It’s rare to find a game that’s gone through as many delays, redesigns and overhauls as Splinter Cell: Conviction has and still turns out to be any good – it’s not called ‘development hell’ for nothing – so imagine my surprise to find out just how good this game is. My main complaint is that it’s not Chaos Theory, which remains one of my favourite games ever – I lost an evening to it just the other day – and while I can forgive that because very few games are that good, the fact that it doesn’t try to be is my problem.
I guess it’s the same thing that has happened to Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six, both once unflinchingly realistic and now barely recognisable near-future Hollywood blockbusters of games. I’m still waiting for a ‘proper’ Splinter Cell in the vein of the Xbox games, because both Double Agent and Conviction have tried to do something new. Sam Fisher has slowly changed from a Solid Snake knock-off to his current form as an amalgam of Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer. Not the most original character, I’m slowly realising as I type this, but regardless, the series has always been a favourite of mine and now it’s barely recognisable.
But taken on its own merits, I had a brilliant time with Conviction. It was a short time, admittedly – seven hours or so by my estimation, without starting on the co-op campaign – but I stand by my conviction (sorry) that I’d prefer a great 6-7 hours to the same thing stretched out to fill 12 or more. I was satisfied by the end of it.
So it’s not bad; it’s just different. There’s no non-lethal option here beyond avoiding encounters entirely, so it’s far more of an action game, and indeed some sequences, whether a foot chase through Washington DC in broad daylight or a straight shooting sequence in Iraq, simply would not work within the framework of the original trilogy. As long as you can forgive the fact that this is not your usual Splinter Cell, but rather a new take on the same story that’s a good game in its own right, you’ll find an interesting experience. Really there’s nothing, least of all the official Bourne or 24 games, that makes you feel like such a hard bastard.
Regardless of your opinion of Splinter Cell old or new, I guarantee that you will crack a smile when you get the drop on a room of five enemies, mark four of them, and then quickly follow a headshot on the fifth with a tap of the ‘execute’ button to take down the others before they can react. It’s incredibly satisfying when it works like that, and even without the impetus to push for perfection in your playthrough that always pushed me through the previous games and the best in the genre, it’s good to finally have Fisher back.
Now let’s just have a proper new one, okay, Ubisoft?