Dear Splinter Cell: Conviction - I Love You, Just Not in THAT Way

samsad copy Splinter Cell: Conviction is exceptionally fun.

I had a blast playing the single-player mode, finding out about Sam Fisher’s latest adventure and the trouble he faced, saving the world and learning about the mystery of his daughter’s death.  It was exciting, well-written and compelling.  In fact, this might have been the most connected emotionally I’ve been to Sam.  Like a TV show or movie series you’ve watched for years, Sam & I had been through a lot together, and as the story unfolded, I was taken along for the ride.  I think Michael Ironside and the writers should be given giant raises for their work throughout the series.

I have a ton of fun playing the multiplayer co-operative modes, both the prologue to Sam’s story and the Deniable Ops, bite-size chunks adventures, featuring new-on-the-scene Archer & Kestrel.

The graphics are good.  The sound is good, other than Michael Ironside’s tinny-sounding voice clips this game.  He normally has such a more commanding voice in these games, in the same vein as James Earl Jones.  It just seems like something is off there (bad mixing, weird recording, etc).

I have always loved the Splinter Cell games, since the demo disc that Toys R Us handed out before the first game’s release nearly ten years ago.  Since playing that, I’ve never seen a game series get my attention or get me so immersed in the gameplay and storytelling as the Splinter Cell franchise. 

I played each of them repeatedly, honing my skills until I could get through each game rarely, if ever, getting detected.  I took pride in my ability to assess a situation and come up with the best possible course of action for either eliminating or avoiding any opposing force.  I don’t know that I’d set any records with my gameplay, but I was proud of my skills. 

This is what Splinter Cell: Conviction takes away from me:  my pride.

Playing Conviction requires a totally different skillset, a “run & gun” style more akin to Gears of War or Rainbow Six (which isn’t such a far stretch, seeing as how Maxime Beland, the game’s Creative Director, came over from the R6V team).  However, in an added twist that neither of those games even have, you can, at most points in the game, see through walls and mark bad guys with a little flag.  At that point, if you’ve earned an “execute token”, you can barge into the room, hit just one button, and automatically shoot and kill anyone you’ve flagged, up to three at a time (four, if you’ve upgraded a particular weapon).

No longer do I have to lurk in the shadows, watch enemy patrol routes, spot weaknesses in their defense and exploit them.  Now, I can just flag a few baddies from another room, bust in and hit the “win button”.

There’s a making-of video on Xbox Live and floating around the internet that has one of the most perplexing quotes I’d ever heard from a developer.  Sean Stanek, the game’s Scripted Events Director, said, “I love the old Splinter Cells, but it was time to kinda do something new.”  Wh…WHAT?  He likes them, so it’s time to change them?  What sort of message does that send to the fans?  “We know you like this… but we don’t care.”

What I hope is that this was a hiccup, a misstep on their adventure to making the next great Splinter Cell game.  While very fun in its own way, it doesn’t fit the genre I’d grown accustomed to and respected for this last third of my life.  Perhaps Ubisoft will see that though there’s no denying a group of gamers who require simpler, easier-to-master experiences, Splinter Cell fans aren’t part of that group.

I am a gamer who enjoys challenge, complexity and critical-thinking in some of my video games.  I understand the casual gamer is an appealing audience as well, and they can have most any other franchise they want.  Just don’t give them my Splinter Cell.