When Joe reviewed Splinter Cell: Conviction
on the Xbox 360 he thought it a highly entertaining spy stealth ‘em up that was, like main protagonist Sam Fisher’s victims, stunningly executed. On PC the game has also received plenty of similar acclaim but after playing it through myself, I can’t help but disagree.
For me, Conviction
is Splinter Cell
dumbed down to an infuriating degree with much of the stealth and careful approach of its predecessors chucked in the bin for a bodycount that even Jack Bauer would be impressed with. In short, I think it’s sold out everything that made the franchise special. Here’s why - with spoilers.
1) Ze Goggles, zey do nuzzling: Sam’s iconic night vision/infared goggles have been dumped. Instead, in the dark the screen is just black and white. This means that you can ALWAYS see in the dark, reducing much of the sneaky feeling I used to love about Splinter Cell
. Now it’s either colourful for 'you’re about to get lit up' and monochrome for 'hiding.' However, if seeing in the bloody dark unaided isn’t enough, later in the game you get magic see-through-wall sonar goggles too.
Sam Fisher is now a Jack Bauer rip-off
2) Marked and executed: Shooting people in the head is one of gaming’s many joys. Lining up the shot and watching your foe go down in one is always satisfying. With Conviction
though Ubisoft has taken even this simple pleasure away, thanks to the game's mark and execute feature. This system allows you to mark enemies (even through walls!), placing an arrow over their head.
Perform a Melee kill and you get the chance to execute, hitting one button that prompts Sam to automatically headshot any marked enemy in range. This might feel great for console users used to clumsy joysticks and for whom a headshot is a rare occurrence but on PC where we have that handy mouse thing, pointing and clicking on bonces is something I’m perfectly able to do myself without the all-powerful magic execute button.
3) Killerman Slaughtermaster: In previous games Sam has been up against North Koreans, Russians and all manner of terrorists but the emphasis of the game was always on stealth. You were encouraged to incapacitate enemies rather than gun them down, or just to sneak past entirely unnoticed. Arguably one of the previous Splinter Cell
games’ most satisfying moments was making it through a level unseen, undetected and having left a trail of guards none the wiser to your presence.
However, clearly Ubisoft decided that players today have no patience with this stealth stuff and instead want a pile of corpses because trying to play through Conviction
without actually killing anyone is impossible. Want to sneak through a section? Nope, you’ll have to slaughter the staff on duty first. Want to interrogate that gun runner? You’ll have to massacre his army of bodyguards. Sure, have a few levels where all the bad guys have to die but Conviction
plays more like a run and gunner than it does a stealth ‘em up.
Forget sneaking about, just shoot everyone
4) Tools of the trade: In his review Joe commented on the drop in Sam’s gadgets and I’ve little problem with that. It does make for a more focussed game. What I do have a problem with is the removal of basic abilities like being able to move the bodies of enemies you’ve taken out. This means that wherever that terrorist whose spine you snapped falls, that’s where his mates will find him. And then come looking for you. Even if there’s a cupboard or ledge in/over which you could stash the body. This is just plain lazy.
5) Uplay: The Ubisoft save game/DRM system is pretty controversial, but as I have a reliable internet connection, the online sync isn’t really an issue and isn’t one I want to discuss. What does infuriate though is that the game uses universal checkpoints to log your progress, not unique individual save games.
Things that these save games won’t record are which lights you’ve shot out, or where enemy corpses are, or which windows you’ve smashed. This means that at points where you retread your steps, you’ll run into a corner expecting it to be bathed in darkness only to find the guards going nuts, or jump back through a window you’ve opened earlier only to dive through glass - mind you, it's not that this has too many consequences with the new murder-a-thon gameplay.
Right, I think that’s the rant out of my system. To its credit, Conviction
wasn’t completely lacking in fun, and as to be expected from a high profile release with Michael Ironside the presentation, voice acting, and writing are all top notch. I just feel that with this game the developers and Splinter Cell
have sold out to the run and gun action crowd, and forgotten the game's shadowy roots.
A fan of the Splinter Cell
series? Played Conviction
on console or PC? Think Michale Ironside is badass? Let me know in the comments.