With the advent of backwards compatibility for the Xbox One, a lot of old games are about to become new again. One of the series which I hope not only makes the jump to the next generation consoles but also will, hopefully, receive a sequel made with present-day levels of technology. Despite this enthusiasm, I've got to say I've always had a love-hate relationship with the Splinter Cell series.
On one hand, I really like the series in terms of gameplay as well as the premise. You're always going to find me enthusiastic about stealth action adventure stories. Splinter Cell is about halfway between Hitman and Deus Ex, which makes it a pretty awesome place to be. I also love spy fiction both in terms of reading as well as gameplay.
However, the politics are terrible.
|Sam Fisher is Batman in many places.|
So with that lengthy intro, I have to say something which will invalidate almost everything I've just said: Conviction is really-really good both in plot as well as examining the setting's implications. Okay, not really. It's the EVIL bad guys who are being controlled by a mysterious EVIL group but it takes the premise Sam Fisher's ruthless "ends justify the means" organization can and does do some horrible stuff both to other people as well as Sam himself.
|Sam kills a LOT of people in this game. No disable for you!|
And yet it works somehow.
The graphics are beautiful in Conviction, being one of the best-looking games of the Xbox 360. Everything is gorgeous and I loved the character design. It really does capture the Nineties techno-thriller atmosphere and looks like a movie. Even sets which shouldn't be interesting like a dingy locker-room are full of little tidbits that make it look more lived in. An immense amount of attention was put into making the game leap off the screen and you can see it everywhere.
|Anna's redesign is amusing. Did she get some work done?|
The gameplay continues to emphasize stealth but ramps up the action considerably, which I didn't mind but some players might find off-putting. Sam also abandons his willingness to take his opponents down non-lethally and becomes a human Terminator. I didn't mind this but this makes the story significantly darker and edgier for no-reason since, really, the non-lethal takedowns of previous games were part of the appeal. One element I did enjoy, however, was the "tagging" system which allows you to do bullet-time executions of your opponents that are always fun to watch.
|The use of shadows and lighting in the game is great.|
Sam Fisher is a great character with a lot of grizzled toughness and sly sardonic humor. He's a pretty generic in the context that he's a distillation of every single rugged American soldier type since Rambo wandered onto the stage but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The fact Michael Ironside's performance, too old for the role or not, conveys how thoroughly DONE with all this crap really amps up the emotional investment I had in the story. I may not feel for the guy quite the same way I do as Solid Snake but he's still a very enjoyable on-screen presence.
|Feeling betrayed is a good reaction to betrayal.|
It's funny because most of this is the exact opposite of Tom Clancy who tended to lionize the US government no matter what (unless they'd been taken over by naive-bordering-on-stupid liberals). Still, it's closer to my kind of politics and I won't lie to you by saying that didn't improve my opinion of the game.
I think my favorite part of the game was the complicated and devastated relationship between Sam Fisher and Anna Grimsdottir. Sam has treated her like a daughter/potential love interest for much of the game series so watching her violate his trust so completely (by hiding his daughter's survival from him) is horrifying. However, it fits strongly with the themes that Third Echelon was never as heroic or noble an organization as Sam believed it to be and they would do anything to get their job done. It's just Sam never believed that would fall on him.
In conclusion, this is a really fun game and one I have very few complaints about. There's an exceptionally frustrating and unpleasant section involving evading laser beam trip-wires but, otherwise, I can't say I didn't enjoy any element of this game.