Published on September 9th, 2013 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
Back from the Shadows – Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review
I am sure that I will not be the only one to say that this console generation has not treated Sam Fisher well. Jumping from what is arguably the best in the franchise with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, a PlayStation 2 and Xbox title, to disappointing story of SC: Double Agent, and the mostly action-oriented SC: Conviction, it is a fair assessment to say that old-school Splinter Cell fans may turned off by the series.
But that changes with Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft’s attempt to breathe new life into the aging series by bringing Sam back to his stealthy roots.
In Blacklist, the stealth-action gameplay that we have come to love from this franchise returns. There were some small elements that remain from Conviction, such as the mark-and-execute mechanic, but that is about all of the similarities that we see from between Blacklist Sam Fisher’s last outing.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed]
Release Date: Aug. 19, 2013
Bringing stealthy back
What is effective in Blacklist is the fact that if you elect to play the game the same way that we were forced to in Conviction, you have that option and you will not get penalized for it, unless the mission calls for 100 percent invisibility.
There are three categories that your actions will be tracked in: Ghost, in which you complete through your missions without killing or being spotted; Panther, a form of achieving mission objectives by killing enemies quietly and hiding bodies; and Assault, the gameplay style that most closely resembles Conviction, where you move quickly and kill without hesitation.
Each mission gives the player different options when attempting to complete mission objectives. The missions are built in a sandbox, allowing Sam to get the job done by any means necessary.
The campaign itself is fairly easy by Splinter Cell standards, and with the new post-scoring system, Sam can buy and upgrade all of his extensive gadgets fairly early in the game.
The central storyline is actually well told, and hits home with some of the political situations that are happening in the world today — mostly revolving around world terrorism. This makes Sam feel grounded in reality and his mission realistic and believable.
While the game does pick up a few years after Conviction, which is never directly brought to the gamer’s attention, between missions you can call Sam’s daughter and references are made through conversations.
The post-scoring system, which is a feature made popular by Chaos Theory, is an incentive for going back to replay missions in Blacklist. You are tracked throughout each mission on how well you execute the missions such as how Sam completes objectives and even how many bodies you hide and lights you shoot out.
The system earns money, which can be used to unlock different items for Sam and your multiplayer characters. You can update their loadouts from their guns, suits, gadgets and even the iconic goggles.
Though the difficulty isn’t extreme, there are several situations in the campaign that can become frustrating. For example, there will be a couple of kill rooms that make it appear as if there is no way Sam, heavily outnumbered, will be able to take out all of the enemies in the room. If you plan on going through the game 100 percent Ghost style, which can be achieved, try to be patient, but prepare for frustrating encounters that will attempt to sway your conviction on being stealthy. These moments are very few, but take some practice to complete if your goal is silence.
Co-op and the return of Spies vs. Mercenaries
Accessing the multiplayer components, Co-Op missions and Spy vs. Mercenaries, is done in a very clever way. Sam’s airborne base for his Fourth Echelon operations is used as the game’s menu. There you can talk to crew members, upgrade the plane from enhancements to equipment, and access your available missions, including multiplayer.
I felt the game’s co-op missions are really where Blacklist hits its stride. It forces players to work in conjunction with each other which means player smust adjust to one another’s play styles. If you are fortunate enough to be connected with someone who plays the game similarly to yourself, things should go through smoothly. However, if you like Ghost but you’re paired with an Assault player, situations can get very tense, very quickly.
In the co-op missions, one player will play as Sam, and the other his counterpart Briggs. There are two different kinds of missions that can be done in co-op: The Briggs set, which follows the traditional Splinter Cell gameplay style where each player works together to achieve a given objective; and the Charlie set, in which the game is more Horde style, where the players have to fight off waves of enemies.
The one game mode that Splinter Cell fans have called for was the return of Spies vs. Mercenaries, which was made popular by Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. This mode pits spies (playing in a third-person view) against slower, well-armored and equipped Mercenaries (playing in first-person view). There are two different way that you can play: Classic, which is a two-on-two mode that mimics the SvM from Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, and the new four-on-four mode, which allows custom loadouts.
The revamped Spies vs. Mercs is the freshest multiplayer I have played in quite a while, and brought back many fun memories of when I played Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory.
The mode still follows the classic setup: Spies are in charge of hacking terminals, and mercs must stop them. But there is a bit of a change. When a terminal starts to get hacked the spies are in charge of protecting the hack until the bar reaches 100 percent, and they must stay in the area. So sneaking and hiding is key and in Classic mode your partner is vital.
In four-on-four, the method is the same, but more chaotic — however, I found the increased pace refreshing.
Graphically, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is impressive, and the environments are highly detailed. However, the detail was left out on some enemies and Sam’s personnel. Sam himself looks fantastic, but the folks around him seem to be missing some extra polish.
Overall Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a triumphant return of Sam Fisher, and it holds true to what we loved about Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. The story is a great follow-up, and is surprisingly believable — the same can be said about the characters.
Sam is not as sarcastic and snarly as he once was, but now has a more angry personality, and that adds more to the character depth that Sam already had. This is the Splinter Cell we have wanted this whole generation and can not wait to see Sam on the next generation.
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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review
Summary: Overall Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a triumphant return of Sam Fisher, and it holds true to what we loved about Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. The story is a great follow-up, and is surprisingly believable -- the same can be said about the characters. With the return of co-op and Spies vs. Mercenaries, this is the Splinter Cell that fans deserve.