The Splinter Cell series gets an adrenaline shot with Conviction and we love the new combat-focused gameplay.
CONVICTION is the fifth game in the long-running Splinter Cell stealth action game series and it picks up few years after the events of the last game with Sam Fisher looking for answers behind his daughter's sudden death.
Having gone rogue, Sam's now a loose canon on the run from his former employers at Third Echelon. A man with nothing to lose, Sam focuses solely on tracking down his daughter's killer as he picks up a fresh trail in Malta.
Unfortunately for Sam, things aren't so simple as he gets called back to action to resolve a major terrorist threat.
Hide or die
The main campaign takes Sam through a variety of locales but the game centres largely around the greater Washington D.C. area. There a few nicely designed outdoor missions that really show off how well integrated the levels are with the game's smart artificial intelligence (AI).
It's like playing a deadly game of hide and seek with the loser earning a bullet through the forehead.
The enemies in Conviction are definitely much smarter this time round. Though they still patrol areas in an orderly predictable fashion, the AI really shows its smarts when its alerted of your presence.
Enemies will home on your last known position, shown by a ghostly white silhouette, sweeping the area throughly. Being detected isn't necessarily a bad thing however, as you can flank enemies as they sweep an area and you can take them down slowly from the rear.
Interestingly, Conviction's AI enemies are smart enough not to walk into a dark room where you can ambush them, preferring to draw you out into the open.
A different beast
Conviction plays very differently from past Splinter Cell games. For one, the game is more action-oriented and has a faster pace, and replaces the trial and error ways of the old games with more aggressive combat.
The gameplay feels similar to last year's Batman: Arkham Asylum, where you're more of a hunter stalking your prey rather than an infiltrator. The main difference is of course, Sam has no qualms killing his foes and does so with deadly efficiency.
While there is a stronger emphasis on action and gunplay, you still need to use stealth and the element of surprise to dispatch foes.
Like in previous games, Sam is invisible to enemies under the cover of darkness, rendering the world black and white. However, enemies in the game present more of a challenge now as they carry flashlights and can see you skulking in the dark.
In a way the game is like a puzzle where you've got to figure out how best to tackle a situation. But should things get rough, you can take comfort in knowing that old Sam has a few new tricks up his sleeves.
New to the game is the "Mark and Execute" feature, which lets Sam mark the enemies he sees and line them up for several quick shots when they are in view. As efficient as the move is, the system balances out by requiring Sam to kill an enemy using stealth before being able to perform another round of execution moves.
Sam's also got a pretty sizable arsenal of weapons ranging from silenced pistols to submachine guns and assault rifles at his disposal that he can upgrade using points earned by completing challenges in the game.
While it isn't as customisable as Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer mode, you can increase a weapon's damage, accuracy and number of marks it can target.
Like in the previous games, you're given some high-tech gadgetry to aid you in your fight. Series staples such as the snake cam for peeking under doors and sticky camera make a return. However the sticky remote cams have new added features such as "sounding off" to distract enemies and the ability to remotely detonate.
You'll also get to play with new toys like EMP grenades and EMP pulse generators to temporarily knock out power supplies while you sneak around enemies.
Gone however are Sam's trademark night vision goggles - instead he gets a pair of improved Sonar goggles that allow him to see in the dark and through walls to detect approaching enemies.
Two is better than one
To be honest, Conviction's campaign length doesn't feel as long as previous Splinter Cell games. On the normal difficulty setting most gamers can coast through the early parts of the game without much difficulty.
However the game's difficulty does ramp up towards the end of the game as tougher enemies in body armour hunt you down.
All in all, the game length varies between six to eight hours depending on the difficulty setting.
Once you're done playing the single-player mode, there's the multiplayer co-op mode to dive into. The co-op mode actually has a separate back story that takes place before the events in the main game.
Here you and a friend can take on the roles of Third Echelon agent Archer or Russian Voron agent Ketrel, who are working together to uncover a plot involving terrorists and missing weapons of mass destruction.
There are plenty of options to play with friends - both online over Xbox Live or offline using splitscreen or system link - so there's absolutely no excuse why you can't play with another person.
Like most games, throwing in another player into the mix multiplies the fun you have.
Though the story is shorter than the main game (clocking just over two hours), co-op mode delivers a more engaging and interesting experience where you have to work together to co-ordinate attacks and help each other out when the going gets tough.
There are three modes of play that you can tackle together with a friend: Hunter is a straight-up locate and kill mode that has you sneaking around a map killing a set number of guards on patrol. Goof up here and the guards will call in reinforcements, making the game more difficult.
Infiltration on the other hand requires players to be absolutely silent and stealthy, once you're spotted it's game over.
Finally, Last Stand serves as the game's obligatory "Horde mode" where you need to defend an EMP device from continuous waves of incoming enemies.
That said, the only competitive game type in Conviction is Face-Off where two players are thrown into one of the maps and tasked with taking down both AI controlled guards as well as each other.
Splinter Cell: Conviction marks an evolution for the long running stealth series, reinventing much of the game's core mechanics.
The game now flows much faster and is more exciting as the focus on combat take-downs is a stark contrast to the slow gameplay of the past. However, the delivery still isn't quite up to par with most modern games.
Disappointly, the game isn't too challenging for the seasoned gamer. A good half of the game will pass you by once you've learned the basic game mechanics.
By far, Conviction's co-op is where you will get the most enjoyment out of the game. Playing with a buddy and executing cool manoeuvres is much more rewarding than playing by yourself.
If you are a long time fan of the series, Conviction will be an enjoyable experience that surpasses previous games in the series. However, as a stealth game on its own, Conviction lacks the challenge of the older games.
Still it is worth a look if you are tired from playing generic first-person shooters and want a change in pace.
Pros: Faster, combat-focused action; cool Mark and Execute feature; awesome co-operative mode.
Cons: Not as challenging as past games; shorter single-player campaign.