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Critical Reception:  Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Critical Reception: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

April 14, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

April 14, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
More: Console/PC, Columns

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction, a stealth-action sequel that reviews describe as "the most accessible Splinter Cell game yet." Conviction currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at

GamePro's Xav de Matos scores Conviction at 5 out of 5 stars. "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction will probably be the most divisive game in the franchise's history," he begins. "The Splinter Cell fundamentals remain but the idiosyncrasies of the franchise (hacking and unlocking mini-games, moving downed enemies, and night-vision goggles) have all been thrown away."

"This might sound like the worst idea possible but it's the only real way Ubisoft Montreal could have approached Sam Fisher's latest journey," de Matos explains.

According to de Matos, Splinter Cell's storyline required a drastic gameplay shift. "Upon learning that his daughter's 'accidental' death was actually a calculated personal attack, Sam -- voiced again by actor Michael Ironside -- decides to step out from the shadows to uncover the truth," he writes. "The general theme of Conviction is absolute anger. While fans of the franchise will no doubt miss the methodical, almost robotic superspy of old, this incarnation of Sam Fisher is much more complex. He's broken by grief and blinded by rage; as cliched as it may sound, this time, it really is personal."

"Before, Sam's missions were solely about getting the job done; he had no stake in the outcome other than fulfilling his duty and maintaining 'national security,'" de Matos continues. "Sam is now focused completely on vengeance; he has to face his mounting personal losses, which all come as a direct result of his life as a dedicated military man, and the fact that you no longer hide bodies or worry about being seen makes sense within this context."

De Matos feels that the resulting title delivers a satisfying experience. "Conviction is an outstanding title from top to bottom," he praises.

"On sheer value alone the game warrants a look, with an action-packed and satisfying single-player campaign, lengthy co-op mode, and entertaining online components. Why Sam has stepped out of the shadows and is on full out attack makes complete sense in context with the story, so if you can accept it for what it is and not dwell on the fact that it isn't what you've come to expect in a Splinter Cell title, you'll no doubt agree that Conviction rivals Chaos Theory as the best title in the franchise's history."

Andrew Reiner at Game Informer rates Conviction at 9 out of 10. "Conviction is not a slow-moving stealth game, nor is it a fast-paced shooter," he writes. "Ubisoft finds the happy medium. With solid gunplay and intuitive movement at your fingertips, Conviction offers the best of both worlds."

Many of the Splinter Cell franchise's gameplay elements have been overhauled in the latest installment. "The game's sense of urgency spills over into the stealth mechanics," Reiner notes. "I rarely found myself sitting in one spot waiting for a guard to turn his back to me. The level designs embrace player choice in how you traverse environments as well. Walls can be ascended with the grace of Ezio from Assassin's Creed, and a sprinting slide maneuver can quickly lower you from an enemy's line of sight should you need to cover a large distance in a single effort."

Reiner continues: "Gunplay is highlighted by Sam's new 'mark and execute' ability, which uses cinematic slow motion to frame the brain-bursting shots. When this move is used, Sam quickly chains together a series of silent headshots. I used this ability religiously to make short work of small pockets of enemies, and also to save my ass in shootouts that were heading toward game over screens."

"Conviction's only glaring oddity is the logic that enemies exhibit. They empty clips and toss grenades with the best of gaming's foes, yet are overly vocal in their pursuit of you," Reiner says. "I also have mixed feelings on Conviction's stylistic visuals. I love how mission objectives and memory sequences are projected on the game world, but the transitions to black and white - an effect used to tell the player they are hidden from enemy sight - are jarring."

Conviction's multiplayer offerings produce mixed results. "While light on narrative, [the cooperative campaign] is every bit as good as Sam's. It's my favorite Splinter Cell co-op endeavor yet," Reiner says. However: "Conviction's multiplayer disappoints outside of the co-op. Ubisoft has included a one-on-one, spy-versus-spy competitive component, but it lacks the flair and depth of previous installments' spies-versus-mercenaries mode."

"Splinter Cell: Conviction isn't the series' high point, but it does get the franchise back on track," Reiner says. "Fans who have been at Sam's side since day one should walk away with a sense of closure and optimism for future installments. At the same time, this is a great jumping-on point for newcomers. The fiction includes all the relevant plot points of the series' past without the Tom Clancy techno-babble that bogged down previous entries."

Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann gives Conviction 4 out of 5 stars. "Conviction modernizes its long-running stealth-action formulas in ways that make the game appeal to people who -- like myself -- have never quite been able to wring much enjoyment out of the previous entries in the series," he states. "The end result is a very modern-feeling game that falls more in line with other stealth-optional action games than with its own legacy."

Stealth remains a key component of Conviction's gameplay, however. "While you can go through guns blazing, careful use of a silenced pistol remains the most accurate and effective way to move through the game," Gerstmann writes. "Most of the submachine guns and assault rifles feel wildly inaccurate by comparison, so there's really no need to employ them except in the rare couple of cases where a room you're in gets flooded by alert enemy soldiers. For the most part, Fisher's weapon collection feels slightly more effective on the multiplayer side of things."

"The same weapon selection you have in the single-player game, and whatever upgrades you've purchased for those weapons, carries over to the other modes," Gerstmann continues. "These are the multiplayer modes, where a total of two players can go through a quick cooperative campaign, complete with its own story and agents.

"These agents also factor into the other modes, which have you protect an area from waves of enemies, work your way through the map to hunt down AI enemies, or go up against one another in 'face-off' mode. This is a big departure from the multiplayer found in the last Splinter Cell game, but it's nice because it sticks to the series' strengths and uses the same mechanics that also work in the single-player."

"Splinter Cell: Conviction is the most accessible Splinter Cell game yet," Gerstmann concludes. "It gives you the firepower to shoot your way out of your mistakes, but also makes the stealth side of things fun, rewarding, and significantly easier than just attempting to run around and shoot. Its only serious issue is that it doesn't feel especially substantial or replayable. The multiplayer is a nice touch, but most players will probably see all of the content once and find little reason to return."

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