Ubisoft is preparing to launch Splinter Cell Conviction on the Xbox 360 this spring. As much as I love the series, I just can’t fathom them topping the instant classic that was Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Some would argue that there isn’t a competition between the two, but with so many similarities between the the two storied franchises I beg to differ. My argument is simple: Splinter Cell Conviction either you have to go big or go home.
My love affair with Sam Fischer has been a long time in the making. He’s a man’s man, who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Not the bad guys, not even his boss, Third Echelon. We all met Sam during his debut in the original Splinter Cell for the Xbox way back in 2002. At the time it was a breath of fresh air for fans of action/espionage titles as gamers still had a sour face from the complete 180 that occurred while playing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as Raiden. The games pacing was quite different, and had an even stronger emphasis on stealth than it’s Japanese equivalent.
Following it’s debut, the Splinter Cell franchise seemed like a fine wine, as it only got better and better with age. Each title that followed surpassed the previous in story, features, graphics, gameplay, and replayabilty. The team at Ubisoft has been on fire for almost a decade now. Although, their nemesis at Konami had also been hard at work too. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, was a huge success both with critics and gamers alike. It’s story was so powerful (let’s not even talk about the ending as my eyes will begin to water) that it was the first time that I can recall truly connecting to the character on screen in a non-RPG game.
That title was the perfect motivation for Ubisoft to take Sam Fischer and turn him into the tortured soul you see in Splinter Cell: Double Agent. With his family taken for him, he is a man fueled by anger and revenge. Through an innovative moral decision system the game kept you enthralled throughout, as you were constantly trying to keep somewhat of a balance between the NSA and the JBA without leaning too much in either direction. The game was well received and somewhat of a treat considering it came nice and early into the 360’s life cycle.
Then came 4. As is Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The proverbial 500 pound gorilla in the room. To put things in perspective, if you recall (and many gamers in denial won’t as they all get amnesia when it’s something they do not want to hear) following the launch of MGS4, Ubisoft had scrapped, COMPLETELY SCRAPPED, Splinter Cell Conviction development, indefinitely. Obviously it wasn’t for too long, as the title is just around the corner in 2010. It’s just the fact that they went to such lengths in utter fear that has me worried about Conviction. It’s not about exlusivity, as I own both consoles and am unnafected by that, it’s simply the lack of confidence that Ubisoft has in their title. Many large titles in this current generation have a production cycle any where from 8 months to 2 years and that makes wonder whether Ubisoft simply held off because they felt they couldn’t top Konami, and are waiting until people have MGS4 out of sight and out of mind before hitting us all with Conviction, the same Conviction that was planned originally.
I know that many will argue about MGS4’s lack of actual gameplay, as at least half of the game is cut-scenes, but it’s still hands down the best stealth/espionage game I have ever played. Kojima took the genre to new heights that may be just out of reach in this current generation. I have been getting more and more excited about Splinter Cell Conviction, as I miss playing as old reliable Sam Fisher. The news about the co-cop 6 hour prologue sounds incredible, but as I stated earlier this game better go big or go home, as the competition is now fierce. Anything short of incredible will be a letdown, and have gamers (360 gamers especially) left waiting for Metal Gear Rising.