Tomorrow I am faced with a difficult choice. It’s a choice I have to make every so often. I find that nearly every time I make the choice, I wish I had made the other decision.

Splinter Cell: Conviction demo released to the public tomorrow – do I download and play it?

I am truly on the fence about demo versions of games, especially knowing full well I have every intention on buying the product (in this case – Conviction) when it comes out. I normally stray away from demos. For one, they clutter up my hard drive. (Sometimes I’ll download a demo on Xbox 360 – even though I want it on PC). But every now and then a game will come out; a game that I follow and play consistently…and I’ll give in and play the demo just so I can be part of the cool crowd talking about how awesome it is.

The last demo I tried (against my desire – I really did want to wait until the final version was on the shelf) was Bad Company 2. I have to be honest; I was not impressed with the demo, for a number of different reasons. I’m so glad I didn’t put much weight in my impression of the demo when it came time to buy the game or else I would’ve missed out on one of the year’s best.

On one hand (the good), demos offer a sneak peak of the game and give you the opportunity to experience a part of it before you actually pay for it. If you’re mind isn’t made up, often times playing the demo version can help in the decision making process. Even if you have every intention on purchasing the game, playing the demo often gives you a head start on the control and game play familiarization. Every little advantage counts. I remember downloading the Rainbow Six demo and playing it on a work computer barely fast enough to run it, just to try and learn the controls and mission planning component so I wouldn’t have to take the time to learn it on my gaming rig. It was so bad, you had to shrink the screen size (PC) down to about the size of a credit card just to get a handful of frames per second (FPS). But I learned the controls; more importantly…I learned how awesome the game was going to be.

But then again (the bad), playing the demo before the game comes out has a couple of disadvantages as well. First of all, demos are typically short; just long enough to set the hook and get you interested in getting the rest of the game.  This can be very frustrating, especially if the actual release date is still months away. Demos also reveal a part of the game, so when you see that sequence again in the full version, sometimes it distracts from the overall fun factor, at least for that particular level.

The ugly side of demos is when you play a demo and then get the full version and discover some of the items in the demo didn’t make the final version, or perhaps the demo actually looks and plays better than the final game. Thankfully this is rare, but it has happened.

So…I guess I’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow and how well the Conviction demo turns out before I make my final decision. I don’t think I’ve ever played a Splinter Cell demo as I prefer being able to play the game from start to finish, but if the community goes ape over it, I may just have to bend my rules a bit and give it a shot.

I wonder what the general consensus about demos is – do people play them, skip them, hate them, love them?

Are you planning on getting and playing the Splinter Cell: Conviction demo…