That line above may very well be the sales pitch Ubisoft has for the long-awaited Splinter Cell: Conviction. Under development since 2006 or 2007, Conviction saw a lot of changes for Sam Fisher and company. Ubisoft Montreal, the game’s development studio, sought to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is deemed to be the masterpiece of the series, but apparently players were getting exhausted from the hiding in darkness, lugging an unconscious or dead body to a good hiding spot, and, you know, not firing your pistol and sneaking around, you know, the entire point of the series.
In 2002, Sam Fisher debuted as a kind of countermeasure to Metal Gear’s Solid Snake. The two could simply not co-exist in fans’ eyes. People embraced this new stealth, where light and shadow played a huge role as opposed to hiding in a cardboard box. Splinter Cell had the Tom Clancy name, so we could at least have expected a hard tale of international tension and information warfare, as opposed to all the melodrama from the then recent Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. In addition to all of this, Splinter Cell was an Xbox and I believe PC exclusive. The Xbox had a stealth franchise to call its own and spawned three sequels before it was all reinvented. In irony, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots also saw something of a makeover, implying the use of stealth, but ultimately making a straightforward action game in the process.
I’ve put in about four or five hours into Conviction, and turned it off because one part is currently frustrating the heck out of me. I jumped straight into Realistic after I came to know the demo like the back of my hand. The game is a massive improvement on the demo in a few ways. One way is how, finally, I have to deal with smart AI. They’re still dumb in a few places, and still jumpy as jumpy can get, but they know how to work as a team and sweep an area for Sam. I also underestimated their field of vision. In other games, enemies either had a limited field of vision that was on par with Mr. Magoo, or if they thought they saw something they would investigate, find nothing, shrug, and go back to their regular duties. Not here. If they think they see Sam, they saw Sam. Everyone goes nuts and have their rifles ready.
I feel like the aiming and gun control has been fixed from the previous Splinter Cell games, and the aiming works great when picking off bad guys from a hiding spot, but when the down-and-dirty moments arrive where I have to take these guys down in a Wild West style fight, not so much. There’s one segment that tries to be part Gears of War and part Army of Two and it teeters on the edge of being annoying and broken. It also puts the story itself to a halt, not that it matters, because as of where I am the story is so disappointing.
I’d prefer not to be spoiler-heavy, but the story feels more Michael Bay, Modern Warfare 2 than Tom Clancy’s most ridiculous day. Even the Bourne films, whose presence is felt a number of times, has a more entertaining story to unfold. I’ll probably be wrong about it by the end because of what I’m expecting to be an M. Night Shyamalan twist.
The one thing I miss is saving whenever I want to. The game is supposedly rather short in length, but when you want to do things a certain way and have to restart, you have to restart at the game’s checkpoint and some of them are horrible. In one checkpoint, I kept having to talk to a woman before hitting the detonator and blowing things up because I kept getting Fisher killed in the ensuing battle. The same goes for having to constantly get rid of the same team of guards that comes looking for Fisher before dealing with an idiotic laser grid system, some lasers which have no practical placement except “Place here in case Sam Fisher goes rogue and has to infiltrate our base and hops our flower pots instead of just walking around.”
I’ve yet to try the other, supposedly more fun modes. That’s probably a weekend job.