Sam Fisher is back in the last Tom Clancy game for this console generation in Splinter Cell: Blacklist! Not a lot of folks were big fans of Splinter Cell: Conviction and with word of veteran voice actor Michael Ironsides being replaced for a younger model to voice Sam Fisher, people were concerned about Splinter Cell: Blacklist. So how did Ubisoft do for Sam’s send off?
For a Tom Clancy game, Blacklist has one of the most approachable storyline ever: a terrorist group known as “The Engineers” conducts a terrifying attack on a US airbase in Hawaii. All the Engineers want is for the United States simply to pull all troops out of every foreign country in the world. Too easy, right? If the Engineers demands are not met, an attack of monumental size will happen once a week on the US. Of course, the President calls in Sam Fisher and the 4th Echelon team to figure out who this organization is and bring them to justice. Just that simple: no surprise triple and quadruple story twists that require several years of being a part of the Special Forces and Intelligence community to understand. Go get the bad guys, save the US. Definitely, off to a good start. Without Michael Ironsides voicing Sam, Fisher just seems like another gruff super soldier on a team of elite intelligence agents and shooters, but the few issues with the story can be forgiven because of the gameplay.
Many stealth games usually get one facet of gameplay correct: if the stealth is top notch, your screwed if you have to start shooting, and vice versa. However, the gameplay for Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a delicious blend of stealth action gameplay that gamers have come to love with the Splinter Cell series and a surprisingly smooth third-person run-and-gun shooter. Each mission in Splinter Cell: Blacklist gives you points for three separate playstyles: ghost, for non-lethal stealth and sneaking past guards unnoticed, panther, for stealth killing troops after an alarm has been tripped, and lastly, assault, which is when Sam breaks out the grenades and “goes loud”. This gives the player the option to sneak through a majority of the game without having to kill a single person, always a nice challenge for stealth game masters like myself.
Another nice touch with Splinter Cell: Blacklist is their changing guard patterns. A good number of stealth games depend on learning guard patrol routes and being able to simply memorize the single fixed path guards will be going along. However, after an attempt or two of sneaking around, the game will randomly throw a different patrol route into the mix, adding a guard or two, or changing conversations topics and lengths between two talking guards. While this only occurs once ever three or four restarts, it’s just enough to throw you off going into the same repetitive pattern after the sixteenth time you’re trying to get through a checkpoint.
The gameplay isn’t perfect as I had some pathing issues with guards being stuck pointing in a certain direction or not starting their patrols when they were supposed to. A perfect example of this is that there are a series of checkpoints where guards are fitted with a chip that allows them to pass through doors and laser tripwires unharmed. Upon the start of a checkpoint, the guard who was supposed to move through the door allowing me to grab him from behind and use him as a giant skeleton key wouldn’t start his patrol, forcing me to restart the entire mission in hopes of breaking the glitch (it worked).
Blacklist also has persistent role-playing elements where you gain money for each mission completed, allowing you to outfit Sam and your headquarters with upgrades, such as allowing Sam to see all the collectibles in a level at medium range, unlocking a variety of black market weapons, and even allowing Sam various armor, gloves, boots and even goggle options. Unfortunately, if you’re playing the game even with a remote level of skill, you will unlock a majority of essential upgrades in a matter of missions without breaking a sweat, as you not only gain money from single player, but from the variety of multiplayer modes…
…which brings us to multiplayer. If you’re looking for getting your money’s worth with sheer content, Blacklist has it in spades. Not only does Splinter Cell: Blacklist set you up with eleven campaign missions, but you also have another twenty co-op and single side story missions and both a legacy version and reboot of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory’s legendary “Spies vs. Mercs” asymmetical multiplayer. One side plays as the mobile stealth ninja spies from a third person perspective, while the other team spawn in as slow, plodding juggernauts called Mercs that play from a narrow first person perspective. The mercs are slow, but heavily outfitted, while the spies can climb the walls and use speed to their advantage to take objectives and kill enemies. This makes for a breath of fresh air from the typical multiplayer shooters we’ve come to know and love.
Overall, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an amazing entry to the Splinter Cell series with something for both solo and multiplayer fans.