In between our single-player runs of amazing titles like Just Cause 2 and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, my pear-shaped comrade and I have found time to enjoy each other's company while we snap necks and turn out lights with deadly force in Splinter Cell: Conviction on the XBOX 360. A formal review of the solo campaign is inevitably forthcoming, but this'll have to do for now: "game's pretty fun."
The four-chapter co-op campaign serves as a prequel to the solo campaign, with players playing the role of two Agents, Archer (American, working for Third Echelon) and Kestrel (Russian, working for Voron). Gameplay in SC:C's co-op campaign is nigh-identical to its single-player counterpart, its stealth-action sequences bookended by weapon-stash checkpoints and co-op objectives that force both players to join up. Technically, one player could blast through the stealth-action sequence and wait at the checkpoint for his buddy -- the co-op maneuvers offered by previous Splinter Cell games have been stripped away for a more streamlined experience -- but where's the fun in that?
Even without specific co-op maneuvers, there's still plenty of opportunities for players to help each other out. If two targets are in each other's line-of-sight, both players can sneak up behind their targets and simultaneously choke-hold them before the other target gets a chance to radio for backup. Both players have a separate bank of Mark-and-Execute tokens, as well; if either player melee-kills an enemy, both players' tokens are replenished, and players can execute each other's marks. By flanking a large room from two entrance points and splitting up, each player has a different angle of attack and enemies visible on sonar. Since a fully-upgraded Five-Seven allows for up to four marks, a well-coordinated duo could drop eight targets with a single press of a button.
Screwing up in SC:C's co-op campaign isn't the end of the world, either. While setting off an alarm in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory's co-op campaign meant guards donned body armor and whipped out their biggest guns, in SC:C it mostly just a few more guards come in and everyone's more alert, and results in a lower score at the end of the campaign. It's definitely easier to get through a level when players avoid detection entirely, though.
Ultimately, SC:C's co-op campaign is as entertaining as two players are willing to make it. While a team could play the game by sending one player in guns blazing until he reaches the checkpoint and waits for his buddy to catch up, the real thrill comes from infiltrating a room together, silently snapping the necks of every guard inside and reaching the next area without setting off any alarms. If you have a co-op buddy and you've been looking to scratch that stealth-action itch together, SC:C is the game for you.
Until Peace Walker drops, at least.