The drought of games finally came to an end a couple weeks ago. The console releases lately were coming in at a trickle, but finally we have some new games to play! With that, one of those games was Splinter Cell: Blacklist. I’m sure you were aware of it; it seemed like their were about a thousand trailers to come out for it over the course of the last few months. All this media attention sometimes ends up leaving a bad impression on a new release. How many times do you remember seeing a company spend the big bucks rolling out constant advertising for a sub par product? Well, luckily for our sake, Blacklist is actually a pretty good game! A good interweaving of versatile gameplay and decent storytelling mixed with a nice suite of multiplayer options left me with fond memories of Blacklist.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the first blockbuster release of many to come this year from publisher Ubisoft. Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Blacklist is an action-adventure stealth game which plays similarly to its predecessor Splinter Cell: Conviction. I, for the most part, like the storylines used in Tom Clancy games. They are contemporary, usually deal with international incidents, have political ramifications or motivations and puts the onus of resolution on a highly black operations team or individual. Call me corny, but I am a sucker for all these story aspects. Blacklist is no different. Sam Fisher, (voiced by Eric Johnson, who does a decent job) is back on the scene in the newly formed “Fourth Echelon” who’s main base of operations is on a special cargo plane named the “Paladin”. What exactly is Sam Fisher tasked with this time? Dealing with a terrorist cell named the “Engineers”. Every seven days the Engineers will attack something of value to the American ecosystem unless America pulls all its troops out from abroad. Overall, the story is above average, the story really moves in spots and the gravity of the situation is very apparent, but it definitely has its corny spots (why is Grim always loading her gun up for action if all she does is logistics and tells everyone how wrong they are all the time??) and the emotional beats (conversations with Sarah) just really didn’t do it for me. The music is a high point for me. Very clandestine sounding which I highly enjoyed.
The Splinter Cell franchise has come a long way from it’s ultra stealthy gameplay from previous iterations, but that’s not to say it’s not fun. This is a subjective matter, but I feel Blacklist caters well to both parties. At it’s core, let’s face it, you are a highly trained, highly lethal undercover agent. For the purists they will play along with that in mind skulking around in the shadows and either bypass the enemies or kill with silence. For those who like to throw caution to the wind and cause carnage, that option is also viable. These three styles are entitled Ghost, Panther and Assault. In my humble opinion, usually when a developer adds multiple play styles that don’t feel organic to the kind of game it is I feel as if it’s a cop out. If it’s a stealth game make it stealthy. I do understand this is a business and it’s clearly just to attract a wider audience, but that’s just how I generally feel about it. With that being said I feel as if all the play styles just work with Blacklist. I am, personally, a huge fan of stealth, so I played the part to a tee, but after my initial play through I tried some “assault” style and I have to admit, it was fun.
The way you decide to play the game is predicated on the way you equip yourself. Your options range from stealthy sticky shockers or smoke to cloud your movement to frag grenades and proximity mines for when you just don’t care if they know you are there. From the onset you will be inundated with customization options which can be a bit overwhelming at first, but takes only a small investment of time to get acclimated to. The obvious customization options are there from the Conviction days: pistols, secondary weapons, gadgets, etc. In addition to those you can also customize your apparel for either stealth or armor load outs. The classic goggles may also be upgraded (which is awesome) and even the Paladin can be upgraded! Like I said, it’s a lot to get used to, but I really enjoyed this level of customization. Speaking of the Paladin, not only is this your mode of transportation in-game, but it also doubles as the main navigation screen for playing the game. I kind of liked this, but I’m sure some people won’t be too thrilled about it. You access all your main campaign missions, side missions, multiplayer options and character customization for both main game and multiplayer through the interior of the Paladin.
Although it takes time to become proficient at it, I must say the bringing back of the Spies V. Mercs multiplayer mode was a great idea. The first person Mercs mode leaves a little to be desired on the controls aspect of things, but it’s good enough. Tensions are high as the dichotomy of both sides couldn’t be more different. I feel that if you have any experience and/or affinity for first person shooters you will probably enjoy the Merc side, but it’s infinitely more satisfying to quietly get that knife kill as a Spy. Each round consists of the Spies having to hack into computer terminals while the Mercs are trying to prevent the hacks. After the round is over each team switches sides, so you get to partake in both play styles. The other multiplayer modes consist of variations of Spies V. Mercs, but a classic team deathmatch mode is also available. All in all it was all pretty fun, nothing to make you invest tremendous amount of time in, but fun. The co-op and side missions were very fun. I liked the mixture of stealth or assault gameplay and was generally fun with another person as long as their was communication.
To put it candidly, Blacklist was a very enjoyable experience for me. I spent a little bit of time with it at E3, but taking in the whole breadth of the game was very nice. The multitude of options at your disposable is great. Whether it’s the extensive customization, innovative multiplayer, all the side missions to do with a buddy or just playing the campaign with all the different play styles, Blacklist is definitely worth the time. The campaign doesn’t really have a particularly amazing stage, but the whole of the campaign is solid. One other thing I didn’t touch on is the Gone Dark missions. These were very amusing, but had nothing to do with game play. It was more a meta game that involved lots of Google searches, nonetheless try it out! If you’re in the mood for a third person Swiss army knife type of game look no further. Blacklist will surely be able to please audiences of different interests.