Splinter Cell: Conviction Review

Developer: Ubisoft / Publisher: Ubisoft / ESRB: Mature (Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language) / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $29.99

Hello and welcome to another episode of “Video Game Review” here on Machinima.com. I’m Chris Lockey and today I’ll be debriefing you with intel on the latest installment of Tom Clancy’s epic espionage series – Splinter Cell: Conviction. Stay tuned; this is one VGR you do not want to miss.

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Story

Splinter Cell: Conviction continues the saga of special agent Sam Fisher, whose beginnings as a loyal operative for top-secret NSA sub-branch Third Echelon have given way to a lethal insurgence as a rogue agent hell-bent on finding his daughter’s killer. Fisher’s personal vendetta leads to the discovery of a sinister and clandestine conspiracy involving the immediate threat of WMDs unleashed on American soil. And true to Splinter Cell form, the serpentine plot reveals layer upon layer of an engaging story featuring believable characters making extraordinary decisions.

As you guide Fisher to the truth he so desperately seeks, you’ll come face-to-face with twisted terrorists and puppeteering politicians. Conviction is hands-down the most personally engaging Splinter Cell title to date. The balance of intriguing plot and edge-of-your-seat stealth action left me feeling like I hadn’t merely watched a riveting, cinematic blockbuster, but that I was responsible for the story’s epic outcome.

Gameplay

Conviction offers the same third-person stealth gameplay that has made the Splinter Cell franchise a consistent standout. The team at Ubisoft Montreal has delivered a bevy of innovative mechanics that advance not only the Sam Fisher series, but also the entire action espionage genre. Foremost on this list is the “Mark and Execute” mechanic, which allows you to mark specific targets for timed precision kills. A close combat takedown arms this handy feature, which encourages you to constantly assess the game’s landscape and your enemy’s location and likely actions.

Another noteworthy addition is the “Last Known Position” mechanic, which utilizes enemy line of sight and a silhouette of Sam to help you gain a tactical advantage in every firefight. Enemies will continue to engage Fisher at this last known location as you flank or flee. But perhaps the most satisfying compliment to Splinter Cell: Conviction is the addition of real-time interrogation scenes featuring environments that respond to your actions. Extracting intel has never been this intense.

And with a handful of new gadgets at your disposal like the Sonar Goggles and the Portable EMP, you’ll be well prepared for Conviction‘s challenging gameplay and cutting-edge mechanics.

Graphics

Simply put, Splinter Cell: Conviction looks incredibly sweet. The strong story and playability are galvanized by the incredible atmosphere of the game’s imagery. Shadows and light are a crucial component to Conviction‘s stealth mechanics, but they also set the tone for one of the most cinematic titles to date on the Xbox 360.

Dynamic camera angles, fully realized interactive environments, and slick, high tech art direction all strengthen Conviction‘s hyper-realistic take on the espionage genre. The character animations are lively and the game world is impressively detailed. Several presentation elements keep you immersed in the game world – text and movies projected on the environment and seamless transitions between scenes all make a very original and cinematic gameplay experience.

Sound

Stunning visuals are nothing without the proper soundscape, and Conviction delivers audio just as impressive as the game’s graphics. The equally immersive sound design uses the dramatic beats of the game’s story to full effect, capitalizing on the taut whisper of hushed moments as readily as the roar of intense battles. Narrative turns are delicately accented by the unobtrusive score. And evocative cues from electronic artists such as DJ Shadow highlight some of Conviction‘s most memorable moments while rooting it in a tech savvy, near-future reality.

But Splinter Cell‘s audible appeal can likely be attributed to the presence of one sound element in particular – the vocal talents of fan favorite Michael Ironside, who has been the voice of Sam Fisher since the series’ debut in 2002. With this installment, he turns in a powerhouse performance that is in my opinion some of his best work, on or off-screen. Conviction‘s tight narrative and terse dialogue are brought to life with a venomous attitude and growl of discontent only Ironside could deliver.

Bottom Line

The bottom line? Splinter Cell: Conviction packs a mean punch of amazing story, fresh mechanics and elegant gameplay. It’s easily the most action-packed Xbox title of 2010 to date. The game isn’t perfect – occasional wall clipping during “Mark and Execute” animations manage to break the suspension of disbelief. And the story was so gripping I found myself wanting a few more hours of it. Fortunately, online and local multiplayer modes allow you to keep playing Conviction long after you finish the campaign. I didn’t get much hands-on time with the online multiplayer due to vacant pre-release servers. But if the split screen co-op is any indication, you’ll catch me sneaking around on Xbox LIVE ad infinitum. And though it isn’t Fisher on the front lines during these special ops missions, you’ve still got one killer game.

9.5/10

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