There will be blood.
Most Tom Clancy games are stuffed with so much jingoism they practically play “My Country tis’ of thee” when you open the box, portraying either Russians, Arabs, or Mexicans as evil, godless heathens who hate freedom and want to eat our babies. The Splinter Cell series (being black-ops games) shows the seedier side of how America handles more delicate situations without all that stars and stripes bullshit… mostly. Conviction, on the other hand, actually makes America out to be the bad guy which makes me wonder if Tom Clancy is going to beat the developers at Ubisoft to death with his over-sized sunglasses for sullying Old Glory the way they did.
[image1]The story picks up some time after Double Agent (that’s ok, I didn’t finish it either) and Sam has left Third Echelon and has gone on “walkabout” after a series of events befall him that are so unfortunate you wouldn’t wish them on Hitler. The game quickly brings new players up to speed on Sam and the state of the world making SCC very accessible to anyone who’s new to the series.
Splinter Cell has always been known for its stealth gameplay and Conviction is no exception. While it doesn’t do anything to reinvent the genre, the retooled cover system and more action driven story have definitely breathed new life into the series.
The pacing in SCC is some of the best I’ve seen in any game and this is helped by displaying tutorials and objectives on environments and the only load screens you see are when you start the game and when you die.
Stealthing is easier more fluid than ever. When you’re hidden, the color fades away and comes back whenever you’re visible. Staying hidden has never been this intuitive. The cover system is also re-tooled so staying in cover, moving from cover to cover is simplified and more easy to use than ever.
[image2]Previous games had Sam skulking in the shadows, avoiding detection like a pussy, but Conviction sort of flips that script and has you hunting people rather than avoiding them. In fact, being spotted isn’t game over anymore and you can actually use it to your advantage. One of the new features in Conviction is the “last known position” where once you’ve been spotted, a silhouette will appear where you were last seen and enemies will be drawn to that location, giving you a chance to out-flank them or just sneak away while they look for you.
One of the coolest new features in SCC is Mark and Execute. With M&E you can “mark” multiple targets with one of the bumpers and and then hit Y to take them all out at once. This lets you take down several targets with minimal fuss, and, as a bonus, it really just looks fucking sweet. You have to earn execute points by taking out enemies with hand-to-hand take downs. Execute points don’t stack, meaning once you’re meter is full, anymore awesome take downs you do are fruitless. Sweet as fuck, still, but ultimately fruitless.
[image3]There are really only two major drawbacks to SCC and this biggest one is the Iraq level. About a third of the way into the game you play through a flashback level where Sam and his buddy were serving in Iraq. All the stealth is taken out and all you do is run down a bombed-out highway killing Iraqi soldiers (and really, what Tom Clancy game is complete without that?). It fits with the story, but after hours of sneaking up on someone and killing their friends while you use them as a human shield only to then have to shift gears and play a more gun-and-run style of game breaks up the flow. Thankfully this is the shortest level in the game so it’s not too bad.
The other issue with SCC is that the main story is really short (only about five hours), however there’s also a great co-op story mode that is actually a prequel, and denied-ops (both can be played local or online) that will bring hours and hours of stealth action long after Sam’s story is over. Plus there are in-game challenges to appease the more obsessive players (like taking out 10 guards without being spotted, beating a level without firing your weapon, and so on) and completing some of them will certainly keep you busy.
Even though the main story is short, it doesn’t feel like anything’s missing. While it’s not the best game in the world, SCC is arguably the best in the series. Better sneaking mechanic, one of the best cover systems ever, and pacing on a level unlike anything you’ve experienced in a stealth game, all while keeping it accessible to new players. It’s time to go rogue.