Splinter Cell Blacklist Review: Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a great game that does a tremendous job of combining old school stealth mechanics and action.
Sam Fisher is back and it is time for him to save the world once more. In Splinter Cell Blacklist, Sam Fisher forms a new team with a familiar face as 4th Echelon must race around the world in an attempt to stop the Engineers. The U.S. has a military presence in two thirds of countries around the world and the Engineers are demanding that the U.S. sends everyone home and leaves those countries. They issue an ultimatum that if the U.S. government doesn’t comply there will be a new attack every few days whether it be abroad or domestic. It is now Sam’s job to stop the Engineers, prevent the Blacklist attacks and find out who is behind everything. Along the way he enlists the help of Anna Grimsdottir, CIA operative Isaac Briggs and Charlie Cole, who will help create new weapons for Sam as well as allow Sam to hack into enemy systems on the battlefield.
Splinter Cell Conviction had more of an action oriented approach which some people didn’t care for (I personally loved it) so when developing Blacklist Ubisoft was able to compromise between this new approach and the stealth mechanic that made everyone fall in love with Splinter Cell in the first place. There are three different play styles that you can choose from in Blacklist with Ghost, Panther and Assault. If you choose to go the Ghost route then this is playstyle that is more akin to the original Splinter Cell. This is where stealth is paramount and you need to complete your objective without being detected. You will need to hack into systems, capture high value targets and do much more without anyone knowing you were ever there. There is also an achievement in the game for being able to go through the game and not killing anyone so, if you choose, you can go completely stealth throughout the whole game. If you choose the Panther route you are trying to go through the game and eliminate your enemies but trying to do it in the most efficient and silent way you can. This where you can take out an enemy but you will want to try and hide the body so an enemy patrol doesn’t see it and go into high alert. It is somewhat of a hybrid between the Ghost and Assault route. If you choose to go the Assault route that is the more action oriented approach when you can simply go in with guns blazin’. You still need to be smart as you will quickly get taken out if you walk into a large group of enemies but you don’t necessarily need to worry about being quiet or covering your tracks if all you want to do is shoot up everything on your way to completing your mission. No matter what route you choose to go down you can also manipulate the environment to your advantage. Shoot out lights in a building to stay in the shadows so enemies can see you or take out that surveillance camera so it can’t raise the alarm. The choices are yours and I did really enjoy this freedom to play the game how I wanted to play it.
In addition to the campaign missions there are also special 4th Echelon missions as well as co-op missions. Each member of 4th Echelon will have special, optional missions that they want you to do from extracting a key piece of intelligence to simply wiping out a drug cartel that is terrorizing a village and its citizens. Then there are the co-op missions where both Sam and Briggs go and do the mission together. The interesting thing here is that the campaign doesn’t have co-op per se, as there are some missions that are only available to be played solo. As you go through some missions you will see alternate paths that can be taken but you need a co-op partner to go that way, such as being lifted to a higher ledge that you can’t get to by yourself. There are some optional missions that require co-op though so if you are the type of person that likes to do everything in the game there is no way to get around playing with someone on Xbox Live to complete those missions whether it be a friend or some random person. While playing this game with a friend definitely adds to the fun I don’t really like the fact that you are forced into doing it if you want to get all of the achievements or want to experience everything from the game.
Your headquarters throughout the game is a stealth arliner called the Paladin. When not on a mission you are aboard this plane that is outfitted with all of the latest technology and has everything you need. Using the Strategic Mission Interface (SMI) you are able to up to date on world events in real time such as terrorist attacks and since you are always on an airplane in the sky you can be where you need to be fairly quickly. As you complete missions and objectives you will earn money which can in turn be used to upgrade Paladin as well as your equipment. By upgrading the plane you give Charlie more tools to make more weapons for you, you unlock the ability to customize your loadout on the battlefield and much more. There is also an achievement for fully upgrading the plane. Once you are done with that you can go to Charlie where you can buy weapons and items for your suit. Additions to your suit will allow Sam to move more quietly in the field so it can be harder for enemies to detect his presence or if you want to go the other route you can also choose items that will increase the armor on your suit so you can, hopefully, survive a big firefight. There are also a few other options available in the store but you can only acquire those by playing the Splinter Cell Blacklist app on your tablet or smartphone. Before each mission you will get to select your loadout and the items that you take will be dependent on what play style you have chosen so you will want to plan accordingly when making your purchasing choices.
Splinter Cell multiplayer is also back and the fan favorite classic Spies vs. Mercs makes it return. The multiplayer suite for Blacklist includes a “Training Grounds” mode for newcomers, Spies vs. Mercs Classic, Spies vs. Mercs Blacklist, Extraction, Uplink Control and your standard team deathmatch. For those unfamiliar with classic Spies vs. Mercs gameplay it is 2 vs. 2 as Mercs try to defend terminals while the Spies try to hack them. The Spies vs. Mercs Blacklist mode is very similar except it is 4 vs. 4, essentially doubling the amount of players in the game. In Extraction the Spies must defend intelligence while the Mercs will try and extract it. Uplink control will have both teams fighting for control of the uplinks until the transmissions are complete and team deathmatch should be pretty self explanatory. During my time with the multiplayer everything seemed to run fine and I didn’t experience any lag. Classic Splinter Cell fans should definitely have fun with the return of Spies vs. Mercs while newcomers will be able to see and discover for the first time why it is such a popular mode.
Going through Splinter Cell Blacklist I noticed it is a game that looks and sounds great. Longtime fans will no doubt be disappointed that Michael Ironside didn’t reprise his role of Sam Fisher but I personally didn’t have a problem with the new guy. Other audio aspects of this game were pretty spot on as I enjoyed hearing the footsteps of my enemy to try and help plan an attack as well as the audio cues if I got too close to a landmine, for example. The voice acting for the characters I thought was pretty well done and I enjoyed their performances. Aesthetically speaking the game does look really nice and I enjoyed going through the different locales.
Overall, Splinter Cell Blacklist is an excellent game and I really don’t have much to complain about. There are a couple of stutters here and there but nothing that affects the gameplay and I enjoyed the amount of freedom we were given here. Old school Splinter Cell fans should enjoy the return to form being able to go through this game in complete stealth if they choose to do so. Fans of the more action oriented approach that was found in Conviction should also be happy here as they can forego stealth if they want and just go on the offensive at all times. There is something for everyone here in that regard and the development at Ubisoft Toronto did a wonderful job of executing that vision. Be sure not to miss out on Sam Fisher’s latest mission as the fate of country, and the world, depends on it.