Out of the Shadows
If thereís one thing you can safely say about Ubisoft itís that they love putting out games in the Clancy franchise. The great thing about this is that almost every one of them have been quality titles that youíll end up playing for months afterward. When the first Splinter Cell title was released on the Xbox back in 2002, few believed that the would-be series had the potential to challenge Metal Gear, the universally acclaimed stealth franchise. Today, however, with five core titles under its belt, a novel series, and even quiet talks of a film, Splinter Cell has without a doubt taken the crown.
In 2007, a handful of months after the release of the fourth game in the franchise, Double Agent, Ubisoft announced an exclusive deal with Microsoft to bring the fifth game in the series, Conviction, exclusively to the Xbox 360 and PC. The demo shown in May 2007 showed a vastly different depiction of the franchise, with Sam Fisher mingling through crowds while evading and fighting police with brutality not seen before in the series. However, after missing its intended release date in November of that year, the game was put on hold and sent back to the drawing board amidst gameplay and other development issues. When the game debuted at E3 2009, any doubts about the title were laid to rest thanks to a seemingly complete redesign and an entirely different approach to stealth combat.
A Fatherís Hatred
Things have been tough on Sam Fisher since the death of his daughter Sarah prior to the events of Double Agent. He infiltrated a terrorist organization in an operation that ended up saving New York but at unbearable cost: the death of his best friend Lambert by his own hand. On the run from the law and even his former agency, Sam spends the next three years trying to find a reason to live. However, when a group of mercenaries come after him Sam is tipped off on the identity of the man responsible for the death of his daughter: Andre Kobin, a thug-for-hire with a long rap sheet. Infiltrating Kobinís mansion, Sam murders his way through wave after wave of body guards before putting his hand to Kobinís neck. In the ensuing struggle Sam learns a terrifying fact: his daughterís death wasnít an accident.
From there, Sam begins his quest to discover the roots of the conspiracy, one with implications that go far beyond his inner circle. I wonít spoil it for you but the 24-esque story will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the course of the game.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the gameís story is in the focus on the characters rather than the events happening around them. The Splinter Cell franchise has always been about being the man instead of the tool. In this way Splinter Cell has provided plausible geo-political scenarios that let players explore conflicts and the use of cyber warfare. Conviction isnít truly about stopping a conspiracy that threatens Washington D.C.: rather, it is about the franchiseís principle character Sam Fisher. Fisherís character has always been defined by player actions, witty quips, and the occasional emotional dialogue between main characters. This time around the story develops both on the fly and is far more personal than any other Splinter Cell title. This shift isnít dramatic, however; as the change has been coming since the release of Chaos Theory
The cast of supporting characters is a mixed bag, unfortunately. Victor Coste, an old war buddy of Samís and the narrator for the story, comes off as a character that definitely needs to be reoccurring in the next game. Tom Reed, the head of Third Echelon after the death of Lambert, is the gameís main antagonist and is almost cookie-cutter in design. Heck, all that Reed is missing is a sinister laugh. Anna ďGrimĒ Grimmsdottir, the only other reoccurring character in the series save for Sam, serves as your guide and aids him with both intelligence and advice. As good as it is to see Grim return and in a far more prominent role than in any of the previous titles her characterís design and delivery are far different from what is depicted in the previous games and in the novels. Instead of the workaholic yet charming Anna, we get this no-BS, balls to the wall character who seems to want nothing more than save the country at Samís expense. This is understandable given the situation she is in throughout the course of the game but it just doesnít match up with what youíd expect out of her.
Despite some flaws the story is delivered in a very satisfying and emotional way that will have you wanting to return for a second or even third playthrough. The ending is a bit abrupt but it is nothing that precludes the possibility of yet another outing for Sam.
We miss the old stealth gameplay
We welcome one of the best action titles of the year!