Splinter Cell: Conviction enraged some fans when it ditched the snail-paced, clunky stealth of old in favor of a modern, action-oriented gameplay that portrays Sam Fisher as a predator who can more than hold his own in a full-on firefight. Still, Conviction cannot be played as a proper 3rd person shooter even with its much improved shooting mechanics.
While Fisher can successfully engage two or three guys at once through conventional shooting, when the enemies start flooding in, his best chance is to silently take them out one by one and utilize the "mark and execute" feature for multiple takedowns. The aiming was still much too slow to switch from target to target without exposing Fisher to lethal gunfire.
Splinter Cell Blacklist is about half a year away and it is my hope that Ubisoft has been taking notes on Hitman: Absolution, whose core gameplay was obviously derived from Splinter Cell: Conviction. Absolution's cover system and platforming aren't nearly as fluid as Conviction's but it improves upon its combat, offering tight mechanics that are as responsive and reliable as any dedicated shooter on the market.
Some might frown upon the snap-on targeting but I feel that it's fitting for a game that's trying to simulate a ruthless and efficient killer like Agent 47. The player remains in full control of the action as 47 guns down several goons and with no less flare than the canned sequences seen in Conviction during mark and execute.
Incidentally, Absolution has its own version of that, dubbed, "point shooting." There are key differences between the two but the most important one is that in Absolution it is completely optional except for a couple of scripted scenes that force you to use it. Point shooting is there more or less for your convenience, when you're not in the mood to get into a prolonged battle and just want to clear a room with as little drama as possible.
In Conviction, mark and execute is necessary to get through some of the more hectic scenarios. In Absolution you can always count on the standard shooting without ever having to resort to point shooting. You still need to be tactical in your approach, but 47 is more than capable of single-handedly taking out an entire battalion, at least on the lower difficulty settings, which brings up another point; Ubisoft must allow players to play how they want.
There's no need to gimp the shooting to force us to play a certain way. At Absolution's highest difficulty settings, players have no chance unless they play strictly by the book. At the easiest settings players can still choose to be stealthy but they can go Terminator at any time and start mowing down enemies. It's having the best of both worlds. The combat is gritty and visceral while the stealth is challenging and satisfying.
Everything I've seen so far from Splinter Cell Blacklist is nothing short of awesome, but I suspect that if there's anything that could be improved, it would be the gunplay. I have a feeling that the manual shooting will once again be nerfed to force players to play "the right way."
Ubisoft, if you're reading this, take heed. Let us enjoy the game however way we want even if it isn't in line with how you think a Splinter Cell game is ought to be played. If you want us to play Blacklist your way, make the bullets deadlier and the enemies smarter at the higher difficulty settings.
Don't take the fun out of shooting or make it less reliable just to discourage us from it and steer us towards the "mark and execute" function. Let the players choose their style of play. In the end, you will only win over more fans.