The video game industry is one of adapting and continuous growth. To standstill is to die, and this not only applies to companies within the gaming industry, but to video game genres, as well. The stealth game genre has seen radical changes in recent years. Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell series is not an exception to this rule. Gaining popularity on the PS2, GCN, and Xbox a decade ago, Splinter Cell was one of the leading stealth franchises of its time. However, in 2010, Ubisoft sought to change the stealth genre by introducing a title that emphasized stealth mechanics, but made use of stimulating fast-paced action.
The title to do this was Splinter Cell: Conviction.
It is now 2013, and Ubisoft continues to build off the foundation it poured with Splinter Cell: Conviction with the release of Splinter Cell: Blacklist for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, and PC.
The United States holds a military presence in two-thirds of the countries around the world. After years of occupying foreign lands, the United States military has overstayed its welcome as a terrorist organization known as The Engineers destroys a U.S. Air Force base stationed in Guam. Following the attack, The Engineers release a video with direct demands: the U.S. government must extract American troops from every foreign country. No compliance will lead to weekly attacks – the Blacklist – on U.S. interests.
In these times of crisis, the U.S. government turns to Sam Fisher and Fourth Echelon to find The Engineers and prevent them from executing another terrorist attack. The clock is ticking, and it is up to Sam Fisher and his team to stop The Engineers from completing the Blacklist.
Unlike previous entries of the Splinter Cell series, Blacklist has more variety, player options, and customization to make the experience unique. While the game has more in common with Conviction than that of early Splinter Cell titles, players can opt to play the game entirely in stealth or choose to approach a mission with a more forward, aggressive manner.
Depending on your personal play preference, you can earn bonus rewards by playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist in three ways: Ghost – you must remain undetected, Assault – rely on instincts, and frontal assaults to handle situations, or Panther – lethal, but handle things in a silent and efficient manner. Playing in these styles will reward you with extra cash at the end of a mission.
These three styles allow you to make the game your own. At times, you may find a mission too challenging to approach in a pure stealth manner. Instead, you elect to attack it more aggressively using weapons to kill enemy guards. It also heightens the game’s replay value as you can revisit the game and play in a different style to see how the missions differ with a new approach.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist takes players around the globe. Whether you are sniping enemy combatants in the Middle East from a plane or in a lively metropolis, the missions of Blacklist offer great variation. The environmental design encourages player exploration as you may discover hidden paths – crucial for those who aim to play the game in stealth and get through levels undetected. Likewise, there are a number of ways to explore any level. Whether you navigate buildings or via rooftop, there are many ways to sneak through Blacklist’s missions.
Action-oriented gameplay is not the only thing from Conviction that makes a return in Blacklist. The Mark-and-Execute system also makes an appearance and is as useful as ever – though in a more limited capacity. Just as it was in Conviction, performing stealth takedowns earns you the right to use Mark-and-Execute, in which you tag and shoot enemies with ease. This technique grants you the ability to select targets you deem to be the greatest threat and take care of them quickly and silently.
The range in which you can make use of Mark-and-Execute is limited. Enemies have to be fairly close in order to perform the attack.
For long-range attacks, Sam has a number of useful gadgets at his disposal. Traditional secondary weapons like smoke grenades are present, but new tools like noise makers have found their way into Sam’s pockets. The noise maker is incredibly useful as it not only grabs the attention of enemy soldiers, but also attracts attack dogs – these dogs are dangerous adversaries as they will aggressively sniff out your location.
There are many more gadgets for Sam to use, but you can also upgrade Sam’s basic gear. Night vision goggles may have been cool in 2002, but it is time for an update. New to Blacklist is enhanced goggles for Sam to use – like a pair that lets Sam track footsteps. All equipment upgrades cost money, but you will earn enough during the solo campaign to be able to buy and upgrade a reasonable amount of equipment.
Visually speaking, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a lovely title with impressive environments. Character models are nicely detailed – particularly Sam Fisher. All-in-all, Blacklist is a good-looking title, but there are some hitches. The PS3 version of Blacklist suffers from highly noticeable screen tearing.
Though one could replay the main campaign of Blacklist numerous times thanks to the different play styles, most will want to explore the game’s multiplayer missions and Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer mode. Offering a large quantity of secondary co-op missions – online or local – there is plenty to play when the main game is complete.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist improves upon many of the ideas introduced in Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game offers plenty of intense action, but is able to carefully blend it with stealth gameplay. Blacklist is a great entry to the Splinter Cell series and one that Conviction and longtime Splinter Cell fans can enjoy.
- Player freedom & customization options
- Blended gameplay – action & stealth
- Captivating story
- Noticeable screen tearing
- Rather easy campaign
(Editor’s Note: A PS3 copy of Splinter Cell: Blacklist was provided by Ubisoft for review purposes.)