|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 13, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
May 23, 2007 - The original Splinter Cell took the gaming world by storm. The mix of real-world scenarios, amazing graphics and stealthy gameplay combined with likeable bad-boy Sam Fisher was a mix that few could resist. Then the series included innovative multiplayer that set Xbox Live on fire. Even the latest iteration, Double Agent, introduced a system that required Sam to make difficult moral decisions throughout the gameplay. However, for the most part, the gameplay has remained the same plodding, slow "hide in the shadows" mechanic that gamers are tiring of. Thankfully, Ubisoft Montreal has recognized this weakness and has completely reinvented the gameplay for the newest Splinter Cell, subtitled Conviction.
While in the stellar Double Agent Sam had to play a dual role of agent and terrorist, in Conviction, Sam Fisher has cut his ties to Third Echelon completely. He comes back after a two year hiatus when he discovers that his friend Anna Grimsdottir is in trouble, but is frustrated by the newly bureaucratic Third Echelon. Instead of wading through red tape, Sam characteristically decides to go at it alone. This means no fancy, hi-tech gadgets and no support, putting Sam in a situation where he has to fend for himself and create his own opportunities.
Conviction changes the Splinter Cell formula in a number of ways. One of the foremost changes is the lack of dark areas for Sam to creep around in. Conviction implements what the developers call "active stealth", which is basically the opposite of what Splinter Cell fans are used to. Instead of waiting in the shadows, Conviction forces the player to stay on the move to avoid detection or capture. Since Sam is a fugitive now, he must avoid being recognized by any police officers or even any hapless civilian that happens to recognize his "most wanted" features. This is obvious in the demo that I saw, as Sam flips up his hood whenever he's in the public, attempting to blend into the crowd while hiding his face.
Another addition to the gameplay is the inclusion of melee attacks. While in previous Splinter Cell games, Sam had a lethal or incapacitating single attack, now he is able to grapple and fight with opponents. Sam is able to grab and toss foes, knocking over anything in the immediate vicinity. This shows off another new element, the unprecedented level of interactivity. Objects topple over and fall realistically, and Sam can pick up things and replace them or even stack them on top of one another. One of the more impressive things that the developers have included is a shockingly real object interactivity system. When Sam picks up a chair, his movements and hand placement will depend on how he approaches the chair. In almost any game prior to this, approaching and utilizing an object required the character to slide into the right position and perform a canned animation to lift the object. However, Sam picks up objects the same way that people would in real life. If he approaches an overturned chair, he may pick it up by the legs. If he wants to lift an upright chair, he might grab it by the back and the seat and reposition his hands once he gets a good grip. This also extends to the way objects interact with each other, as Sam can stack objects and throw them and watch them topple and land realistically, to the point where he can even barricade doors or entrances if he needs to.
While Sam no longer has his Third Echelon contacts, he still has his training and his conviction to help him achieve his goals. He will still have goals like computer hacking, but getting tools and contacts is now also part of the gameplay. The tools will probably be lower tech since Sam isn't affiliated with Third Echelon anymore, and his contacts may be a little grimier than expected.
The Splinter Cell games have always been eye-candy, but Conviction steps the visuals up a notch. The details in the character models are great, and the lighting effects now allow shadowcasting from three different light sources. Light even bounces off of colored surfaces with the appropriate reflection, meaning that if Sam is near a bright yellow object, the light reflecting from that will have a yellow tint. Sam also now sports a beard and mustache under a full head of hair, making him look younger but far less clean cut than we've seen him before.
The innovative multiplayer that we've come to expect from Splinter Cell is a lock for Conviction, although there aren't any details available just yet. The only thing that we know is that the same team that is doing the gameplay is also working on the multiplayer, so there should be a definite cohesion between the two.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction is a radical departure from what Splinter Cell fans are used to, but Ubisoft Montreal apparently aren't developers that plan on rehashing the same game with new scenarios and better graphics. While this may anger some fans of the series, it is possible that a fresh look at the game may hopefully shake things up for the better. From what I've seen so far, Conviction may be the best of the series so far, but we'll see for certain when it sneaks onto shelves this holiday season.
CCC Former Co-Site Director