Splinter Cell: Conviction - Gameplay Performance and IQ

We look at performance in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction using four of the hottest video cards on the market. Come with us as we see if Sam Fisher still has what it takes to make our high-end video cards wish they were never born, or if today's GPUs leave Splinter Cell out in the cold.

The Video Cards

For this gameplay evaluation, we will be looking at Splinter Cell: Conviction using four video cards. From AMD, we will be using the ATI Radeon HD 5870 and the Radeon HD 5850. And from NVIDIA, we have the new Fermi-based video cards, the GeForce GTX 480 and the GeForce GTX 470.


Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction is the fifth episode in the saga chronicling Sam Fisher’s exploits for the fictional government organization "Third Echelon." It was released in April 2010 by Ubisoft Montreal, which is one of the largest video game studios in the world, with about 1800 employees. Ubisoft Montreal has been responsible for numerous Tom Clancy branded games, including Rainbow Six: Vegas, Vegas 2, and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. The Xbox 360 of Splinter Cell: Conviction has earned generally positive reviews and a Metascore user average of 7.7, while the PC version scored just 5.4 due to bugs, connectivity issues, and its controversial DRM scheme.

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Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

This new entry into the Splinter Cell franchise picks up where Double Agent left off. Sam is on the run from his employer, Third Echelon, and from numerous thugs and mercenaries. The original concept for Splinter Cell: Conviction borrowed heavily from the Bourne Identity films, but the game was apparently re-imagined, as the release date was pushed back by more than two years. The game that eventually launched is something of a departure from the older games in the series. Conviction places less emphasis on stealth and more on action, in an apparent attempt to make the game more accessible than previous Sam Fisher games.

Conviction introduces new gameplay features like "Last Known Position" and "Mark & Execute." The "Last Known Position" feature is triggered when Sam breaks line-of-sight with enemy combatants. A ghost-like silhouette appears at the last place in which Sam was observed by an enemy, allowing players to maneuver to achieve a tactical advantage. The "Mark & Execute" feature is triggered after Sam kills an enemy hand-to-hand. It then allows Sam to mark enemies and kill them all in a single keystroke. The number of enemies that can be marked depends on the weapon that Sam uses, with upgraded weapons allowing more marked kills.

The Technology

Splinter Cell: Conviction is based upon the LEAD engine, which is a heavily modified and modernized version of the Unreal Engine 2.5, which powered Splinter Cell: Double Agent. It is a DirectX 9 only engine, containing no features that are exclusive to DirectX 10, 10.1, or 11. As much as it has been modified, there is not a great deal of information about it. We know from a brief Q&A at PC Games Hardware that it offers fully dynamic lighting, fully dynamic environments and objects, ambient occlusion, and a destructible environment. Beyond that, there are no details about specifically what parts of the engine were modified.

The Story