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Friday, 28 September 2012

Review: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction (PC)

Do you ever have the feeling that you're too smart for a certain game? Well, Splinter Cell Conviction gave me this kind of feeling. I'm not saying it's a bad game in that perspective and I'll come clean with how much I loved this game, but it has some flaws no one can get pass. For example, the simplicity of the entire campaign. I'm not a Splinter Cell veteran, although I've given each game a try, but never managed to finish one, except Conviction. At first, when I heard of this game, I wanted to see a better, well done Alpha Protocol. Let's face it, we all want Alpha Protocol 2 in some form or the other.

Story
The campaign starts with a new Sam Fisher, detached from all spy related activities, far from all that has happened in Double Agent, the tragedy involving Sam's daughter. Well, a large part of the plot this time is also involving his daughter. With Lambert dead, Third Echelon is under new management and soon to find out Director Reed is planing something grim. Speaking of Grim, she makes a great appearance and quite different than expected. She's no more the nerdy eyeglasses wearing, kinda hot, intel expert, but a full blown sexy redhead with a gun and she's not afraid to use it. Nothing is as it was before. Grim tells Sam about the gruesome plot that ruined his life and sanity and she decides to help him turn Reed's plans upside down. The fact is, with Michael Ironside's incredible voice as Sam Fisher, this is the first time I felt atached to this character. If the first three games Sam was something of a generic badass James Bond and in Double Agent he was some sort of a Riddick, in Splinter Cell Conviction he is a person, you can't controll him when he's angry and yet he stays cool. Actually, Conviction ties so well with Double Agent, even the last choice you have to make is a bit ironic.


Gameplay
All the previous games had several objectives that you had to accomplish, sometimes in a narrow timeframe. This time, there's only one main objective for every level. Sometimes the objective changes during the mission, but it's all scripted. The worst part has yet to come. I was baffled when I figured out you are stripped of actual choices of accomplishing a mission. In the begining, the first levels are okay, even the Iraq mission was a neat distraction. But after a point, more exactly at the Third Echelon headquarters. I had the worst and weird fun when I found the right path was  actually the most obvious one right at the parking level, after half an hour of trying all kinds of convoluted paths. The inner building levels are even more straight forward. The dumbing down doesn't stop at level design. I remember that most levels in later SC games was that you can choose not to alert or kill anyone. Most of the time. If you choose the easy difficulty in Conviction, you can actually go pass all of the enemies, using the well known cover mechanic that hasn't been implemented in earlier installment of the series. But that not because you'd want that, but because the enemies are either too smart or too stupid, depending on God knows what. There's also a fun part with the interogation. Instead of placing a knife at the poor guy's throat, Sam just grabs the jugular you can move the guy around and let Sam smash the guy until he spills the beans. But there are few of these moments. At the middle of the game or maybe further, you'll finaly get the famous goggles. By that time you've probably forgot about them anyway. But wait, there's a catch: there are these new Third Echelon operatives that also use these goggles. There's more to say about how useless these goggles are in this game. The only usefull part for the goggles are the laser areas where you're guided by the allmighty text on screen to put them on and when the Third Echelon ops are not around. Because there's this new feature, you see, the sonar, because they're Sonar Goggles, no more Multi-Vision Goggles; and yes, if you use them you can be spotted. Feeling overpowered now? As some kind of optional objectives, there are bonuses to be unlocked if you accomplish certain feets, like killing three fows at once with a sticky cam. These are some cool weapons, all of them different but useless, unless you're Rambo, otherwise stick with the silent gun and grenades. The only downside is that there is no good reason to replay the main campaign other than those unlockables. But don't walk on this game without giving the co-op missions and deniable ops a try. Also, as this is a review for the PC version, the Xbox 360 controller works like magic with Conviction, almost as good as the keyboard and mouse option, which I recommend.


Sound
Michael Ironside is the voice of Sam Fisher. Best part of the game. Overall, voices were professional and delivered with maximum talent and... conviction. Music is great, atmospheric and blends nice into every event or situation. If you have been detected or shot, music increases the tension like adrenalin fueling Sam's body. It's nothing memorable about the music, there's no memorable catchy tune, except for those bleepy sounds in the menu, but inside the game, it delivers a good time. Except the weapons sound like firecrackers.

Presentation
The menu is beautiful. It's a slow motion scene of the Deniable Ops in middle gunfight, reminiscent of John Woo's Stranglehold. Thinking of it, Splinter Cell Conviction is more of an action-adventure game than it's stealth spy-action predecesors. In fact, the game makes it clear that we're not looking at the old splinter cell that we knew, this is new, angrier Sam Fisher. It's the "no more mister nice guy" that makes this game appealing, you can feel it in this game's environment, from the cover case to the gameplay and the story. And then there's Uplay. If you think of it as a launcher and not a DRM, it might win you over, unlike EA's Origin. Achieving some actions in the game gives you uplay points that you can spend on neat content.