by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
Panther Is On the Move
What we have in our hands is an action title among action titles. This comes at the cost of the seriesí coveted stealth mechanics, as the game truly emphasizes confronting the enemy rather than sneaking through the environment. The developers of Conviction say that they think of Sam as a panther who strikes as quietly as it is fast and with no mercy whatsoever. This probably couldnít be better put.
If you can get past the mindset of sneaking, you get a solid third person shooter that stresses melee combat. The kind of brutality that players are able to inflict upon the enemy is that of which Hollywood only wishes could be put on the silver screen. One such memorable sequence involves Sam snapping the leg of an opponent and throwing him to the ground before putting a bullet in his chest and head. The moderated brutality of the game is almost awe-inspiring and in a completely different league than games like God of War where gore is always the answer.
Another brutality highlight are the interrogation sequences you will come across every now and then. Throughout the course of the game Sam comes across certain characters that, shall we say, need to be persuaded to give him the information he requires. These sequences are a limited sandbox environment in which Sam carries his enemies by the neck and can ďintroduceĒ them to various objects in the environment. The environmental actions are completely optional though you will find yourself being drawn to various items just to see what happens. Some of the highlights present include forcing a manís head into a paper shredder, introducing them to a urinal face first and even showing them exactly how hot the stove is with the side of their heads. Itís vicious, sure, but very entertaining. Just keep your children out of the room when you do these things.
While the stealth mechanics have been significantly reduced the gunplay has been greatly improved in comparison to previous titles. While you always knew that there would come sequences in the other games in the franchise that would force you to face off against a wave of enemies, Conviction is specifically set up for kill-them-all-and-move-on gameplay. More often than not youíll find yourself in a room with five different bad guys youíll have to kill them all in order to proceed. Thanks to solid shooting mechanics (though accompanied by a slightly awkward control scheme) this usually isnít a problem.
To make up for the lack of stealth, Ubisoft has added a feature that aids players in avoiding detection should you need to get away from your enemies. Utilizing what is called the Last Known Position system, if you break the enemyís line of sight, a silhouette of Sam appears where the enemy last saw Sam and they will focus their fire on that position. This continues until either the enemy finds you again or they discover that you are not where they thought you were. The enemy doesnít return to normal patrol patterns after you are out of sight for a while; if they lose track of you they will continue to search the area until you leave or you kill them all. This feature is very well designed and definitely useful in large environments full of hostiles.
One of the key ingredients in the gunplay recipe is the new Mark and Execute mechanic, though it is hardly new to the Clancy franchise. Simply put, upon executing a melee attack on an enemy the player is granted the ability to mark enemies and objects in the environment in a way similar to what was utilized in both Rainbow Six Vegas titles. Samís marking ability is only limited by the stats of the weapon being utilized (though these can be upgraded). With the press of a button Sam goes into an automated state in which he gets a kill shot on all the marked enemies within just a few seconds. The mechanic can become a crutch later on in the game, as it becomes a little more linear and almost forces you to take out all enemies but itís certainly a welcome addition to the series.
One thing you can count on when playing a Splinter Cell title are gadgets and high tech weapons and believe me when I say you have quite a few to choose from. At various weapon stashes Sam will find a collection of weapons, including pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and various other accoutrements. These stations also provide complete refills of ammo and gadgets. The Clancy franchiseís almost prerequisite Persistent Elite Creation system is back and once again youíll find yourself completing challenges in order to earn points that can be spent on upgrading weapons and gadgets present in the game. The difficulty of these challenges vary but most of these can be completed in either mode and really serve the replayability of the game.
We miss the old stealth gameplay
We welcome one of the best action titles of the year!