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socialnorms avatar 11:18 AM on 04.23.2010  (server time)
Splinter Cell: Conviction should get probation

Last night I tried Splinter Cell: Conviction, playing a bit of co-op and watching my compadre blaze through single player. I was not impressed.

1. The Story
Everyone has heard it's a Bourne ripoff, but obviously the creators knew it, and all you can see is them winking at the Bourne movies while muttering "no homo" to themselves. Sam Fisher wears the same sweater as Jason in The Bourne Identity. The head baddie wears a jacket like Conklin. We have past trauma. We have the same flavor of music, except created in Garage Band by a high school student.

It gets worse. The storytelling method is like your aunt trying to show you pictures of her vacation in Reno and expecting you to feel excitement over a picture of her smoking cigarettes in front of a slot machine. The whole "Sam's daughter" thing is the opposite of touching, too. She looks like a Chucky doll with a giant head.

Seeing Sam or Archer or Kestrel beat the shit out of somebody every time they don't kill them gets repetitive. Hearing the baddies make cliche comments about being bad gets repetitive. Having every interaction with another character be a life or death ultraviolent situation reduces the story below TV quality. It's like watching 24, except without everybody being attractive and mysteriously well-groomed. Cliche, cliche, cliche, forced titillation, cliche.

2. Level Design
You're in a box. Not peeking out of a box, either; you're in a giant box filled with smaller boxes and scraps of paper, and there isn't much room for creativity. You can move through this part the way they suggest, with the obvious pipe overhead, or you can engage the enemy in a gunfight and come out unscathed in your bulletproof sweater. You can't go outside and go around, you can't disguise yourself, you can't blow the power to the building, etc, etc. It honestly feels like a side-scroller.

3. Character Design
How many times have we seen the guys in black specwarrior gear, carrying all the latest technotoys? Can we move past the fetishization of all that shit and get to some worthwhile characters? This isn't Modern Warfare 2. The guns don't make the man.

Further, Sam walks like an animal. His head bobs from side to side while his arms hang like starched neckties. The Japanese are right to criticism character movement in American games. Most of it is seriously lacking. And after all these years!

4. Hand to hand combat
They really tried here. I remember in the first game, when a guy was shooting the shit out of your face with an AK at point blank, you had to patiently perform a "forearm shiver" twice to knock him out. Now they do arm grabs where the victim instantly compliant, and one elbow to the cheek automatically knocks out an adrenaline-charged opponent. Uh-huh. Studying the martial arts makes me more skeptical, but things look a lot more believable in games like MGS3 and RE5, where enemies struggle and blows look realistic.

5. Gun combat
Now you can automatically kill everyone in the room without doing anything. You just sit back and watch. Talk about taking the fun out of it. Also, you aren't likely to snap-headshot somebody at forty yards holding a pistol like a paintball gun. Yes, it looks like it would be badass, but anybody who's ever shot a pistol knows they require steady finesse, to say the least.

Rating: I would pay $10 for this game.

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