Blacklist is the new installment of the beloved stealth-action game Splinter Cell. Developed and published by Ubisoft, you continue to follow Sam Fishers’ adventures as he defends the world from evil, whether the President of the United states agrees with it or not.
The game starts out with Anderson Air Force Base being attacked by an organisation known only as “The Engineers”. During the attack, they upload “The Blacklist” – a live schedule of attacks which will continue to occur until America calls back their troops from all 153 countries. While the base is being destroyed, your escape chopper gets caught in the crossfire and sends you hurtling into the game.
For the uneducated, Splinter Cell is primarily a third person stealth series that follows the lead character of previous titles, and it seems in more recent games the series has taken a slight turn towards more of an action game, in order to appeal to wider audience.
For all the stealth fans who loved Splinter Cell: Conviction, Blacklist allows the player to approach the situation of the mission however they see appropriate. If you’re the type of person that wants to avoid the enemies entirely, you’ll need to stick to the shadows and use your climbing skills to make your way around without being seen. You have a variety of diversion tools at your disposal and if you feel like being a ghost, then most of the time you can be. You are meant to be a shadow, moving through facilities undetected or at least knowing that no one ALIVE will know that you were there.
For the wider audience, you have sections during the game which you can’t stealth and it becomes one frantic, linear gun fight after another. You can load up with every gun you can carry and see if you can make it through alive, but you don’t get the experience of what Blacklist has to offer. The game shouldn’t portray you as some unstoppable badass who can take on armies with a single pistol. For this reason alone, the game seems to be moving away from what Splinter Cell really is in my opinion. There is no moral system so there is no change story-wise, whether you decide to kill or knockout a certain passing guard. In regards to the main story characters, you can decide to kill or spare them without any repercussions. The other reason fans of the series might be pushed away is that there is an added FPS section of the story where you play as Sam’s co op partner Isaac. Although this section is small, it does transfer over to the multiplayer in the form of Spies vs Mercs.
Speaking of multiplayer, I tried it out the day after the game released, and even then it takes a while to get into matches. This may be caused by the fact that people are playing through the story first, but I think that a bunch of players would just play the multiplayer because they have brought back the “Spies vs. Mercs” gameplay that a lot of fans loved back in previous games. I got into my first game within a minute, but the game after that, it took me over 8 minutes to get into. To add insult to this injury, we were two minutes into the game, one person got killed and they just left/disconnected. As you might have seen in my PAX Preview, I mentioned that the game crashes during the multiplayer test we had. Well it hasn’t changed now that it has officially released. I was in the middle of a match and everything was going fine until I got the dreaded pop-up, saying the game has now crashed. I couldn’t even re-join the match I was previously in, and I had to go and search for another one.
The PC controls are a bit counter-intuitive, compared to previous games that had me flowing through levels with the next move ready at my fingertips. Asking you to hold Tab and push B to switch between takedown styles can be a bit annoying when you are trying to be stealthy. One of the things I liked about the previous title, Splinter Cell: Conviction, was the utilisation of a “hold to cover” button. It was great because it meant that you didn’t have to suction cup yourself to a wall and wait. In this game, it seems to have been replaced with a ‘Velcro Sam’ approach, where he moves from cover to cover. This can be annoying as if you don’t choose the right cover to move to, there is no way to cancel that move mid-switch.
A number of small improvements to the gameplay have been made in certain areas, but nothing that stands out as particularly innovative. What they have taken out however is the interrogation system, which was completely scrapped and replaced with a cut scene for every time Sam has to get information out of his next target. Probably the biggest notable change is that Michael Ironside is no longer the voice of Sam Fisher, and instead, Canadian Actor Eric Johnson steps into the role for Blacklist.
Losing Michael Ironside as Sam Fisher’s voice actor hurts Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The new voice actor is the worst part of the game. Now don’t get me wrong – he’s not a bad actor, but he’s not Sam. Ironside felt that after Conviction the characters and story became kind of bland, and he is right on the money with that. Sam’s story was done and there needed to be a new face or a sub-story that involved somebody else. The new Sam is a jerk to the rest of his team, even when they might have some decent information to give. This game gives me the feeling that Sam just wants to be alone in his little corner playing superhero, until people will take him seriously.
As with so many recent Ubisoft releases, how much you will enjoy Splinter Cell: Blacklist depends on how willing you are to enjoy the features it crams into the overall package. The campaign itself can be pushed through in the usual eight-to-ten hour time frame, but if you talk to your supporting characters and access the extra missions, you can increase the bang for your buck. With Spies vs. Mercs getting so much hype, you’ll want to indulge in some multiplayer too, if you really want to get the most of what’s on offer. With this, the gameplay is fun, but trying to get into a match might not be worth the effort.
If cooperative stealth is your type of game, then Splinter Cell: Blacklist is right up your alley. If all you desire is more of what Sam Fisher used to be in previous games, you may come away feeling a little short-changed.