Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction - review

Sam Fisher is one angry ex-superspy.

After the death of his daughter, Fisher quit his day-job at Third Echelon, a suitably shadowy secret spy society, to enter a quiet retirement of crushing sorrow and seething rage. However, even the best ex-superspies do not seem to remain ex-superspies forever, and it isn't long before Fisher is called back into the field once again.

Conviction is the fifth main game in the Splinter Cell series, but knowledge of past games is unnecessary to enjoy this one. The over-arching plot is typical Tom Clancy, with Sam's old unit gone rogue and planning a coup, and isn't particularly interesting. What is interesting is seeing Fisher carve a path through his old allies like a man possessed, never anything less than very, very angry. This is definitely a case of a character-driven story.

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As with the story, previous experience with Splinter Cell is unneeded to quickly learn and have fun with the gameplay in Conviction, as the game is almost completely different to earlier entries in the series. Stealth is still the key, and charging in guns-blazing will see Sam quickly meeting his end in a hail of bullets. But whereas before the series took a slow-paced approach, having the player wait for the right opportunity to take out a guard, and take the time to hide the evidence, now it is all about speed. Hiding dead bodies is not necessary if everyone else has also met their maker.

A great cover system allows Sam to dash from one spot to the next at the press of a button, quickly closing the distance between him and his next target. This works well with another new addition, the "mark and execute" feature. The player can "mark" an enemy by aiming at them and pressing a button, then instantly "execute" them at any time they in range with another button press. Depending on which gun is equipped, you can mark between 2 and 4 enemies at one time, and dispatching 4 hostiles with the press of button is definitely befitting of a one-man army like Fisher.

The catch here is, after using the mark and execute, the player cannot use it again until they perform a melee takedown on an enemy, performed by sneaking up behind an unsuspecting guard and taking them out silently.

Dashing between cover to take out a lone enemy, then executing the rest in one go is normally the best way to go about encounters. New sonar goggles let Sam spy guards through walls, allowing him to mark them and monitor their position without even seeing them.

The story mode is not that long, and even on realistic difficulty is never particularly challenging. However, great pacing ensures there is no real down-time.

Where the gameplay falls down is when Sam is spotted by enemies and the game turns into a more conservative 3rd-person shooter until he can disappear again. As a standard shooter, Splinter Cell does not hold up as well as other stalwarts of the genre. The most fun can be had skulking in the shadows.

Along with the core story mode, players can also take part in "deniable ops", extra missions that test players a little more than the campaign. These are great fun, although essentially more of the same. A co-operative story mode completes the package, which takes the form of a prequel to the main plot. This co-op mode is great fun, although again quite short.

Graphics are decent, not too spectacular but definitely not bad. One nice touch is, when the player is hidden in darkness, the colour on the screen will fade to black and white, giving the player a good visual notification of their invisible status.

Conviction is an enjoyable game while it lasts, with a few minor flaws but nothing that really dents the experience. Fans of angry sneaking should definitely enjoy it.

8/10

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Age restriction: 15+

Ubisoft

XBox 360 - 37.99

PC - 24.99

(Click here to buy it from www.game.co.uk)