Splinter Cell Blacklist – Game Analysis and Review
By Dan Maurer
Developers: Ubisoft Toronto, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Shanghai, Ubisoft Red Storm
Producer: Jade Raymond
Designers: Maxime Béland, Alex Parizeau
Writers: Richard Dansky, Matt MacLennan
Engine: LEAD Engine
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Genre: Action-adventure, stealth
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
The Splinter Cell series has had a pretty fantastic run so far, with nearly every game scoring mid-80s or much higher. That said, Splinter Cell: Conviction received a little more of an icy reception (though it scored well with most outlets) for a few nagging technical issues and some absent gameplay mechanics. Over the last three years, Ubisoft went back to formula with one obvious goal, bring back classic Splinter Cell. Now, with the release of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist we step back into the jet-black boots of Sam Fisher.
Eric Johnson has replaced the grizzled and well-aged voice of Michael Ironsides. His performance is a little bit uneven, a little over the top, and whether we like it or not the new voice of our favorite quasi-governmental spook. The rest of the voice actors in the game turn in pretty decent performances. Given the intensity of the situation, they all seem a little on edge when they should, and newcomers deflect with humor in a natural way.
The core elements though are the same as Conviction: from the mission goals appearing as text projected onto the level backdrops to the all-important cover system and the controversial mark-and-execute feature. The latter allows you to tag enemies while in hiding and then with a single button press jump out and shoot them all at once, and even add a few more to your combo if you’re close to other enemies. You can even use mark-and-execute while running now, and as much as Splinter Cell traditionalists may resent it we can’t pretend we didn’t feel a shiver of super-spy badassery running through us every time we used it. In contrast Blacklist (re)introduces more options for avoiding combat, apart from simply not being spotted. You have stun guns and stun grenades, you can knock anyone out with your bare hands if you sneak up on them, and you can once again hide bodies in skips. Yet despite the return of many of the features from earlier games Blacklist is still a very different game to something like Chaos Theory, at least on the default difficulty level. You might have the same tools as before but the level design, and sheer number of enemies wandering around, is rarely designed with stealth in mind.
The challenge missions usually emphasize a particular skill, such as sneaking and stealth kills, but there are also Horde style survival modes and other straight action encounters. These can be played in off or online co-op and although the action-only ones feel a little generic co-operating on the more stealthy ones is almost the best bit of the game. That accolade instead goes to Spies Vs. Mercs, the much loved asynchronous multiplayer mode from Chaos Theory, that was inexplicably dropped from the more recent titles. In the Classic mode two spies using Sam’s usual third person mode take on heavily armed mercenaries who use a first person perspective. It really is one of the great multiplayer experiences in gaming, and it’s strange that Ubisoft doesn’t do more to promote it. Blacklist is sensible enough not to mess with original formula but it does add an alternative mode that doubles the number of players and allows for custom loadouts, which adds some extra spice to proceedings.
Compared to the previous game Conviction, the graphics seem to be about on par with it and not much as changed in that department. Sam’s model is slightly more detailed than the model in Conviction. Backgrounds and enemies seem to be about the same with little to no changes at all. The action is still as hot and heavy as ever with explosions and gore aplenty.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist treads a fine line trying to please the purists while retaining enough of an action focus for mainstream acceptance, but it succeeds in this balancing act. There are mindless gunfights on offer for players with itchy trigger fingers, yet those who favor the series’ traditional stealth mechanics will find opportunities to use them. Long time fans of the series will find comfort knowing this game brings the series closer to its roots and brings the fun back to Splinter Cell.
PunchDrunkGamer Score: 8.5 out of 10
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