Review: Splinter Cell Blacklist Richard Berry 25 August, 2013 Game Reviews, Retail Games Over the years Sam Fisher has gathered a variety of fans – those that love to play the game stealthily like Sam’s earlier games and those who love the brute force and action of Conviction. With Blacklist, Ubisoft have aimed to deliver a game experience that crosses the void between stealth and action, one that all types of Splinter Cell player can enjoy and play in the style that they love, after all there’s nothing worse than being forced into playing a game a certain way. Is this the most complete Splinter Cell package to date? I believe so! I’ve enjoyed the evolving styles of Splinter Cell, my favourites being the first for it’s stealth mechanics and the iconic SC-20K M.A.W.S. and Conviction for its lush graphic design and brilliant co-op experience, a mode that I spent many an hour playing through with my fellow co-op agent Ted. Fan favourite Spies vs. Mercs returns and is without a doubt one of the most tense multiplayer experiences in gaming today, without it the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t be half as good. WIth Blacklist packing both these modes and a lengthy campaign into its loadout, Sam’s latest title is the most complete Splinter Cell to date. Blacklist builds upon the gameplay of Conviction with the return of mark and execute, gritty gameplay, well paced action and the story unfolding as projections on walls. I was slightly disappointed that the interrogation scenes were omitted but with a wealth of stealth options and multiple paths through each mission, this omission was more than made up for. The stealth is a long way from that of the original Splinter Cell but rather than focus on one style, Blacklist flirts with three – Ghost, Panther and Assault. The styles are so fluid that you’ll hardly notice playing as a specific style, that is until the mission evaluation screen where you are awarded points in each discipline, these are then converted into cash for upgrades. In a similar way to how Tomb Raider redefined what it is to have feelings for the game’s characters, Ubisoft have managed to tap into similar stirrings. You won’t necessarily care as much for the welfare of Sam or his team, but you’ll feel responsible and a part of the events that unfold. Maybe it’s the lavish visuals (minus the odd screen tearing) or the story which could quite easily be happening today, this is the most involved Splinter Cell I’ve played. The story offers real impact in its scripting A rogue group calling themselves ‘The Engineers’ are attacking America, the targets are picked from ‘The Blacklist’ and every seven days one of them will be attacked until the US withdraw their troops from the Middle East. A large plane called Paladin is your base of operations, it isn’t too dissimilar from Mass Effect’s Normandy; it’s explorable, upgradeable, you can talk to your team, choose your missions, access multiplayer and upgrade your gear for both single and multiplayer. Paladin ties all the game modes together making them appear like they are happening within the same timeframe and story. There’s a ton of upgrade options in Blacklist. Each upgrade to Paladin gives Sam additional perks during the campaign and health perks to your spy/merc during multiplayer, you can also upgrade and unlock additional gear for Sam and your multiplayer characters by spending the money you’ve earned from playing the game and completing challenges. This is quite a bold move from Ubisoft, pooling the money you’ve earned across modes, but it allows players to upgrade their multiplayer character without having to endure too many matches with under equipped characters although to get to the prime upgrades tokens need to be earned by playing online. Missions have a recommended set of gadgets and weapons to use, but it’s only for reference, if you want to don full armour and go in all guns blazing then so be it. Moving from cover to cover is smooth and has some slick animations, the ease of movement makes you feel confident of walking into a room and taking down all the enemies regardless if you are spotted, although it’s a shame that Sam still has difficulty in rounding corners while in cover. Once you’ve unlocked some gadgets you’ll feel even more of a badass and I found that in co-op missions I was far more creative with my kills, happy to flirt between the three play styles rather than go through as a ‘ghost’ operative. The stun gun and Proximity Shocker are great fun to use, the sound stunned guards always make me chuckle, ‘Uguguguguguuggh’ as they shake (thanks Shade360 for clearing up the spelling of that). I also thoroughly enjoyed using the tri-copter, it may have a limited range but you can scout areas to mark enemies and use four sticky shockers to knock out isolated guards, careful you don’t miss though! Gadgets are plentiful and seem rather overpowered but on higher difficulty levels you’ll be thankful that you have access to such tools. There’s so much content that fans will be kept satisfied for a long time There’s a lot of fun to be had with playing around with your enemies, study their attack patterns and take them out one by one, or cause distractions by breaking things or loudly knocking out a guard – the environment is your playground and it’s wonderful to navigate and move from position to position setting up choke points or ambushes. This isn’t to say the enemy will play dumbly into your hands, quite often I found that they attempted to outflank me and if it wasn’t for the ease of being able to check you surroundings I would have been caught with my back turned. The navigational options in each level are endless and that’s without throwing loadouts into the mix. Playstyles are easily mixed up and you’ll have plenty of chances to experiment, checkpoints are far and few between, a minor frustration when you’re used to having a checkpoint around every corner! For me the main attraction of Blacklist was never going to be the campaign, it’s all about co-op, I simply love it! I was never that great at Spies vs. Mercs but after playing Blacklist’s version, I will certainly be spending more time in this mode. It’s a joy to play especially if you are familiar with the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed. Online is well-balanced, although all it takes is one high ranked player to enter the match and ruin everybody’s fun by dominating your whole team single-handedly. For the most part this rarely happened and for those that aren’t well versed in the art of SvM the learning curve isn’t too steep. Co-op has always been my favourite game mode but SvM has snuck in and choked co-op mode to take its place as my go to mode. If you like your stealth games stylish and full of action then look no further than Blacklist. Spies vs. Mercs and co-op are enough to make this game worthy of being in your collection. So far this year Tomb Raider has stood out as my favourite game but Blacklist edges it with superior multiplayer modes.