With SCC less than a week away I thought I would publish my thoughts of the demo. I want to start out by saying that I have never been the biggest fan of action/stealth games, but for some reason always end up buying the latest SC or MGS game without really thinking about the likelihood I will get frustrated within the first couple of hours and never touch the game again. Going into this demo I didn't have high expectations except for a punishingly difficult check-point-rez-fest, but what I found was a huge overhaul to the game mechanics that focused more on action and less on stealth. In fact, I couldn't believe this was the new direction Splinter Cell had taken. And I like it.
Gameplay The demo comes in 3 different flavors of rookie, normal, and realistic and technically gives you 2 levels. The first of which explores the interrogation aspect which is basically a series of gruesome actions that vary depending on your surroundings. It feels good to smash someones face through a urinal or bathroom door and is an entertaining way of progressing the story. The second level is where we begin to see the meat of the game.
Initially you are forced to use cover, hand kill, and mark & execute, but once this sequence is done you're free to kill or evade the rest of the enemy forces as you please. The game play differences are few but noticeable. The controls are streamlined for on the fly game play with only 1 type of vision in the form of sonar and item and weapon swapping mapped to the d pad which frees up your bumpers for crouching and marking and your face buttons for gadget usage(X), executions(Y), actions(A), and CQC attack(B). It doesn't take long to get used to the controls and they are 100% less convoluted than SC D.A. That being said, die hard stealth fans may find certain changes to be disappointing. Sam no longer has his whistle and stealth walking is broken down to one speed, which, from what I have experienced removes movement noise as an enemy alerting factor. Having played through the demo 20 plus times, I have pretty much exploited every possible scenario from mowing down guys gears of war style, carefully sneaking my way in and killing everyone without being seen, and even getting through the entire second level without killing anyone after the first required kills.
I found the realistic difficulty to be way too easy considering previous installments of the series, but I'm sure the full version will offer more of a challenge. The gadgets are pretty standard affair, with frag grenades, flashbangs, emp grenades, and sticky cams. The new gadget would be the portable emp which may sound redundant considering you have grenades of the same nature, but it seems too have a wider AoE versus the grenade which seems to offer longer effect for a smaller area. The sonar goggles are extremely useful but also have the off putting feature of highlighting anything you can shoot or pick up which kind of feels like a forced handicap when all I really wanted was for it to give me a vague 3D imaging of my surroundings. The action button IMO is far superior to the previous acrobatic/jump button and my only real gripe with it is that some times multiple objects with which you can interact are piled together, and I have infrequently found myself unintentionally swapping guns while trying to scale a pipe or railing.
There are 4 guns featured in the demo, Sam's default silenced gun and mp5; and the m500 shotgun, and another assault rifle which must be taken from enemies. Gun play feels good with whichever weapon you choose, all of which offer a zoom mode but depending on the gun equipped, the number of enemies you can execute varies. Of course the only weapon you can use while hanging is you pistol, but that is to be expected. My personal favorite is the m500 because it has insane mid-range one shot kill accuracy which is tons of fun. The last new game play feature would have to be last know position. It is a useful tool that can be essential for getting out of shitty situations, and given the layout of the demo level, you get a strong sense that you are supposed to be seen just for the sake of sneaking around and getting the stealth kill or just avoiding entire confrontations all together.My overall impression is that they retooled the game to make it enticing to a broader audience. I have no doubt in my mind that this game will alienate some of it's most devoted fans, but I think in the long run SCC is a step in the right direction and a refreshing experience for any open minded action gamers.
Story The Demo gives a small bit of incite into the plot but it basically boils down to a revenge driven blood bath following the revelation that Sam's daughter was in fact murdered. This shouldn't be a spoiler to Splinter Cell fans and newcomers genuinely interested in the overall plot should read a synopsis or take the time and actually play the first 4 installments.
Graphics I'm not gonna lie, this game isn't the prettiest title out there and MGS4 is probably the most graphically advanced stealth action game on the market. That being said, It's by no means an ugly game, and is assuredly superior to SC D.A. Another notable difference is the J.J. Abrams/Zombieland style of pushing the narrative. It is better than reading emails or hearing conversations during loading screens and while it does sort of defy logic, the projected text fits really well within this game style.
Summary Splinter Cell Conviction doesn't feel like the fifth installment in a hardcore stealth franchise, but it is an interesting new direction that can prove to be rewarding to both stealth and action gamers alike. Don't go in expecting the same old Sam. The days of fifth freedom limitations are long gone and now what we're left with is a rogue agent with one purpose left in life. Basically Mission Impossible transforms into Bourne Supremacy.
Expect a full review even if you don't want one.