I remember years ago, in love with Rainbow Six for the original Xbox, I picked up Splinter Cell. I played the single player for all of am hour, mostly repeatedly dying on the first enemy I encountered, before getting a phone call that it was time to play online together. The crew assembled, and we played a very lethal game of hide-and-seek, representing the most tense and intense gaming I can remember. Edge of your seat stuff, with a friend and I attempting to infiltrate a building to steal some kind of something, while two other friends played guard with big noisy assault rifles, trying to find us in our air ducts and fill us full of bullets. One friend found it TOO tense, and vowed never to play again. Down one part of our foursome, the game faded away quickly, never to be heard form again. I never even tried the single player campaign again. The End.
So it surprised me, knowing my history with the game, that I was at all interested in Splinter Sell: Conviction. Perhaps some part of me forgot about that excruciating hour of gameplay – that infinite inability to overcome not multiple, but one SINGLE enemy, who I seem to recall was actually sitting in the dark, alone, smoking a cigarette and listening to headphones. Christ, he may even have been in a coma.
Point is, game was specifically difficult for me, and I gave up on it and never came back.
As to the why of it, NJ Adam (aka JNCO Jeans) lured me in with promises of co-op campaign partnership. The single player campaign, allegedly a mere 4-6 hours of gameplay, was therefore ample training for our co-op objective, and JNCO requested 2 weeks of alone time with the game before we make our attempts at duo-greatness.
Let me explain two things. First, I suck at this game. Not like “running into a corner and getting stuck there” FPS-suck (I love you wife!), but more like instinctively and inherently incapable of playing a game this way kind of suck. Like “you can tell me how you want me to do this a million times, but I am NOT going to do it that way” kind of suck.
Secondly, my suckitude knows no bounds, and continues to not get any better.
And I guess let me add one more thing – I still love this game.
The reason for the suck is this: Splinter Cell continues to not be Halo. It is also not Gears of War. It similarly is not Sonic the Hedgehog, nor is it Super Mario Bros., and it most certainly is not Final Fantasy. Were it any of those games, my instincts would kick in right away. I would say “oh, this is a duck-and-cover shooter!” Or I would say “Oh, this is a run-and-gun FPS explosion!” or “Oh look, slow and meticulous puzzle-solving” or “catch all the rings and don’t hit the robotic lady bugs!” or even “let’s walk in a straight line and then level up and swing our over-sized gun/sword-combo over our head in a circle, barely missing my spiky hairdo!” Cause, see, those are things I get.
Splinter Cell asks me to do things I have never done in a game before. Things like “stay hidden at all costs” and “don’t run into a group of enemies firing” and “don’t get shot even once or you will be dead.”
This game continues that old tradition of keeping things tense, and intense. You MUST stay hidden. Your objective is to kill everyone, but to do so from the shadows. You drop down on enemies from steam pipes, or pull them out of windows and toss them to the bricks below. You shoot out lights and throw EMP grenades to shut down electronics. You are rewarded for hand-to-hand kills done stealthily. Your reward: the ability to execute upwards of 4 or 5 enemies at once, form the shadows, all with your silenced pistol.
It reminds me of being 10, and finding a wonderful hiding spot for our neighborhood flashlight tag games. The greatest and worst feeling in the world was remaining hidden, slowing and quieting your breathing as the Seeker quietly marched past your hiding spot, shining his flashlight and calling out your name. There was an almost real sense of impending doom, of the risk inherent in hiding from your foe. It felt envigorating and horrifying all at once.
That’s Splinter Cell for you.
The main problem I have is this: in real life and in assumed game persona, I am not sneaky. Far from it. Imagine an elephant. Imagine an elephant trying to tip-toe. Imagine this elephant, trying to tip toe and carrying a giant bag filled with brass heirlooms. Imagine this elephant is also wearing a one-man-band getup, and every time he takes a step, the damn cymbals SLAM! Also, he accidentally lights fireworks and gets a cell phone call at the same moment he sets off every motion detector alarm in the building.
That’s basically what the bad guys are up against with me. And apparently, as I continue to go back for more punishment … apparently I like those odds.