Since the first game’s release in 2002, I’ve defended Splinter Cell. One of my favorite series of all time, I’ve defended its name against those who say the series is too slow, or lacks enough action. I’ve even had multiple debates on why Sam Fisher could kick Solid Snake’s ass. Yeah, I said it.
Then came Double Agent. In an effort to make the series more accessible to the general public, the developers took the stealth formula and threw it out the window – and with it went almost everything I loved. This was the day I lost faith in the Splinter Cell franchise.
The often delayed Conviction makes similar radical changes to the formula, but this time – it pays off, big time. It’s fast yet methodic, it’s fun and challenging. It’s accessible yet feels familiar. In short, this is the game Double Agent should have been.
If you’ve had the…ahem…pleasure of playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent, you’ll remember that the game’s story took Sam Fisher’s life and twisted it around. His daughter is dead, he murdered his best friend Lambert and split from Third Echelon, the government organization he’s been part of for years (If you’ve never played Double Agent, there ya’ go, I just saved you twenty bucks). Conviction’s story picks up immediately after the events of Double Agent and finds Sam searching for his daughter’s murderer all the while being hunted down by his former agency.
Sam Fisher has always been known for using the shadows, but Conviction feels so much different than any of the previous titles. Remember, Sam’s not affiliated with any government organization anymore, so gone are the restrictions and limitations. No longer will you be told that casualties are not permitted, you’re free to handle each situation however you desire, you’ll just have to be ready for the repercussions. In previous Splinter Cell games, you hid in the shadows to avoid capture, in Conviction, you use it to stalk your prey and taking out enemies feels just as rewarding as it ever did.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the Splinter Cell series is just how slow the games played out, and to that I’ve never really had much of an argument. That all changes with Conviction. It’s a quick action game in every sense. Not once during my playthrough did I feel like the game was stalling, it always feels like it’s moving forward. Part of this is because there’s no load screens in between missions and even your objectives are portrayed into the gameplay through a cool and artistic projection system that literally shows you cut-scenes and objectives on walls. It’s a nice streamlined experience and it never feels like it gets in the way.
With this new action-centered style of gameplay though, there are a few series steadies that long standing fans will have to part with. Right off the bat you’ll notice that though the game is far more accessible for fans new to the series, it’s not near as challenging as before due to a few changes. Chief among them is the fact that you no longer need to hide bodies of enemies you’ve dealt with already. Sure, if they’re discovered, enemies will radio that they’ve found a “man down,” but nothing ever comes of it.
Another feature that seems like it was put in for more accessibility is the “last known location” feature, which will leave an imprint of Fisher on the environment wherever he was spotted. Sure, it makes the game a bit idiot proof at times, but the key is to use it to your advantage. I found great fun letting myself get spotted and then running away only to create a distraction in another part of the room. It’s incredibly rewarding and empowering when you’re just toying with a group of enemies before you take them out.
Remember in past Splinter Cell games how you’d have to watch like a million meters to know if you were in the shadows enough? Thankfully that’s all gone here and the developers revamped the system with an artistic touch. In the shadows? The screen turns black and white. Visible? Color starts to literally bleed back into the world. It’s a ton more simple, and it’s going to stop players from whining about how complex the engine is at times.
Perhaps what I love most about the game is that through and through, it feels like a Splinter Cell game. You’re still going to plot your moves, you’ve still got a ton of gadgets at your disposal and you’re still bad-ass. I started playing Conviction one night at 8pm, and didn’t stop until I finished the campaign near 3am. With its new innovations and tweaks, Conviction is a breeze to play through.
There are a few moments in the game however when I couldn’t wonder just what the developers were thinking. There’s a stage early on in the game where, in an effort to be a spoiler free as possible, you’re sent into a mission in broad daylight – which takes away the games stealth and cover system – what makes Splinter Cell unique. In essence, the game becomes a third person shooter – and a bad one at that. There’s also a moment where being spotted automatically ends the mission and while it does serve as a throwback to previous games, it just feels so out of place here.
I’m also not the biggest fan of the whole marking your target thing either. Yeah, it looks cool but seriously, where’s the challenge in just clicking a button and getting a guaranteed kill? I’ve always liked the Splinter Cell series because it took planning and effort for most kills. This just feels so cheap. Thankfully, there are only a few instances in the game where you really have to use it.
The campaign in Conviction may be short, but it’s really only a small piece of a larger pie. There’s a ton of content here, chief among them – the co-op mode. Available via online and split screen, you play as two agents in a completely separate campaign than the main one. The co-op was one of my favorite parts of the last games, and it returns here in full form. It’s best to finish the main campaign before the jumping in here, or have a very knowledgeable partner.
When it was first announced, I was very skeptical about Splinter Cell Conviction, but I can proudly say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a unique and varied gameplay experience that still feels like a game in the series should. A very high recommendation for new fans of the series and die-hards like myself, Sam Fisher in top form here, and the Splinter Cell franchise is reborn.
CHEATS USED: Unlimited Execute, Super Health
Undoubtedly, the coolest part of the Cheat Happens trainer is the unlimited execute feature. While some may argue that it makes the game too easy (and at times it does), some of the ways you can execute are also some of the most cool, animated and artistic.
There's a number of spots in the game where if you have the right gun and the right cover spot, you can make beautiful destructive music. The unlimited health cheat is also a welcome feature as Sam isn't exactly the most durable in this outing. But where's the invisibility cheat?
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