It's time. After careful monitoring of the patrolling guards rounds, we are finally ready. The first is taken out simply by a simple touch of his neck. The other four, will get all they deserve. We slide in behind a bunch of car tires, crouches and plunges in to a new hiding place behind a box. With the focus and a patience that can only be achieved through years and years of training experience, all the guards have been taken care of. We are ready for more, Sam and I.
It's been a long journey for Ubisoft with Conviction. After the realization that Splinter Cell: Conviction had begun to merge with Assassin's Creed on too many levels, the whole project was taken back to the drawing board. More than two years after its intended release Splinter Cell: Conviction is ready to continue to take Sam Fisher to that next level, and in some ways reinvent the whole franchise.
Sure, we have gotten a taste of Sam's inner journey before in Splinter Cell: Double Agent, but its more pronounced than ever in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Sam Fisher is angry. Angry at himself, angry at the situation he is in, angry at his former employer. Angry at just about everything. Sam Fisher has become an older version of Jason Bourne. Completely consumed by his inner ghosts, anger and vindictiveness. I hardly even recognise him any more.
It becomes a bit of a predicament. Sam is very different and Splinter Cell: Conviction has taken a step away from what has been the series main selling point - stealth gameplay. Instead, the game tries to cater to all tastes. Regardless of whether you like open confrontations or to stay hidden in the dark.
At first it feels as if Ubisoft wants to launch the harder, angrier, Sam Fisher at all costs. The objective in Splinter Cell: Conviction is to kill with style, to outwit the enemy and not give them any chance to have something to talk about at home over dinner. Ubisoft introduces some gameplay mechanics that make Sam's transformation to an unscrupulous killing machine smoother.
One of the new gameplay mechanic is how Sam can now overpower an unsuspecting enemy and kill him in one swift move. If you can pull this off without being noticed you are rewarded with the "mark and execute" ability. This means you can target a number of enemies (the number depends on your weapon) and then take them out one by one. You can either do this to enemies that are in your visual range, or with the classic "mirror under the door" trick, followed by kicking the door open and catching your enemies off guard.
A lot hangs on the "mark and execute" function, as it is Ubisoft's main weapon in Sam Fisher's rebirth. At least at first glance. Splinter Cell: Conviction is cleverly designed so that it may look as if attack is your best means of defence in many situations, but if you can can your breath and calm yourself you will find that there is still an opportunity to sneak your way past the danger unnoticed. The challenge is to find these alternative routes as they are not always easy to spot.
Take for instance a bunch of missions on an airfield. Without saying too much, it is a well-guarded area, with guards equipped with everything from fast automatic weapons to devastating grenades. You can charge in like a blind bull, and try to bring down as many people as possible from the barracks and then catch your breath in the shadows. But you can also choose to stay in the cover of shadows and darkness. And when you have gathered your balls enough to set foot in the hangar, you will find that there is a safer route if you keep your opens. Hey presto, you can arrive at your destination - without causing anyone, including yourself, any harm.
"Last known position" is another new inclusion. What it means is that your enemies will remember where they last saw you, something of a double-edged sword. It can have a fatal outcome if you do not move on within a few seconds, but you can also take advantage of this. When you have been discovered a silhouette of Sam remains where he was last seen, and the enemies will focus on that spot. It gives you enough time to sneak around them and get the drop on them.
Something that almost all the Splinter Cell games have had in common is that the story has not imposed itself too much on the player. It's often been a bit anonymous, the player had to piece the story together by reading little memos, computer files and other things that Sam came across during the missions. This meant that the story was largely optional if you wanted to focus more on just pushing forward and playing. Splinter Cell: Conviction is a more of a story driven game, and the story is told in a more interesting way.
Instead of picking up memos or files you get your hands on, key sequences are now projected onto your surroundings. Sam, for example, thinks back to his daughter Sarah, and his memories are screened onto his surroundings. This style of presentation is present throughout the game, and your mission objectives are also projected on to walls and the likes to give the game a cinematic feel - without it feeling intrusive.
The graphics in the game are of a high standard. Small details such as doing away with the stealth meter and adding an effect that makes the image black and white when Sam is completely hidden is smart, and adds to the cinematic feel. Previous Splinter Cell games have taken played out in smaller areas and spaces, allowing the developers to pour on lots of visual goodness. The same can be said of Splinter Cell: Conviction. While there are some low-resolution textures, and the game is rendered in 576p instead of 720p, it is well designed and there are plenty of gorgeous scenery and special effects.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the graphics engine managed to pulled off open and very crowded spaces impressively. In one mission Sam is on the lookout for a man on the run, in the middle of the day, and this is where you realise that Splinter Cell: Conviction has a bit of Assassin's Creed in its blood. Sam runs, slides, crouches, jumps, and climbs. But to push through a crowd at a frantic pace doesn't feel much like Splinter Cell, and I would have liked Ubisoft to have stayed more focused on the core of what is Splinter Cell.
In addition to an exciting adventure, there are also some interesting multiplayer modes, where players can co-op in a separate story mode or engage in various multiplayer modes. Sam, however, does not take any part in this, there is an American agent, Archer, and his Russian counterpart, Kestrel, who co-operate. The story takes place on Russian soil, and players must constantly work together in order to advance. All the features that Sam has access to, such as "mark and execute" and "last known position", are available in co-op as well.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is not quite what I had expected from the next instalment of Splinter Cell. Some may find it difficult to accept and enjoy the more action oriented approach and deliver the story wasn't everything I had hoped for. But regardless of what you felt about the old Sam Fisher
- the new one delivers something interesting. If you enjoy brutal action and furious anger, or if you enjoy crouching patiently in the darkness, Conviction delivers on both accounts.
Splinter Cell is a stealth game of Sam Fisher, an ice-cold killer that does not hesitate two seconds before he takes a liv.Nå he is back in Splinter... 9/10