Support Adam, click to buy via us...
Splinter Cell has curtailed the methodical style that made the series popular. Now the story rather than the action comes into much sharper focus. Though this brutal treatment of human life is unfeeling Splinter Cell Conviction still provides a dark and disturbing experience.
The Splinter Cell games never appealed to me due to the tone and nature of their premise. Playing a cold-hearted killer for a government organisation intrigues me, but the narrative was never compelling enough for me to overlook the ambiguous morals. Conviction isn't any different in that regard - except that you are now more vulnerable away from the comfort of the 3rd Echelon.
Almost instantly, that appeal was ruined by Michael Ironside's voice as Sam Fisher. These days I expect voice work to fit the physical face on the screen - so here the illusion of reality was pretty much lost. Every time Sam Fisher opened his mouth I felt I was listening to a parody of MarcusFenix and any weight or meaning evapourated.
Though this brutal treatment of human life is unfeeling it still provides a dark and disturbing experience.
Where Conviction makes up for is with the presentation of objectives and story-specific content. Text is projected directly into the environment. Walls, ceilings or floors act as screens for short video flashbacks or alternative camera angles when needed. This simple move avoids the arcade feel I usually get from combat simulators - the experience feels more dramatic, more cinematic than previous Splinter Cell games.
In many regards the overall story involving a shadowy illuminati-like organisation, several Government special-ops forces and Sam's quest for revenge is a little cliched. But then I remembered this is Tom Clancy so I shouldn't expect a particularly deep tale that mirrors the same complicated narrative of Deus Ex for example.
It was a chilling display of the inglorious nature of real war and its brutal effects on humanity.
Where Conviction had the most impact was its depiction of murder and the taking of human life. Observing car bombs, execution killings and the wholesale slaughter of civilians had a shocking quality that I didn't expect.
One level of the game takes you back to Iraq as you make your way down a highway littered with burned out cars and buses. In other games these are no more interesting than the surrounding scenery or the usual cover points in a shooter. In Conviction I couldn't help notice the bodies in these vehicles, twisted and contorted in various forms of agony at the moment of death. Some had been shot whereas others had been burnt down to the bone. It was a chilling display of the inglorious nature of real war and its brutal effects on humanity.
That same unsettling atmosphere was present in several other levels that showed your enemies murdering hundreds of scientists or office workers. It wasn't so much the graphic nature of seeing these executions but the audio that accompanied it. In certain sections it became so effective that I willfully disregarded any pretence of stealth and blazed my way through the opposition in the hopeless attempt to save these people.
This is where my disconnect with Sam Fisher was most obvious. Sam doesn't react. I imagine there's no reason for a former trained, Government killer to care for these people. That didn't stop me from demanding the game to show some sort of compassion during these moments though.
At the side of the road several others were holding a man back as he was consumed with grief at the death of his loved one inside a burning car. This tiny passing moment was easily the most effective.
If he had the game could have used this as an opportunity for making some real and personal drama. The tie between him and his daughter seemed the weakest part of the story. If they had taken a risk and shown a glimmer of humanity I could see Conviction being much more meaningful.
Yet because of this absence I found an incidental and easily avoidable scene the most moving of the game. At the side of the road several others were holding a man back as he was consumed with grief at the death of his loved one inside a burning car. This tiny passing moment was easily the most effective, showing the indiscriminate results of violent actions. Sam, being Sam just carried on and killed about 75 guys before the credits rolled. Sometimes videogames are so odd with how they elicit emotions next to their gameplay.
Even though I found this violence difficult to deal with, Splinter Cell: Conviction gave me an unexpectedly bracing and dark experience. It's a pity that the father/daughter relationship was never utilised for a more personal theme - showing Sam in a state of weakness would have made for a much more subtle and meaningful game.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: