Monday, 19 April 2010

Bittersweet Symphony

As a preface I must clarify that I applaud developers for trying out new things, however so long as these "new things" work. By "work" I mean that they either fit the franchise or genre they are inserted into, or that they don't impede on the games overall transmission of fun, and in Splinter Cell: Convictions case, Ubisoft Montreal (the team behind the good ones) are massively guilty of ignoring the former.

This isn't Splinter Cell as you may know it.

To an outsider like myself it appears the team in Montreal sat down together during a pivotal moment in Convictions publicly troubled development cycle and watched the Bourne trilogy with their pants off. During this seminal moment they came so hard whilst watching Matt Damon that they decided to forgo all inroads the previous Splinter Cells had made into the stealth genre and made... an action game. Sam Fisher no longer asks questions, he no longer dispatches enemies from the shadows with a disabling blow to the head, he whips out a pistol an tears shit up. For all intensive purposes they may as well have called it Jason Bourne: Conviction.

After killing someone with your bear hands, you then get the ability to mark a bunch of enemies. Do you get excited in films when the protagonist enters a room only to dispatch 10 guys with a single, concise bullet to the brain? Well if you do you're going to love conviction. As much as it often feels like cheating there is no denying the mark and execute mechanic empowers the player and makes you feel like Jack Bauer's illegitimate son. This is the perfect example of everything wrong about the game, although at times it may be heaps of fun, it is not what it says on the cover, it is not Splinter Cell.

See this is one example from a long list of the changes made to conviction. You no longer need to sneak around. You no longer have to shoot out lights. You no longer have to move bodies. And while on paper these changes sound like good things, which in many ways they are, they are equally something completely different to Splinter Cells ethos. They are like putting jelly in a kebab, completely wrong.

As much as I wanted to love Conviction, and as much as I enjoyed it, I will not call it Splinter Cell.

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