Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: Splinter Cell: Conviction

2:00 PM on 04.16.2010 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

Sam Fisher has lost everything. His daughter is dead, the country he gave his life to has abandoned him, and the organization he believed in has betrayed him. Basically, he's enjoyed better days. Despite having left his old life behind, Fisher finds that the past is hard to let go of, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a plot that will see him save America from terrorism and claw back his own redemption into the bargain. 

Splinter Cell: Conviction has had a long and winding journey. After many delays and more than a few stylistic overhauls, Sam Fisher is finally back to rid the world of evil and break necks in the dark. The game has changed dramatically since it was originally announced, with both the aesthetics and gameplay seeing considerable alterations. Were these changes for the best? Has Conviction been helped by such a huge directional shift, or has it been hindered? Has Fisher truly returned, or is it time for this old agent to admit he's washed up?

Find out as we review Splinter Cell: Conviction.

Splinter Cell: Conviction (PC, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: April 13, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

If only one word could be used to describe Splinter Cell: Conviction, it must be this: Stylish. The latest installment in the Splinter Cell franchise drips style from each pore on its metaphorical body, and it's clear that presentation is everything this time around. Aesthetically, Conviction stands out with some incredibly facile yet brilliant visual cues, and seamless transitions between full gameplay and quasi-interactive cutscenes. From beginning to end, Conviction is sleek, sexy and piles on the drama like you would not believe. Even more amazingly, this game has all the substance to back up its aesthetic frills.

The similarities to 2009's Batman: Arkham Asylum cannot be denied. Much of Conviction is spent toying with the same predatory flavor of stealth that Asylum perfected. However, this is no bad thing, as Conviction is every bit as empowering as Batman was, and even manages to throw in several new gimmicks and gadgets to keep things fresh. In fact, Conviction does the impossible by making the player feel like even more of a badass than Batman did. 

While lacking The Bat's acrobatics, Fisher's ability to prowl in shadows, drop from pipes, drag enemies from windows, and perform instant executions will provide everything he needs to completely screw over the baddies. Fisher can use noise to lure enemies out, or give away his position and flank the enemy while they eagerly shoot in the direction they last saw him. As they uncover fallen comrades, they get progressively more scared, holding their positions and hurling abuse at Fisher while trying to mask their evident terror. One by one, they drop like flies, until you have one terrorist left, and putting the final boot in is always immensely satisfying, knowing you successfully pulled the strings of an enemy army, led them into your traps, and systematically eliminated the witless fools.

Spatial awareness is key to success. Shooting out lights to create shadows in which to hide, ducking out of windows when necessary, and making use of various environmental traps are all key. If all else fails, the game also boasts a robust cover mechanic which will let less stealthy players attempt to win through sheer brute force. Clever players will make use of various gadgets, such as EMP grenades to short out electrical devices, or sticky cameras that can create distractions and give Fisher an extra angle on the environment. 

Sam is helped along in his mission by the new "Execution" attacks. Whenever Fisher draws close to an enemy, he is able to instantly take them out with a brutal physical finisher. Whenever players earn a close combat finisher, they get "Execution Trophies" that allow them to instantly kill a number of enemies at range. In order to execute, Fisher marks his desired targets and players can then take them down with the touch of a button. It's a wonderful new addition to the game that works better than it sounds and ensures that players seek a healthy balance between stealthy sneaking and methodical shooting. It switches up the gameplay by lending a more tactical feel to the combat. If only half the executions didn't see Sam shooting bad guys through walls, it would look pretty damn cool as well.

Speaking of cool, we also need to talk about the "interrogation" scenes. Fisher will grab certain targets during the climax of some chapters, and force information from them in violent ways. While they are little more than vaguely interactive cutscenes, where players press a button and let Sam do the rest, these segments are still amazingly brutal and it's great fun to watch some villains get smashed into urinals and bashed upon jutting tree bark. There's only one minor gripe, in that the dialog feels very forced. After you've had your face put through a mirror, you're not then going to invite more brutality by refusing to answer the next question, and you certainly shouldn't act surprised when your face goes through another mirror. 

Overall, the gameplay is consistently terrific, with the only real downside being how long some of the sections can be. Sneaky players can take a long time to deplete the enemy forces, and if they make one mistake, Fisher can die pretty quickly. A lot of hard work can go to waste, and a few of the checkpoints are put in bad places. There are also some frustrating and ill-advised puzzles in the latter half of the game that slow things down to a crawl. Neither of these gripes truly harm things in the long term, but the slow and overdrawn periods can certainly put a damper on the player's enjoyment for brief periods. 

Nevertheless, Conviction is still an absolute blast. The versatility, both in terms of stealth options and the large assortment of unlockable weapons, means players will always find some cool new way of approaching an objective. The more unique missions, such as a flashback chapter set in Iraq, and a very cool escape section after the game's major revelation, keep events feeling even more varied. By the time Conviction finishes, only the most demanding player won't feel like they've been on a rather awesome ride. 

The aforementioned visual presentation, however, is by far Conviction's strongest suit. From the transition to black-and-white graphics when Sam's in shadow, to the way in which mission objectives and plot points splash across in-game surfaces to create a dynamic and visually striking approach to player feedback, Conviction is a slick and showy game that manages to impress the eyes with very simple ideas. Ideas so simple, in fact, that they become inspired and make one wonder why we haven't seen them before. 

It's a real shame, then, that such excellent presentation feels almost wasted on a plot that is, by and large, shallow and forgettable. The characters are not fleshed out in the least, no matter how many times the game tries to tell you that they are all conflicted and angst-ridden. Fisher himself doesn't feel very humanized, and even during sections where the emotional tension is supposed to be running high, it's hard for the player to feel too invested because those scenes were not built to particularly well. It's sad, because it's all packaged so beautifully. It's just disappointing that the villains barely feel villainous and the heroes barely feel like real people. 

As well as the single-player campaign, players can take part in a selection of "Deniable Ops" bonus missions and an impressively robust co-op mode. In co-op, two players work together in a variety of game types. Working together to execute enemies, create distractions, and draw enemy fire is amazing fun, and should help bolster the somewhat short campaign and provide as much replayability as gamers need. There are a number of game modes, including a versus stage where players do battle amidst waves of enemies. The online is surprisingly good, and if you enjoy the single-player campaign, there is no reason not to love the co-op stages. 

Splinter Cell: Conviction is a thoroughly great game, and should definitely be purchased by stealth and action fans alike. Gratifying predatory battles, a unique visual exhibition, and a variety of engrossing game modes make Conviction an absolutely solid experience that nobody should feel disappointed in. Splinter Cell is most definitely back, and I sincerely hope that this latest installment represents the future of the franchise. 

Score: 9.0 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)




Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
No comment.
Parismio avatarParismio
Omg i love the internet
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Iron Paladin avatarIron Paladin
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
I can't wait to mute Niero. #NoRules #ThePurge
Joe Parlock avatarJoe Parlock
I spent all last night playing Day of Defeat: Source. If only Valve gave it even half the attention it did to TF2 or CS:S...
BaronVonSnakPak avatarBaronVonSnakPak
Nearing Platinum status.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
THIS IS THE BEST EMAIL I'VE EVER GOTTEN HOLY SHIT
Parismio avatarParismio
Sheesh i played metal gear rising before and Platinum ruined the franchise.
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Toonami is running a poll right now at [url]www.toonami.com/poll[/url] where one of the questions is which show you'd want un-cancelled. Oh, Teen Titans is included? That's curious...
SlyTAdvantage avatarSlyTAdvantage
"The Ravagers dropped the giant insects and waited for them to evolve ... it's clear. This is their plan from the start" -EDF 4.1 scientist So dragons are evolved forms of ants, spiders and/or wasps ....... what?
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
Every time I hear "I don't understand why people like _____ game", I get annoyed. Of course you understand, if you've listened to what those people were saying. You just don't agree, and that's A-OK. I HATE Twilight, but I understand why people like it.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Just tried playing the first Bayonetta game... it was really bad. Honestly I don't understand why Platinum games are so well regarded. None of them are really worthwhile.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
The first person I block is the person who talks shit about Platinum
Torchman avatarTorchman
Even though your waifus are shit
Darth Wachen avatarDarth Wachen
Finally, a blog that I can call my own, I feel accomplished somehow.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Gonna be honest; this really made my day.
Rico the Penguin avatarRico the Penguin
I doubt I'll use it much but I'm totally fine with a block/ignore feature. Everyone has a right to speak, but I don't think anyone has a right to be heard. If this place played country music I'd want a mute button, basically :p.
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
Mall haul today (plus I split a BEAUTIFUL Star Wars Slave I with my brother). Any thoughts on Haze? Wanted to play it back when it came out and I had no PS3. For a dollar you can't go wrong!
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
I'm not gonna lie, I don't feel "good" about the upcoming "ignore" feature. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the idea that people can mute other people because they don't agree with them. Spammers and trolls, sure, but not regular community members.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -