Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

Splinter Cell: Conviction Hands On Preview - So That's What They Mean By Action-Stealth!

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Sam Fisher is a man that attracts trouble, even when he's not looking for it. There was that time when he went undercover and had to make a few difficult decisions. There was also those few hundred times he's saved the world from a terrorist meltdown. There was also that time when he refused to drink up after the landlady at the local tavern called last orders. Boy was that a messy situation! Glass and blood everywhere! Ubisoft's latest Splinter Cell title, Conviction, sees Sam get sucked back into a world  of double-crosses and deceit as he picks up his spurs and embarks on a mission of revenge.

We caught up with Conviction again recently and gave it a more intense run for its money. Playing through the first three chapters of the campaign and the second co-op level, we take control of Sam once again to see what’s changed in the last few months since we last played it.

Rather than regurgitate in any sort of detail the new mechanics which we've already covered to death, we'll concentrate on the experience itself. To get more insight into the rest of the game and its mechanics, take a look at our preview from E3 and from last August here.

The first level like any title acts as a short prologue and tutorial for the game's events. We catch up with Sam sat outside a cafe in Malta, and after being passed a mobile phone and ear piece from a waiter, Sam learns that his previous employers - Third Echelon -have been keeping tabs on him. His age old contact Grim delivers some disturbing news to Sam and warns him of a small unit that's been sent out to kill him. Spurred into action, Sam takes to the market stalls of Malta to learn the main mechanics of Conviction: last known position, mark and execute and a whole array of other moves. Some of these techniques are introduced to the player through a set of clever flashback moments, as seen in the latest story trailer.

After navigating the market stalls, Sam catches up with his contact, Grim, with the prologue ending with the bathroom interrogation scene that was used to demo the game at last year's E3. After finishing the interactive interrogation scene that allows you to use a series of surfaces/objects to inflict pain on your unfortunate foe – incidentally, you can stand in the middle of the room and inflict the pain without the aid of those external objects – the next mission is a quick transition away, making sure you stay immersed in the experience from start to finish. No load screens. Nothing.

The second level was a totally revamped mansion level – a level that is only slightly reminiscent of the Malta mansion level from E3 – that is a lot bigger in scope now. The fundamental make-up of the mansion is the same though and your end goal is still a room packed with guards that you must clear before interrogating the information handler.

Clearing out the final room definitely revealed a weakness in the game’s AI, as I was able to hang out the window whilst guard after guard was quite content to run over to look for me and get pulled out to a quick death. Surely after seeing their colleague disappear before their eyes, you’d have thought they’d either be a little more cautious or even have a few techniques in their locker to combat that. Four or five guards in a row were lulled into this rather cheap and basic exploit. That was an interesting weakness considering that at other times, the AI was generally impressive, never adopting to circular routes, always checking in different places and reacting to events in real-time. Truth be told, it’s looking like a mixed bag there.

After the second level’s interrogation, an in-game cutscene and some shocking plot revelations, Sam finds himself in a large airbase that he must escape from. It’s at this point that the action is turned to 12 on the aggression dial and the number of hostile forces doubles, triples and quadruples in numbers from those experienced at the mansion. It becomes apparent here that stealth is still most definitely key, but as they’ve said all along, it’s a different kind of stealth. One that requires you actually take down foes from the shadows, instead of sneaking past them all like some covert-operation. Sam’s a lone wolf now and collateral damage is part of his new persona.

At times you’ll be asked to make your way through a fairly small area with as many as 8-10 guards on duty; all in different positions, all on different guard routes and all with different tasks they are performing. If you try to go too aggressive, you’ll get ripped to shreds by enemy gunfire, so the key is isolating enemies, making use of your gadgets – proximity mines, EMP grenades and so on – and sticking to the shadows.

Conviction’s Persistent Elite Creation system (PEC) allows you to upgrade Sam’s weapons and gadgets, based on the experience you gain along the way. Tasks like stealth kills, headshots and air takedowns garner an impressive amount of experience which you can spend improving the accuracy, damage and clip size of your guns. You won’t be far from a weapon stash either, should you feel the need to change the weapons you’re carrying or simply upgrade them.

Our quick blast through the prologue co-op mode was brief, but just as exciting. Playing with game designer, Julien Lamoreux, his first question was quite simply, “How do you want to play? Stealthy or aggressive?” No hello? Oh sorry, I’m missing the point... “We’ll go with the flow,” we responded... because that’s how all the cool kids roll. We obviously didn’t say that last part, because by saying that, you render yourself uncool. Wait... have I just done that indirectly?

The one co-op map being shown in the build took place in the Russian Embassy in Baku, complete with dark corners galore, large open planned libraries and of course, the almost clichéd bath house. You aren’t an evil syndicate or wrongdoing organisation without a bath house, right? Luckily for us, there was no flying tackle this time around, which was incidentally the last time we saw a bath house of this nature – as featured in Eastern Promises of course.

The flow of our co-op hands on definitely took the more aggressive path – which is frankly weird considering that I’m a stealth junkie – but it seemed to be more of, “see that guy there, he’s mine!” A competition of sorts. The ability to free-roam away from one another whilst tackling different paths was refreshing and added an element of strategy to the proceedings. As did being able to perform a co-op “dual execute” which only used one of your two executes, but allowed you to cause twice the carnage. If you want to take it one step further, you can even spot for your co-op team mate, or vice-versa, so the chance to tackle situations how you want is most definitely one of the biggest plus points of this mode. It’s also pretty damn nifty that you can use your single player experience and weapons in this mode as well, meaning everything you do wherever you are in Conviction will strengthen your character’s arsenal for every mode.

So how much life can you expect to be squeezing out of Splinter Cell: Conviction this April? Well, how about: 11 single player campaign levels that last for about 7-8 hours; 4 prologue co-op campaign levels that last for around 4-6 hours; and 4 multiplayer game modes – 3 co-operative and 1 competitive – in Deniable Ops that offers a ton of replay value. In short, Splinter Cell: Conviction boasts a pretty comprehensive and extensive package of goodies that should appeal to a whole host of different audiences. Our only concern now is that the AI doesn’t seem to be too intelligent at times and the 1-on-1 face-off mode – which is the only competitive multiplayer mode – definitely won’t hold your attention for too long and is a little on the wrong end of “multi” in the multiplayer scale. Otherwise, a pretty damn impressive package and one we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Splinter Cell: Conviction is out April 13th and April 16th in North America and Europe respectively.


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Game Info
Ubisoft Montreal


US April 13, 2010
Europe April 16, 2010

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