Tag Archives: Tom Clancy

Splinter Cell: Conviction

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?

GRAW 1.5. Uh…I mean…2

I was a bit reluctant to pay full price for this, given that it was getting criticism for being more of a mission pack and reviews have mentioned a short campaign. But at the same time, I loved the first GRAW and played a ton of multiplayer as well, and if they only criticism of the single player was the length (no mention of horrible difficulty spikes, dodgy checkpoint spacing, stingy health system, and at least one horrible bug) then it was a fairly sure thing that I’d get on with it.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

What ultimately sold me, though, was that the achievements were all nice, round numbers. I still resent the first one for leaving me with a deformed gamerscore thanks to the weird numbers for finishing the co-op campaign. Only fives and tens here!

GRAW was one of the first games that really looked like you were playing it on a next-gen console but, like PGR3, going back to it isn’t especially kind to the memories. GRAW 2 makes it look much worse. The explosions, in particular, are gorgeous; some of the best in any game that I’ve seen. There’s a moment on the very first mission when you plant C4 in a cave and get to see the smoke and debris blown out through the cave entrances when it detonates. It’s a fairly incidental effect but it looks amazing.

Ubisoft has ground down those rough edges, particularly with regard to the frustration factor. There are fewer moments of drawn out battles without checkpoints, the new medic gives you a health boost without having to struggle to the next ammo box, the enhanced Cross Com (complete with full screen feeds) allows you to command your team and support vehicles accurately when they’re out of view, and your chaingun on the Black Hawk doesn’t overheat within seconds. Now I’m playing the game on the hardest difficulty and finding it challenging rather than infuriating.

Continue reading GRAW 1.5. Uh…I mean…2

Best of 2006 #9: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Ah, the token Tom Clancy appearance. You just can’t stop the guy.

Deserving credit both for turning me onto the Ghost Recon series (or sub-series?) and helping to end the terminal drought of software for the 360 earlier this year, it still stands out as one of the games that looks and plays like something really next-gen. Don’t agree? Just look at how dreadful the Xbox and PS2 versions turned out.

As well as looking stunning and delivering a believable near-future setting, GRAW also brought with it one of the better multiplayer suites of the year. As well as the basic deathmatches, this included the immensely satisfying co-op mode with support for up to 16 players: the mode singularly responsible for the odd number that is my gamerscore. Annoying, but still top fun.

Like Rainbow Six Vegas, GRAW did a superb job of making what had previously been somewhat esoteric games and making them accessible to us normal people. And once the campaign was out of the way it became one of the few games that could tempt us away from COD2 multiplayer. That takes some doing.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

Yes, unbelievable as it is, there’s a new Xbox 360 game out. The first of many this month, in fact, and if they’re all as good as this one we’re in for one hell of a month. That faint sound you can hear is my wallet sobbing quietly to itself as it contemplates the cost of this, Burnout Revenge, Far Cry, and Oblivion.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter

Some of the early games might have not really pushed the hardware, but with this and Burnout it appears that developers are finally starting to put it to good use for some absolutely stunning HD visuals (not quite as drool-worthy as Rainbow Six: Vegas, admittedly) which make a great approximation of the intense Mexican sunlight. Graphics aren’t the whole puzzle however, and Ubisoft have done a good job of making this more accessible than the last time I played a Ghost Recon, which was the original for the Xbox.

The whole thing is still tactical and unforgiving (meaning bloody hard) but the near-future technology that they’ve added is a great addition that fans should still enjoy while allowing those like me who found the series slightly heavy going to give it another try with an open mind. It also has some great multiplayer modes which I’m looking forward to trying out, including the salivatory prospect of 16 player online co-op missions. I’m not decided whether or not playing alongside 15 random people is something that I should be excited or scared about, knowing what I do about the Live community.

It seems that I’m not the only one who likes it, and with Burnout also getting excellent reviews dare we hope that the 360 drought is coming to an end? Possibly, but at least we have enough stuff to carry us through to the wonders that E3 will bring.

Best of 2005 #5: Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

Metal Gear Solid may have popularised the stealth action genre but I’ve always thought that the Splinter Cell series did it better, with all the post-modernism thrown out and a fully 3D camera, which I find essential to any game requiring the awareness of your surroundings that a stealth game does. The camera was the main reason I gave up on MGS3, as without the radar but with the anachronistic camera I found it frustrating beyond belief to have to keep switching to first person to see beyond the top of the screen.

Pandora Tomorrow expanded on the first game and added that fantastic multiplayer mode, but suffered from annoying difficulty spikes that detracted from things. By handing development back to the original team for Chaos Theory, we got significant improvements to the gameplay as well as some of the best graphics of that generation. The campaign was long and had variety (the Seoul level is a particular standout moment, and its setting in an urban war with you as a neutral shows similarities to MGS4), and the way that you were ranked on your ability to go undetected and avoid killing anyone encouraged perfectionism that’s unusual for me, actually getting me to go back and replay the game when I’d finished it.

When you factor in an improved version of the multiplayer and an entire co-op campaign with online play, this is one of my favourite action games ever made. Splinter Cell Double Agent is going to have a lot to live up to now and I really hope it can manage it.

Splinter Cell 4

While checking my newsreader today I was naturally drawn to the screenshots of Splinter Cell 4, which is looking rather impressive, and considering how good Chaos Theory was I’m definitely interested.

What really blew me away here was that I thought those screenshots were from the Xbox 360. I noticed that they weren’t in 720p and that they looked quite poor on some sites, but I just assumed they were leaked or something because the texturing and lighting was so nice. Imagine my surprise then, when I found out that those shots are from the Xbox version. I can only assume that the 360 one is just going to look fantastic (if not completely next-gen), and I really can’t wait to see how phenomenal one written from the ground up for the 360 – presumably Splinter Cell 5 – will look. Hopefully the apparent change to the gameplay and setting won’t be detrimental and won’t just try to turn into a clone of Chronicles of Riddick, no matter how good that was.