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It's a tricky cell
on 14 May 2010
The latest Splinter Cell game has been a long time coming, and the result is a game quite different to its predecessors. The focus is more on action and firefights this time round rather than sneaking and stealth. It mostly works but it falls short of being a classic Splinter Cell game.
The storyline of the single player game is compelling enough as Sam Fisher becomes involved in a conspiracy which has its roots way back in Double Agent (the last game in the series). Although it doesn't always make sense, it moves along at a brisk pace and you'll fly through the single player campaign quickly.
The gameplay is faster and more action-orientated than the careful approach more often called for in earlier games. Sam can mark and execute multiple enemies, which is a cool gimmick, even if it does take some of the skill out of the player's hands. A number of familiar gadgets are also available, although much of the time your pistol is enough.
It's good fun, but it feels a little too streamlined with a very rigid path down which you must progress. There is no room for choosing your own way, you go where the game tells you. This often involves fighting your way through roomfuls of not particularly bright bad guys, where previously Sam may have slinked past in a handy air conditioning vent. It seems a shame you can't decide whether to fight or sneak.
The co-op campaign's gameplay is very similar, but with a few moments that can only be passed by two players. A decent effort has been made to integrate a connected plot to the co-op game, which has its own central characters. It works quite well, although it's hard in places and you can tire of doing the same section over and over again until you finally crack it perfectly and reach a checkpoint.
Competitive multiplayer has largely been dropped from Conviction, instead there are extra co-op game modes. You can play against one other player in Face Off but once played a couple of times it wears a bit thin.
The game is well presented with mostly decent graphics, good music and some slick effects, such as Sam's next objective being projected onto a nearby wall as part of the environment. You are also equipped with `sonar goggles' which enable you to pick out enemies on the other side of walls and so on but sadly there is no night vision or thermal modes, which can be a pain in some sections and seems a strange oversight.
The controls also often conspire against you, as the A button is used for context-sensitive actions and can get confused when you're in a hurry. The control scheme cannot be reconfigured, so you are stuck with the default, which is not the most intuitive.
Conviction is a decent enough game, but it's a departure from previous Splinter Cells. It's more immediate and more cinematic, but because of this it forces your actions more and is perhaps less of a challenge for it. The controls are a pain and the whole thing is rather short-lived. It's a worthy purchase, but unless you get a lot of play out of the co-op features, I'm not sure it will spend that much time on your 360.