Conviction is an excellent sequel that maintains its roots while exploring new territory and is successful in doing so.
Sam's hope and joy in his life, Sarah, has been murdered. That heinous crime alone rocks his soul to the core, giving him a singular mission to complete. He must find and destroy those responsible for his daughter's murder and to do that, he must seek them out. A couple of familiar acquaintances will aid him with clues, bringing Sam one step closer to the dark truth that awaits him. Of course, while the majority of his journey is personal, it's also mixed with business and politics on the side, as he is quickly wrapped in a major conspiracy that threatens the world and must save the day on his own terms. While your first playthrough may be short, demanding no longer than six or seven hours worth of your time, the good news is that the story provides enough drama and intrigue to keep you interested until everything is ultimately revealed. As you progress through the story, the walls surrounding Sam's current environment will display flashbacks of certain memories and people, along with words or sentences that reveal Sam's emotions or his objectives. It's a nice storytelling trick that lures you in, giving you a reason to keep going and see how it all will play out for the understandably, angered hero. Michael Ironside reprises his role as Sam Fisher, carrying out his lines with excellent delivery, showing signs of impatience and desperation. Overall, this is a tale that is meant to be enjoyed and won't let you go until the very end. If you completed the game at a lower difficulty, it is certainly possible to increase it, as it will net you more satisfaction as you take on a harder challenge and conquer it.
Within the first two levels, which acts like tutorial-based segments, you will quickly accumulate knowledge of the basics that will play key roles in the confrontation ahead. For starters, if under intense enemy gunfire, Sam can now get into cover. You can easily attach yourself to nearby walls and furniture, allowing yourself to escape harm from incoming bullets. However, if you are attempting to sneak around in a safe fashion, you can easily move from one place to the next with ease. Staying in cover is a great way to remain invisible, watching silently as a guard slips by without noticing your presence, then taking him by surprise and killing him. The darkness is also one of your best friends, for as you stick to the shadows, the world turns into black and white, making it harder for enemies to discover your place of concealment. If you are spotted, enemies will quickly be alerted to your presence as a white, holographic image briefly remains visible. They will quickly rush to your location and rain bullets towards your direction, giving you little chance of escaping their wrath. But not all hope is lost, as you can rely on a slew of gadgets while remaining in cover, such as frag grenades and proximity mines, to quell the onslaught and leave your adversaries behind in the dust. If you do not wish to confront them in a tense firefight, you may use smoke grenades or a portable EMP (electromagnetic pulse) to distract them for a short period of time, providing you a safe way to escape their their anger and find another place to hide until the heat dies down. A lot of gamers, especially veterans of the series, will argue that including the cover system dumbed Conviction down to a typical third-person shooter. That is simply not the case, as the cover system is designed to be a safe, defensive tactic that can be used to your advantage. It also makes a strong argument on how essential stealth is to the series and it's great to see that aspect return in full force.
Stealth may be key to success, but it isn't the only way to take down all of your enemies. This latest installment provides a tool that is unique and helpful; mark and execute. In order to earn this ability, you must first take out the enemy with a silent, but deadly hand-to-hand kill. These kills are satisfying to pull off, whether you are out in the open or in total silence. Once you successfully take them out, the mark and execute ability is yours to use at your whim. Depending on what gun you are packing (up to four enemies can be targeted), you simply mark the enemies in front or around you with the touch of a button, then you press another button to commence the shooting. Time crawls to a bare minimum, the camera zooming in on the helpless guards as they become the victims of a brutal, yet well-time headshot from your chosen gun. This is a great asset, as it can not only get the job done in a quicker rate, but can also get you out of a jam. For example, the landscape surrounding Sam offers him objects of demolition to use when enemies are nearby them, such as exploding canisters. If two enemies are nearby that canister while the other two are at a safe distance, you can target the object and the latter two victims, then unleash the carnage and watch in glee as they are taken down in rapid succession. It's a bit odd to destroy enemies that are behind walls and the bullet just clips through and hits them regardless of the oddity, but it's still a rush and it's hard to think of Splinter Cell: Conviction without this amazing weapon at your disposal. While some will once again argue that it is unnecessary, that claim is once again false. Sam is a man of haste and has no time to play games, so committing destruction with the mark and execute ability is fun and necessary if you wish to achieve victory on your own terms.
Throughout the campaign, you will come across certain foes that need to be interrogated in order to get the answers you are looking for. The problem is that they aren't as dramatic or fun as they should be. In fact, one interrogation, which is done in a bathroom, is the best one of them all, showing off the aggressive, vicious side of Sam Fisher that we all know and love. It would have been nice if the developer took the time to polish those segments, creating more objects for the player to brutalize their incapable foes with. However, the positive aspect to these segments is that they add tension to the storyline, also making the enemy believable as they are terrified of Sam's iron grip and slowly divulge the information that he is seeking out in order to progress further. Beyond that, the game does offer a sense of replayability. Each level gives you different ways to accomplish your goal. It is possible to stay in cover and toss out a couple of remote mines, then quietly watching your adversaries coming close, then blowing up the mines and watching in glee satisfaction as they are killed. Or you could hover above a pipe and watch as three enemies enter the room, mark them all, then perform a kill as you leap on one, then kill the other two without raising an alarm. The possibilities are endless and as you continue to earn and upgrade new guns and gadgets, you will be propelled to re-enter that stage and try them out, seeing what is or is not probable to do within the scenario. There are at least eleven stages to take on and complete within the campaign. On lower difficulties, you won't unearth any problems and feel less challenged, but if you increase it to the highest difficulty, enemies will be aware of your existence in seconds and will kill you with less bullets from their chosen weapons. Therefore, stealth is key to winning on the battlefield. If you play it like a third-person shooter or run around, killing all the guards with guns blazing, you will get shot down in retaliation many times over, forcing you to restart from your last checkpoint. It can get frustrating, but it's not impossible and when you do conquer the game on its highest difficulty, you'll be glad that you stuck with it until the very end.
Once the campaign has been completed all on difficulties, multiplayer comes into play and offers a wide variety of modes. Deniable Ops is where the game truly shines. You and your chosen partner will embark on an adventure that takes place three years before the events of the single-player game, as you and your partner infiltrate various sites, dealing out tasks that need to be completed. The fun comes down to working together, coordinating assaults and using teamwork to your advantage, whether in stealth or out in the open. It's a blast playing with your friend and each level presents a challenge to you and your ally that feels great to conquer when it's all said and done. Last Stand pits you and a friend against a multitude of enemies that are attempting to destroy an EMP that you both must defend, while Hunter mode tasks you and your buddy to defeat ten guards in five different locations on the same map. Should you be spotted, that's not a problem; you can eschew stealth in favor of gunplay or gadgets to use at your disposal until all enemies have been disposed of. Face Off has you and your partner going against each other, ranking up points by killing either you or the enemy, so whoever earns the most points wins. And finally, there is Infiltration mode, in which you and your partner must use stealth and secrecy to kill all opposition while avoiding traps, such as lasers and turrets. These modes also offer incentive to return and try out new ideas, increasing the fun each time you play those modes over and over again.
However, there are problems that need to be addressed. For starters, the artificial intelligence, while smart, has a few weaknesses. They will check in your position once spotted, but they don't think to look around more often and find you in another position for you to flank them in elsewhere. When they taunt you, they will tell you that they won't fall for anything, yet you'll dispose them in another manner that they didn't think you would do in the first place. Should they decide to create a sequel, they should beef up the intelligence so that they can match you, move by move, forcing you to come up with a different method of killing. Another complaint to be found is carrying infinite ammo for your pistol. While all other guns must be stocked with ammo from your weapons cache, ammo for your pistol never runs out. Had they taken out infinite ammo, you would have to be really careful in executing the enemy and placing good headshots, thus adding challenge to the mix. Also, the campaigns should have been a lot longer. Although there is a lot of variety to be found, since the game is this good, you just wish it would never end. For the next sequel, it is highly recommended that it be made the longest campaign possible, up to at least 12-15 hours worth. However, this may be considered a minor hindsight, since both campaigns, if combined, can last up to longer than those aforementioned hours.
Visually, Conviction looks outstanding. Each vista that you immerse yourself in looks distinct and unique, making you wanting to stop and smell the flowers often. Each character, whether they may be good or bad, offer interesting personalities and showcase it with their facial emotions. For example, as you try out different ways to annihilate your targets, it's interesting to watch them search for you, taunting you with explicit profanity and when you raise some hell, they'll jump and scream in rage, just itching to put a bullet in your head. When one of their comrades perishes and another guard spots him, they'll be taken by surprise and rush over, seeing their dead friend and vowing revenge. When spotted, they will immediately take cover and yell at you, telling you that they aren't going in and would rather have you come over to their spot instead. Invoking their emotions and watching them act as they try to hunt you down is awesome and makes the entire scenario believable, increasing the atmosphere believability, making it hard to not enjoy what appears on the screen.Elsewhere, the incredible soundtrack compliments it, although through a subtle manner. Instruments such as cellos will slowly rise up the tension and then fades away once the heat dies down. The voice acting is excellent, each member of the cast delivering their lines with impeccable timing and accuracy. For this generation, this is one of the few games that delivers the best experience possible on all accounts, so you will more than likely enjoy the end result and will applaud the developer for firing off on all cylinders.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is a remarkable gem that deserves to be in your library. Blending in action and stealth perfectly, it delivers the fun in spades. The plots for both adventures is a fun romp to endure, with or without a friend, and both the main and supporting cast do a great job in keeping you involved in the game's stories and dialogue. Each situation presents many ways for you to deal with your foes and it's a delight carrying out the missions each and every time you revisit those stages. Bringing a friend along for the ride is one of the best decisions to make, as it will create new memories and laughter from a lot of trial and error and there's plenty of challenges to undertake, especially with the PEC challenges, which has you carrying out different tasks. By completing them, you earn points to use for upgrading everything from weapons to your clothing. Conviction may not please the old-school fanatics who wish for a true return to the old days, but it is a necessary evolution. Conviction is a perfect world of both old and new and it is exactly what was needed. After going through this game, the Sam Fisher that we've come to discover is definitely changed for the better.