I have a list of games that did not so much as peak my interest, but get stuck in my brain like little wads of gum. It is a less than stellar condition and one that resulted in me playing titles such as the good, not great, The Darkness II and the abysmal Alice Madness Returns. Now I can add Splinter Cell Conviction to that list, ending up somewhere in between the two, but closer to the latter as I did not properly complete it. I did get to the final mission of the game, but I did not care enough to get to the conclusion, thus setting a negative tone for the review right from the get go.
Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC(Reviewed), Mac OSX
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Now, I have zero knowledge about this series or any experience with the Tom Clancy Ubisoft banner thing that’s been going on for the past decade. This extends to the main character of Sam Fisher, which inspired a great little experiment I played with this game, find something likable about the protagonist part way through a series. Unfortunately, the man who I know nothing about other than he kills with the hesitation somebody poses when drinking water and cares about his daughter had nothing that allowed me to view him as anything other than the world’s most boring psychopath. One may say that a good overarching plot can make up for a bad central character, but I stopped paying attention as the plot seemed more as a justification for scenarios, with names and factions going in one ear and out the other.
I could go on about the overblown patriotism at play, lack of actual emotions from most characters as Sam and his partner lady both sound uninvested in just about everything they do, and general gruesomeness of torture segments. Yet I’d rather not stand on the soapbox against a game I feel little but apathy for. A statement which should imply that I was not particularly keen on everything else the game had to offer, but I have reasons well beyond how the main character was like the world’s least cool shaved bear to every wear a shirt type that I believe to be fictional.
With the core drapings of a cover based third person shooter with a heavy emphasis on the stealth side, Conviction is a game I really should have pushed away due to how I’ve had trouble in the past when it comes to actually enjoying games that allow for the silent assassin approach. Even when it is non lethal like in Dishonored and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, not possible like in The Last of Us, or borderline perfectly executed like in Mark of the Ninja. Conviction tries to avoid this by not only removing all incentives from being stealthy, at least in the PC version, it is both impossible in certain scenarios, there are absolutely no consequences or even much of a feeling like one should be stealthy.
if I had to attribute this to a certain scenario, that would be when you are running out of an exploding building and pressing Y to kill everybody in your way. There is context to justify it, and the pressing of Y is the closest this game gets, or got in my run, to giving the player unlimited use of the execute feature, an ability that allows Sam to pinpoint targets and take them out assuming you got close enough to murder a man by pressing B. As a mechanic I am not opposed to it, but I am when it becomes very questionable when you will next be able to recharge it next, causing me to play conservative with it, much like I was with the many explosives Sam has in his hollow and very prominent buttocks.
In fact, the very existence of explosives laid by a man in the shadows does make it alarmingly odd how the guards display no remorse to sending themselves to death’s door, or even taunting Sam through insults that I felt deserve the clap when a hired mercenary called the protagonist a pussy. I do believe hearing criticism about the AI in Conviction, but in my experience, the first half of guys proved to be both alarmingly focused considering how they are the equivalent to foul mouthed teenagers if one were to take the audio in consideration. In fact, they seem to have the same hesitation and fear of death as somebody playing an online multiplayer game would have, which certainly sent me on more trips to the loading screen then I would have appreciated.
I could also blame the sheer fact I do kinda suck at most games, but early on I did have trouble with the controls, namely how they are very oddly arranged. With LT serving as a button to use cover, L3 reloading ammo in Sam’s pistol of infinite ammo, or just getting mistaken with the button prompts that let Sam crawl on top of desks despite the ability never seeming valuable. In fact, despite how I did fall in combat very frequently, the game is not so much hard as it is easy if you want to get through, and at points obnoxious when you want to execute things with a certain degree of class. It is possible this was done to keep the game accessible, but with no reason to not do poorly, I just stopped caring, with my levels or craps I gave reaching a zero because I simply was not having any real fun going through the game, regularly dying and just wondering if it did prefer to be a stealth game or an action game that loved pain and conflict to the point torture sequences were added in.
Weirdly enough though, I can’t even call the torture sequences in Conviction to be all that good, let alone tasteful. Featuring damages that would either kill or knock out a person right then and there more than not. I do suppose one can argue it was done for stylistic purposes, which the game does indulge in at certain times, but either what style it did have looks dated in retrospect, or was never that good to begin with. The most common form is how the game prefers to tell things like Sam’s objectives through big white letters on the walls, occasionally splicing in uncolored video footage that is pretty hard to see. Although that could be due to how I found the game to be weirdly stingy when it comes to displaying certain textures, namely Sam Fisher’s, properly at all times. I can understand if this was due to how I did not run the game on max settings, short version is that my computer didn’t like HDR Rendering, but I managed to get plenty of instances where his face was obscured. Something I likely only noticed due to the lack of involvement I felt during many of the talky bits. Oh, and the game looks visually vanilla in nearly every way aside from that.
Actually, aside from a sale where I got this for $5, the real reason why I bought this was probably because I thought it would be funny to contrast it with the extended openings from The World God Only Knows. It really wasn’t even good for that, but I suppose one can say that Conviction really was not my thing, which is true to a certain degree. It is a mechanically sound game that is not wholly bad in any way, but left me far from impressed with none of my senses stimulated other than one of joy when I stopped playing. I am sorry I wasted my time with this teacher, I will try to be more efficient next time and try to stay away from Ubisoft from now on. Well, except for Child of Light.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up… for large a discount.