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Splinter Cell: Conviction review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £20
inc VAT

Solid stealth-based action, with innovative visual flourishes, and a plot lifted directly from TV's 24.

The Splinter Cell series has never bothered numbering its iterations, but a quick count shows this to be its fifth outing. Despite this familiarity, a break of four years since the last episode has done much to whet our appetites. Sneaking about and killing people are what Splinter Cell has always been about, and Conviction sticks to the formula. On the surface it’s the usual hi-tech espionage action, but there are plenty of slick new features and ideas to get excited about.

The plot is a predictable blend of TV-series 24 and the Bourne movies (there’s even a daughter to save) though it at least provides some variety to the stealth – with surveillance work, foot chases and some out-and-out firefights. The presentation is great, with excellent cut-scenes and voice acting, though Protagonist Sam Fisher is also laughably gruff.

Visually the game is pleasing, with some innovative touches. The graphics look fine, but there’s nothing jaw-dropping here, mainly because the environments stick to the kind of bases, towns and facilities you’d expect. One odd touch is that the mission directions are projected in large letters onto the game environment. For some this will be jarring, breaking the illusion of the world, but it’s certainly helpful and only a small step up from the context sensitive control hints which flash up all over the place.

The series’ trademark night-vision goggles are gone, so you don’t spend half of the game looking at a monochrome green screen, instead you’ll occasionally use sonar goggles, which let you see through walls. Conviction uses colour cleverly, with the whole world fading into black & white to let you know when Fisher is hidden in the dark.

Splinter Cell: Conviction 2

Hiding in the dark, or crouched behind an object, you wait for your target to wander by and then strike from behind. Such melee kills charge your execution power, which lets you lock multiple targets in advance, and then dispatch them all with your pistol at the press of a single button. Such a power-up mechanic doesn’t make a lot of sense in real-world terms, but it works well in practice, making a persuasive argument to balance close-up and long-range kills.

This is needed, as Fisher is deadly with his pistol, with one shot kills to the head possible at fairly long ranges. He’s handy in a firefight too, when in cover at least, if caught out in the open he’s almost certainly dead. Enemy AI isn’t great, they overly fixate on your last known position, which is actually marked onscreen by a translucent image of Fisher, making it easy to double-back behind them for an easy kill.

There’s a decent arsenal of upgradeable weapons. Add-ons (including silencers, sights and ammo) are bought with points earned from completing in game challenges (such as killing five enemies in a row without being spotted). A range of gadgets are also provided, like EMP grenades for taking out lights in a hurry and a remote camera for keeping an eye on your back.

The levels are fairly limited in scale, but still provide some nice opportunities for ninja-like activities. You can shoot out the lights to provide cover for your approach, climb out of a window and get the jump on your opponents from behind, or use objects in the scenery (cue that conveniently-placed chandelier) to take out your foes. It’s all very linear and scripted, like a series of well-crafted play pens, but we enjoyed this aspect after playing a rash of less honed open-world games.

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Price £20
Rating ****