It’s been three years since the death of your daughter. Where are you? You’re sitting in a quaint little bistro in Malta, enjoying a latte, trying to put everything behind you. You are, for all intents and purpose, retired from the business. But something is not right. The phone rings. It’s her, an old friend, but she hasn’t been much of a friend these days. Looks like they found you, and they don’t seem pleased to see you. You need to move and get to the bottom of this.
In Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, you play as series protagonist Sam Fisher. Years after parting ways with US espionage organisation Third Echelon, Sam finds himself once again entangled in government secrets, conspiracy theories, and shadowy figures, all with one thing in common: him. You quickly discover that everything you’ve been told is a lie, and reports of your daughter’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Sam and his daughter have been nothing but pawns in a much bigger game. With nothing holding you back, no superiors to report to, no duty to man or country, it’s time to end this, once and for all.
In this third person stealth action game, the “stealth” itself is just a suggestion. You can easily go into any situation with the myriad of guns at your disposal, drawn and ready for a firefight. Close combat kills get you the ability to mark and execute a number of targets in a very deadly and efficient way. However, the Splinter Cell series has been known for all the methodical ways a player can dispatch his adversaries. Hiding and waiting in the shadows for the right opportunity to strike or not strike as the case may be. Your enemies will never see you coming thanks to the environmental visual indicator. The colour of your surroundings will change depending on your visibility. When undetectable, your environment turns black and white. When seen by guards or lights, you become lit up like a Christmas Tree. If this happens, your silhouette is left behind displaying your last known position. This sounds like a bad thing, but you can use this information to your advantage. As forces move towards where they think you are, you can manoeuvre around them and get upper hand.
The art direction and setting are very reminiscent of the spy fiction thriller genre the game is trying to invoke in the likes of The Bourne Identity. One of the highlights of the presentation is the creative use of scenery to display everything from mission objectives to Sam’s inner monologue or thoughts. This effect is a perfect melding of form and function. The soundtrack is a mix of low key orchestral scores that build with tension thanks to the generous use of synth and percussive beats at just the right moments.
As a standalone experience, Splinter Cell: Conviction delivers what the series has been lacking: fast paced action, but more importantly closure. This latest entry is easily the best in the series in terms of storytelling and gameplay. Add to that a slew of competitive and cooperative modes, including a fully realised cooperative prologue to the main story, and you have one of the best games to come out this year. For fans, this is a must buy. For those who have soured on the series, this is a great return of a beloved franchise, and is worth a shot. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction is available now on the Xbox 360.