Ubisoft found themselves in quite a predicament after the release of Splinter Cell: Conviction. You see Conviction was an enormous departure from the previously loved Splinter Cell formula and caused much controversy as The franchise purists hated it for forcing you to kill enemies instead of sneaking by undetected while new fans loved Conviction for its action and lethal stealth in which it felt like you were a predator on the hunt. Now with a sequel, who will Ubisoft try to please?
Well I am pleased to say that Splinter Cell: Blacklist easily pleases both Camps.
The game begins with Sam Fisher and his old friend Victor Coste who are about to depart from Andersen AFB in Guam when an unknown enemy force destroys the entire base. Assisted by hacker specialist Charlie Cole, Sam and Vic manage to escape, although Vic is injured after protecting Sam from a grenade. Soon after, a terrorist group calling itself “The Engineers” assumes responsibility for the attack and announce that it was the first of a deadly countdown of escalating attacks (called “The Blacklist”) on United States assets, declaring that they will halt the attacks only after the U.S. government accomplish the demand of calling back all American troops deployed abroad.
In response to this new threat, Patricia Caldwell, the President of the United States who had just shut down the corrupt Third Echelon assigns Sam, Charlie, Isaac Briggs and Anna ‘Grim’ Grímsdóttir to a newly created special operations and counter-terrorism unit called “Fourth Echelon” and installs Sam as the commander with the task of hunting down The Engineers and stopping their plans. Fourth Echelon’s base of operations is a customizable cargo plane, codenamed “Paladin”.
The story is pretty much your standard “terrorism and Spies” schtick which includes you shooting a whole bunch of Brown people and everybody shouting “Amurika!!”, however there are some nice twists along the way and The Engineers are definitely Sam’s most capable enemies to date.
The best thing that adds dynamic to the story is character interaction (although Sam’s new Voice Actor isn’t great). All the characters get stressed and angry in what is obviously an extremely stressful situation, they get at each others throats over the course of the game and it is a breath of fresh air to see crew mates hate each other in a game, instead of shouting about friendship from the roof tops.
The Game is full to the brim in content, offering a lengthy Single campaign of about 10 hours, 14 co-op missions, A Stealthy horde mode, assassination missions and ghost missions where objectives have to be met with out sounding an alarm. On top of all of this is an awesome PVP mode called Spies vs Mercs. This is a game that will last you a hell of a long time.
The Game play is very fun and allows the player a lot of choice in execution. The game offers a new system called “killing in motion” allowing the player to highlight targets and take them out in quick succession while on the run, which sets up some impressive looking scenarios.
The single player campaign is a lot of fun offering up some changes of pace such as several parts in which the game becomes a first person shooter and controlling a UAV to shoot targets out from the sky. All the gadgets seem useful and allows you to create three custom load outs. The only problem is that money is extremely easy to come by and is given out in large amounts so creating the perfect load-out is a bit too easy.
Replay value for the single player campaign comes from the scoring system as each mission is scored in 3 categories: Ghost (Nonlethal stealth), Panther (Lethal Stealth) and Assault (Loud lethal) with Achievements tied to each category encouraging the player to replay levels in a different style. It is also with this system that Blacklist will satisfy both the stealth nuts of Pandora tomorrow and the action Junkies of Conviction as levels can be played in either style.
The Co-op plays similar to the single player but just with 2 players as besides boosts and door breaches, the game rarely makes it feel like cooperation is absolutely necessary. The Co-op is still extremely fun and some awesome looking scenarios pop up when you work together properly.
One of the Best things about the Co-op is that the game allows for Split-screen gaming for up to 2 people, so you can personally punch your friend for alerting the guards to your presence.
Now the Multiplayer:
Spies vs Mercs mode is the cherry on top a very fun cake. The game has Spies who play in third person perspective go against Mercenaries who play in a first person perspective. The Spies are extremely squishy and don’t hold out well in upfront assaults, however, they can climb, go invisible in shadows and can assasinate from behind as well as use gadgets. The Mercenaries are heavily armoured and slow in comparison to the spies, however, they have the upper hand if a spy is found and an upfront battle takes place.
The mode is a lot of fun with the only flaw being the mixed battles in which spies and mercs can be on the same team as it becomes extremely difficult to tell allies and enemies apart in the dark maps.
One of the main flaws of the game are the outdated Graphics. The game is pretty ugly and I expected more especially after having to install a 3GB HD texture pack on my Xbox 360. It isn’t a huge problem but with the rest of the game being as great as it is you would think that they could have put at least some effort in the visuals.
In conclusion, whether you’re new to the series or an old-time fan, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a must-play. Full to the brim with content that will keep you busy for a long time, fun splitscreen capable Co-op, an awesomely fun and innovative Competitive multi-player mode. The only negatives I found were dated graphics, Sams new voice actor (While not terrible, was not great either) and a few minor bugs that rarely occurred.
If you’re looking for a game that will be exciting and last you weeks of fun, Blacklist is the game for you.