on to the cinematic feel of the game and makes it that much more fun. My only complaint with this is that the way it works is too easy. You just press the Action key and he does the interrogation sequence. I feel it could have been a good opportunity to make the player press certain keys timed with each violent action, in order to make it feel like a video game.
Graphics- The graphic isn’t top-notch, but it’s very similar to how Modern Warfare 2 looks. It looks good. The black and white look is great at first, but it loses its charm since most of the game is played in it.
Simply put, the PC version of this game has many technical problems. Through reading forums, I determined that players with high-end gaming rigs, regardless if it’s an Intel or AMD CPU, or NVidia or ATI GPU takes a lot of performance hits. This can only mean that the game is not optimized. Based on dev commentaries, this game runs on a modified Unreal Engine 2.5. Perhaps the performance issues can be blamed on this. Personally, this game had a lot of freezes and lags on my machine, but installing the game patches and GPU driver fixes helped a bit, but it still isn’t running as fast as it should.
Sound- The voice acting is great as always. Michael Ironside’s voice fits Fisher’s voice perfectly. The gravelly voice and rough persona is there. He’s a strong protagonist, yet you feel his torment. The ambient sounds and other sound effects are also well-done. Nothing is over the top, but nothing feels missing either.
Replayability- There are usually more than one way to get from Point A to Point B in this game. It’s not an openworld game, it’s still very linear. There are three difficulty settings, yet anyone who’s played a shooting game can easily pass on the hardest (Realistic) setting. There are also other game modes such as Deniable Ops, which has two game types: Hunter and Last Stand. The former is a hunt-all-enemy type, while the latter is a defense/king of the hill challenge. There are also coop and multiplayer game modes.
Conclusion. It’s still Splinter Cell, but with a breath of fresh air. This breath of fresh air takes the game in a whole new direction that new adopters will find fun, but hardcore SC lovers may reject it. The PC version of SC:Conviction is a toned-down version of its console counterparts. Not only that, it has many glitches and technical problems. If you want to play this game, I suggest you purchase the console version, or wait until it’s properly patched. At the moment, the technical problems hinder its great storytelling and fun game play.
There’s a lot of things to like about the game- the storyline, the gameplay and because it’s a Splinter Cell game and I’m a huge fan of this series. There aren't that many stealth shooters nowadays. Having said that, please look into the advice I said earlier about the technical issues and make a smart decision when purchasing this.
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