Developer: Gameloft
Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad, iPhone 3G

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Splinter Cell Conviction is an iPhone adaptation of the console game of the same name, and tells the story of the series’ long-time protagonist, Sam Fisher, who is out to find out and exact revenge upon the man who killed his daughter. In pursuing this, he winds up entangled in a conspiracy that stretches up to a plot to assassinate the president that he must help to stop. If you’re unfamiliar with the Splinter Cell series’ recent console iterations, you may be expecting a game that is very picky about remaining stealthy, and being unseen. Due to Sam Fisher being a lone wolf working for himself and not a government agent, stealth has shifted from being a necessity to just a weapon, as this is now more of a straightforward action game with cover and stealth elements. You can be careful, and you will likely survive for far longer than if you weren’t careful about remaining hidden, but outside of one section that requires you to stay hidden, you could go running and gunning to your heart’s content as long as you can stay alive. Stealth is merely a weapon to be used in your arsenal.

The game mainly just has you travel through the levels, following the waypoint markers to your next objective. Sometimes you have to look for a way besides a straight path to the objective, but otherwise you won’t have to do much in the way of adventuring, as the waypoints basically hold your hand throughout the game. In fact, this is very much a straightforward, novice friendly game since it is always pointed out where to go and what to do, and what items you have to use in the game. Just about the only advanced technique that gets used is shooting out street lamps for added stealth, which is mentioned once, and then is required in the one part of the game where stealth is necessary. If you had skimmed past that text box in that section of the game, you might get stuck until you realize that you need to shoot out the lamp to advance.

In fact, if the diminished importance of stealth early on in the game doesn’t convince you that this is not your daddy’s stealth-focused game, the first major set change will. You select a couple of weapons and have grenades that you can use, with not even a single indicator that you’re seen or unseen. Finding cover and just staying alive is the goal, and the game starts to resemble a more typical action game than what I had ever expected. But what you expect from a game and what it actually delivers are two vastly different things, and just because a game violates those expectations, it does not mean that it is at all bad.

Despite being more of a typical action game than the Splinter Cell name may lead you to believe, this is still a quality action game, and this reduced emphasis on stealth makes the game be less frustrating about being hidden, and allowing you to enjoy the feeling of being an incredibly powerful killing machine who can not be stopped by anything. The game looks fantastic, and makes use of lighting effects throughout the game. As well, the use of placing the objectives throughout the game on the sides of buildings is a great stylistic choice, making you feel like you are Sam Fisher, an arch-agent who knows what he’s doing at all times, and it’s like he can literally see what he has to do written on the walls.

The controls are another strength to the game, as the game gives you a ton of control over Sam Fisher for a system with no buttons at all. You have an on-screen joystick for movement, and can swipe anywhere else on screen to aim and adjust the camera angle. The bulk of the action controls are handled by a pair of context-sensitive action buttons that adjust their function depending on what you are doing. Typically, you’ll have an attack button available to throw a punch or to shoot your gun, and a button that lets you advance to the nearest cover (marked by an on-screen arrow), but when you near an enemy, they turn into actions to stealthily knock out an enemy and to grab him as a human shield. As well, you occasionally get into situations where you can take out multiple enemies at once, you can press the flashing buttons in order to execute the targeted enemies instantly. The problem with the context sensitive buttons comes when you get into situations like where you might want to take an enemy as a human shield, but you wind up going to cover, and taking damage instead of being protected. Still, the context sensitive buttons keep the interface and controls from being too cluttered and convoluted.

Splinter Cell Conviction’s biggest flaw, though, is that it feels like it’s largely just skimming over what a bigger game on a more traditional gaming system should be doing. The light stealth elements are a testament to this – it feels like it was merely an attempt to appease the idea of stealth gameplay rather than be an honest implementation of it. When you can walk in front of an enemy’s face and still be considered hidden just because you’re in a dim area, you see where the stealth aspects aren’t entirely developed to an advanced degree. You cant even lay flat against walls, which is another major tactical disadvantage. But these are just signs to where the game could and should be more advanced than it is.

But the game’s simplifications are most apparent in the ending of the game, which is about as anticlimatic as you can get. You play a normal gameplay sequence, then a lengthy in-game cutscene plays, and the game is suddenly over without you even realizing that you just played the last sequence of the game. There’s no eventful final boss fight, just a lot of talking and some events happening, and then the game is over. To say that it is unsatisfying is an understatement. It’s hard to tell what exactly happened with the ending, but it leaves a very sour taste to basically end on such an unexpected note. It just shows how this game is at times an attempt at approximation rather than a game of its own merits.

However, to judge the game solely on the merits of it being an adaptation of a console game is not entirely fair to what it is trying to accomplish. This is still a very advanced game for the iPhone, with many high-quality elements that one expects from a $9.99 game on the platform, and even as an adaptation of a game from the modern generation of consoles, it does an admirable job throughout its 5-6 hours of gameplay. The negativity focused on the game is in large part due to its inescapable pedigree, which sets lofty expectations that it must live with as it is the reason for the game’s inception. Splinter Cell Conviction may not live up to what its name might cause you to expect at times, but judged on its own, this is a solid action game with light stealth elements and fantastic graphics.

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