Right now, you’ve got two factions of Splinter Cell: Conviction “fans”: Folks on message boards prematurely bashing it for “trying to be Modern Warfare 2,” and thus “not Splinter Cell” enough. And people like me, who called it their most anticipated game of the year precisely because it didn’t look like a typical Splinter Cell game. Looks like we all get to be wrong. Because much like the details of Sam Fisher’s daughter’s death, you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.
Above: Less of this than you'd think
Personally, I was happy to see Splinter Cell deviate from the “Wait, wait, hide a body, wait some more” formula. While the series wowed initially with impressive visuals and realistic AI, the annual gameplay had grown a bit dull and lifeless, brought down by the weight of conspiratorial portent it so desperately wanted us to care about, it assumed we’d restart failed missions several billion times just to sit through more of it.
Above: Some nasty surprises await!
In that respect, things have changed for the better. Literally projecting Sam Fisher’s motivation on the walls rings true as a welcome new method through which games, like BioShock and Half-Life, unspool a narrative while you play, and not while you watch. However, we were all a bit misled to believe this was all part of a much larger change for the series. And this is where Conviction will get extremely divisive.
Above: Corridors of guys to kill - get used to it
You Splinter Cell purists bitching up a storm on the web: We see you. “You can’t hide bodies? WTFAIL!!1!” Okay… I suppose hiding the remains of your dead adds an element of realism. Thing is, we’ve never found the realistic aspects all that fun to play, so I missed stashing cadavers about as much as I yearn for more crate puzzles in a Tomb Raider game. After all, the last thing I want to in a game is clean up after myself (I recommend the whiners try The Sims.)
Above: Projected objectives and flashbacks leave out some cutscenes altogether
Things have been streamlined, thankfully. And while you can commend the developers for emphasizing the “action” in “stealth action game,” frankly, it’s not enough after Batman: Arkham Asylum kicked our collective asses with what being a cunning creature of the shadows should actually feel like in modern gaming. While the comparison isn’t entirely fair, one can’t deny that both should share the same goals, approach and intended appeal. Sam Fisher is pretty much Batman… if he were much slower, sucked at close-quarters combat, and all his dope ass gadgets were replaced with upgradable guns.
Above: Instead of a of stealh meter, the whole game turns black and white when you're concealed. Making the rare moments of light and color feel sort of like this: