Monday, April 26, 2010

Splinter Cell: Conviction (Impressions and Review Notes)

I played Splinter Cell: Convicion (360 version) for about an hour, courtesy of Gamefly--maybe a little more than an hour, but certainly not two.

It's highly polished, but it wasn't my kind of game. I've increasingly turned away from "the kill is the thrill" genre, and the Splinter Cell franchise has turned substantially in that direction. Stealth has been replaced with hyper-violence, including a macabre combo where after you murder someone in hand-to-hand combat, you then get to mark targets for execution, and on your command, your character disposes of them (complete with brain matter splatter--doesn't anyone get shot in the heart anymore?). You also get to interrogate suspects by finding objects in the environment and smashing their faces against them until they beg for mercy and give you information.

Non-lethal actions? Sorry, you must be in the wrong game.

Is it cool? Yes, there's certainly an element of cool, and quite a lot of bad-assery. The subtitle of this game should be I've Got Big Balls And I'm Swinging Them As Fast As I Can.

Is it grisly? Yes, it is, to the point where I actually felt a little uncomfortable.

The presentation is hyper-stylized (everyting about this game is "hyper'). Your objectives are written in gigantic letters on the environment, which is designer-speak for "THIS IS FU*KING COOL." And it is cool, and it is in your face, but I didn't really want something in my face, thanks very much.

Far less interesting than my own reactions to this game, though, are the reactions of the reviewers, particularly in regards to one issue.

Splinter Cell: Conviction has a short single-player campaign. Very short. Estimates of time to completion are generally in the 5-8 hour range.

In other words, if you buy the game for the single-player campaign only, you're getting what can only be described as terrible value for your money. And any review of the game should include a prominent mention about the campaign length, because reviews are all about whether you should spend your money to buy the game, and this could seriously affect your decision.

With that in mind, let's look at some reviews--or, more specifically, what mention they give to the single-player campaign length. Every mention. The number in parenthesis is the rating given by the review, translated into Metacritic's 1-100 scale.

Gamepro (100): These segments, including an exciting on-foot chase sequence, help keep the game fresh throughout the eight-hour experience...

While the single-player of Conviction might not scratch every itch fans of the franchise have...
I'll give you a preview: most review sites are bending over backwards not to criticize the length of the campaign. Instead, they use obtuse wording like Gamepro--"might not scratch every itch."

The Escapist (100): Not a single word.

IGN (93): The campaign is a brisk and enjoyable five-hour experience...While the single-player campaign won't take long to beat, even on Realistic difficulty, it's just one piece of the larger package...The single-player and co-op campaigns are short, but there's a lot of other things to do.

1UP (91): might feel a little bit cheated if you pay full retail price for the game. Even with the multiplayer thrown in, you can expect to go through almost everything in the game once in well under ten hours..., while the game is very well put together, it's also over all-too-quickly; experienced gamers can probably expect the single-player campaign to last about five to six hours. That would be perfect for an episodic game or a budget-priced downloadable title, but no matter how high the production values, $60 for such a short experience feels a bit overpriced...Conviction's stylish presentation and intuitive cover mechanics prove that Ubisoft can make a highly polished product, but for the amount of game you get, the price seems sorely inflated.

That's certainly not obtuse. And I think it's entirely appropriate to give the game a high score, but warn people about the length.

Game Informer (90): Conviction’s single-player campaign is a finely crafted thrill ride... 

I think that's code for "really short," but that's the only mention, however vague, of length.

Edge (80): Nothing.

Gamespot (80): ...given the ease of the short six-hour campaign--seven, perhaps, if you prefer silence to stridence...Brief campaign doesn't offer much challenge.

Eurogamer (70): By the end of the short single-player campaign...

That's right--one word: "short." That's quite a disappointment from Eurogamer, because I think their reviews are generally excellent.

Please note that I didn't cherry-pick these reviews; I tried to select major sites only. It amazes me that of all these prominent sites, only 1UP actually mentions the issue in any real detail. And since this is such a high-profile game, these weren't short reviews--there was time to mention everything else, seemingly.


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