New mechanics like Mark and Execute allow Sam to move through the environment faster than ever before, dispatching enemies with brutal efficiency. Thus enters the unfortunate duality of Conviction--you feel like an ultimate badass, which makes the game too easy.
To its credit, the game's pacing is excellent. It moves along at breakneck speeds, encouraging single-sitting playthroughs. There just isn't any tension because the player is so deadly. The AI seems purposefully dumb to make the "Last Known Position" mechanic work--enemies will continually fire upon the last place they saw the player allowing you to flank. In many cases, getting seen is actually beneficial as it draws enemies to your last position.
Gadgets are barely necessary and one gadget that Sam acquires midway through the game allows you to spot enemies behind walls, marking them as targets to execute. There's no guess work and gadgets like the series-classic remote camera are next to useless in this new world of Sam Fisher and his wallhacking.
The main campaign is a bit on the short side, but is enjoyable and full of the franchise-required plot twists. Even on the hardest difficulty, the game is too easy. There are only two missions where getting spotted results in failure and these stealth portions don't even last for the entirety of these two levels.
A mini co-op campaign is included, which puts you and a buddy in the shoes of two spies, Archer and Kestrel, as they attempt to track down the EMPs that Sam will eventually be trying to recover in the main game. Both spies are as capable as Sam and better equipped. Co-op is satisfying, but the ease of the game transfers over. You can power through most missions without worrying about any coordination. Both Archer and Kestrel play exactly like Sam, which takes away some of meaning behind Sam's new predatory tactics.
The series' unique Spies vs. Mercenaries multiplayer component has been axed in favor of a few co-op modes and a single adversarial mode. All are fun, but are just more of the same gameplay. Weapons can be found and upgraded across all of the game modes, but you won't need anything more than a silenced pistol to get through the entire game.
At the end of the day, Splinter Cell: Conviction is a solid game. It's an enjoyable ride and the gameplay is extremely satisfying. While the change-of-pace from slow and methodical stealth to fast and predatory stealth was a necessary evolution, the lack of a challenge hurts the experience. Fans of the series will have fun, but probably miss the old-style of gameplay.
This review was conducted on the Xbox 360 version of the game. Splinter Cell: Conviction is available now in the US on the Xbox 360 (Europe: April 15th). The PC version will be released on April 27th.