Monday, June 6, 2011

REVIEW- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

*Insert usual babble about not posting*

I probably should have posted a co-op review for Splinter Cell Conviction a long time ago. In any case, I finally finished the single player campaign, so here are my thoughts.

The long version:
The story in Splinter Cell Conviction is... confusing to say the least. You play as Sam Fisher, a former Third Echelon agent. Sam has been in hiding (or something to that effect) after the events of the previous games (note: I haven't played any of the previous Splinter Cell games), when he is contacted by someone from the past, who tells Sam that the death of his daughter wasn't an accident. Sam comes back in order to find and punish the person responsible for killing his daughter. Also, Sam is very very angry, and anybody that gets in the way is really going to suffer. As far as story setups go, I think that SCC (I'm way too lazy to write out Splinter Cell Conviction every time) does pretty well. However, I'm not entirely sure how, but along the way Sam's quest for revenge transforms into a conspiracy story involving a plot to kill the President of the United States. It could just be that I stopped playing for a bit too long (I got to roughly the second last level months ago, and only just finished the game) and forgot the transitions. In any case, the story is intriguing, but definitely not the strong point of SCC. The co-op story takes place immediately before the single player campaign, and has the agents Archer and Kestrel retrieving nuclear warheads.

The strong point of SCC is undoubtedly the gameplay. As far as stealth games go, SCC is almost perfect. Sam (or Archer/Kestrel, if you're playing the co-op story) moves fluidly, is practically a monkey when it comes to climbing up/over/around things. One minor problem I have with the game is its darkness mechanic. As it's a stealth game, it's very important to know when you're in the shadows (and therefore invisible to enemies), and SCC does this by having the game fade to black and white when you're in the dark. While this works reasonably well, it does sometimes make things difficult to see, and since the point of the game is stealth, it's disappointing to spend so much of a nice looking game in faded out black and white. Again, this is just a small detail, and overall SCC is really fun to play. Playing the game makes you feel like you really are a super agent, as you singlehandedly (or double-handedly in co-op) creep through a room and methodically wipe out all your enemies without alerting them to your presence. It's absolutely incredible, and I really wish more stealth games played like this. Hopefully there will be future Splinter Cell games that keep this style of gameplay. The game also plays reasonably well as a third person cover based shooter, though some weapon scopes are unwieldy to aim quickly.

However, there are some issues. Probably the biggest issue with the gameplay is that you're unable to move bodies. As I understand, this was a pretty important ability that Sam had in the previous Splinter Cell games, so it's somewhat baffling that he is suddenly unable to drag a dead body into the darkness in this game. This problem can be avoided by holding B to use an enemy as a human shield instead of killing them, and this option is silent and allows you to move the enemy into the shadows before killing them, though there is always a risk that you'll be seen while taking the enemy hostage. Overall, this isn't a huge deal, it's just strange that the option isn't provided. Another minor issue is that the A button is context sensitive, and if you're not careful you could end up opening a door when you meant to turn out the lights, or jumping through a window when you wanted to open it, etc. The mark and execute function can occasionally be a bit over-powered (between mark and execute and remote mines, it's very easy to wipe out large groups of enemies at once), but forcing the player to perform hand-to-hand kills in order to be able to execute makes it a nice reward on the harder levels. On the easier levels, a player can always choose to not use the function for some added challenge.

The few bigger problems in SCC aren't directly related to gameplay, or at least, not the stealth gameplay. There are some AI issues when the player is detected or alerts the enemies to his presence. It's common for an enemy to notice a body that you just left, and then rush into the dark to stand next to it for a few seconds, giving you every reason to kill the new enemy (if you don't, then usually enemies will start using flashlights while patrolling, making your job harder). But then, another enemy will notice the pile of bodies and also run in, and so on. Similarly, if you get detected, enemies will rush towards your position, making it very easy for you to either stand next to a door they have to go through and systematically melee each enemy to death, or wait on the other end of a corridor with a machine gun and mow them down as they approach. There's not much that can be done (aside from playing perfectly) to avoid this, I just reload the last checkpoint when it does happen.

This also ties in to when the game has portions that you simply aren't meant to do stealthily. In the later parts of the game you'll encounter enemies that have the same equipment that you do (most importantly, the sonar that allows you to detect enemies through walls), and fighting them stealthily just doesn't seem to work. Using the sonar, they can instantly detect where you are, so by that point you're better off just taking cover and mowing them down. The last mission was also extremely irksome in this regard. When the mission starts with you blowing up a gate by shooting an oil truck, that doesn't bode well for playing stealthily. The entire last mission plays more like a bland third person shooter, with you advancing through mostly lit (and lit with lights that you can't shoot out too) linear corridors lined with chest high walls, eliminating enemies as they approach. Combined with the poor AI, this just wasn't fun. And there wasn't anything I could do about it. There was nowhere for me to hide and sneak around, my only option was to take cover and fire away.

Finally, there is a minor issue with the gun selection. There's a large variety of guns for you to collect throughout the course of the campaign and the co-op campaign, but only about half of them can have silencers. When you're playing a stealth game, having a silenced gun is vital to staying stealthy. Thankfully, the default weapon in both campaigns is a silenced pistol, and pistols have infinite ammo, so this never really causes any problems. Also, guns unlocked and upgrades bought carry over from the single player to the co-op campaign. This combined with the fact that only a few unsilenced weapons are unlocked in the co-op campaign means that local co-op games will typically either have one player with significantly better weapons than the other player, or both players will be playing through the entire campaign with just the default pistol. Again, since the pistols have infinite ammo, this is really just a minor annoyance.

Short and simple:
Though things break down a bit on the non-stealth sections of the game, Splinter Cell Conviction is still an incredible game, and as a whole the stealth gameplay is nearly perfect.
Pros: Makes the player feel like a ninja.
Cons: The game isn't as fun when you're not being stealthy. The gameplay still works well enough, but there are other better games to play if you want to play a third person shooter.

My 'Score': 7 (most enemies killed at once in the campaign, using a mixture of remote mines and the mark and execute ability)

No comments:

Post a Comment