Return of the ‘Splinter Cell’
For those of you who do not know, Tom Clancy’s “Splinter Cell” is a stealth-action game featuring “Black Ops” agent Sam Fisher as he runs around, saving the world. In previous games, Sam Fisher has worked for the government agency “Third Echelon,” but in “Splinter Cell Conviction,” Sam’s back and he is not happy. We start off from the end of the previous game (“Splinter Cell: Double Agent”) in which Sam Fisher’s daughter was killed and he split from “Third Echelon.” Now there is new evidence pointing to her killer. Of course, what starts off as a tale of revenge also turns into saving the world as the people who killed his daughter are also planning a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C.
Anyone who has played previous Splinter Cell games will notice an immediate difference. The pacing of the game is incredible. Ubisoft has made a lot of changes to make this happen. For starters, you’re never sitting around waiting through load screens. Instead of having pop-up windows with your objectives, mission goals are now projected onto surfaces as you go through the level. Instead of cutscenes that flash back to the character’s past, movies are projected onto the surfaces. One distinct effect is that you feel like you’re getting into Sam’s head and seeing his thoughts rather than just watching a movie.
The majority of the changes come in the gameplay. While in past games being detected was the kiss of death, being detected now just sends you down a different path. For example, if you are detected, you can try to hide and a white silhouette appears in the last position that the enemies have seen you. The best part is that the artificial intelligence will actually concentrate fire on that position, allowing you to flank your enemies. When you get into cover, the screen goes into black and white, which is a nice way of telling the player when they are in cover. The biggest addition probably is the Mark and Execute. This allows the player to mark enemies by targeting them with the reticule, and initiating the execution slips you into a quick slow-motion cinematic as you beautifully execute the enemies. You might think this would make the game too easy, but you have to earn this ability by taking down enemies by hand.
Overall, Ubisoft took a risk by changing the core of “Splinter Cell” gameplay, but all of the changes fit with what Sam Fisher is trying to do. In previous games, enemies were best avoided, and the stealth portion was you watching the AI walk back and forth waiting for the right time to sneak by. In “Conviction,” stealth is about speed and you’re not avoiding enemies anymore. You’re stalking them like a hunter. Not only does this show up in Sam’s movements and his brutal executions, but also in his voice. If you’re like me and don’t want to pay for online services, “Splinter Cell” also comes with a specific Co-Op Terrorist Hunt mode extending total play time to about 20 hours. The different elements of the game merge so well together to create a seamless experience, which is definitely worth a few playthroughs.