Platform:Xbox 360, PC Publisher:Ubisoft Release Date: February 26th 2010
Last time we saw Splinter Cell: Conviction we were pretty nonplussed by the focus on daylight settings and the way that Sam Fisher had somehow gone from super-spy to angry hobo. We weren’t the only ones who were disappointed by it either and Ubisoft quickly clued into the fact and took the entire game back to the drawing board.
And now it’s back, hobo-less and completely reimagined. The new Conviction is totally different and, as it pleasantly turns out, totally bloody brilliant. We’re usually too curmudgeonly to be so brazen with our praise, but from what we’ve seen, Ubisoft Montreal should be congratulated for turning the game around so brilliantly and quickly.
The core of the game still looks like it’ll be the same as was originally planned, with either a few tweaks or just a handful of extra details that have been made known since then. It’s essentially the story of Sam Fisher going rogue and leaving the secret Third Echelon group in order to blow the lid off a government conspiracy and find out what happened to his daughter, Sarah.
I wonder what her name is?
To be honest, we’re a little hazy on the details of Sarah’s fate ourselves and Ubisoft was in no rush to give away plot details that large. The conspiracy is something we know a bit more about though - it involves a bunch of different factions and groups trying to do Evil Things with a load of EMP bombs and kidnapped scientists. Cue the evil laughter.
What’s more important (right now anyway) than the intricacies of the plot is how that narrative is relayed, since Conviction is still taking the series in a radical new direction despite the loss of Hobo-Sam – it’s just that that direction is no longer a crap one. Conviction now draws inspiration from the likes of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, and not from The Guy Outside The bit-tech Office Who Always Mumbles To Himself. While previous Splinter Cell games attempted to realise a cinematic aesthetic, Conviction is the first one to accomplish it so completely.
A lot of this arises from the new way that objectives and background information are communicated to players as, rather than using cut-scenes that break the flow of the action, or automatic radio-chatter, Conviction projects the info onto Fisher’s surroundings. We like to think of it as a manifestation of Fisher’s memories or thoughts, but that’s mainly because there are few other ways to explain why the words ‘Rescue the scientists’ are projected onto nearby buildings in thirty-foot letters.
Urinal Etiquette #1: Always leave a space of one urinal between the next man. Or else.
Granted, when the idea is broached that plainly, then the idea doesn’t sound very cool, but in practice it’s a lot better than you’d think. Firstly, that’s because the stealthy nature of the Splinter Cell games means they’re predominantly drab and dark affairs, so these palely-illuminated commands help to liven up the visuals a bit and give the game a rather striking look.
Secondly, and more importantly, Ubisoft Montreal is obviously comfortable with abusing the simple premise to help flesh Fisher’s character out a bit more – which is more vital than ever since he no longer has any back-up to talk to. Crawling through dark air vents and crummy sewage works, the walls can suddenly light up with mildly distorted remembrances that illustrate what’s on Sam’s mind and what he’s going through.
Remember; when you’re suddenly betrayed by everyone you’ve ever trusted and you lose the one person you truly love then it’s probably quite hard to keep a grip. Just because Sam has managed to steer clear of the homeless-chic look in this version of Conviction, it doesn’t mean that he’s not hurting.