Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the newest instalment in the often praised stealth franchise that is most commonly referred to in full as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. This aging game franchise has consistently set the bar for great stealth mechanics, good tension and, of course, super-secret spy stuff. Ubisoft has opted to go back to the series’ roots with Blacklist, perhaps hoping to reclaim some of the fans they may have lost as a result of the previous game, Splinter Cell Conviction, being a slight departure from the mechanics of earlier titles
As with any Splinter Cell game, Splinter Cell: Blacklist places you in the shoes of Sam Fisher, a top secret spy who works directly under the President. With no accountability to speak of, you set out with a four man team around the world to stop a terrorist organisation from harming the United States. Employing your trusted night vision goggles and various other gadgets you will fight or sneak through a plethora of locales ranging from the stereotypical ‘rich dude’s mansion’ to the headquarters of a foreign intelligence agency.
After being disbanded from the corrupt “Third Echelon”, Sam Fisher is put back into service in the newly formed and originally named “Fourth Echelon” to put a stop to a new terrorist group known only as “The Engineers”. Fourth Echelon rides around in a fancy military plane fitted out with lots of high-tech screens and lens flares. This is where you spend your time in between missions and also where you get to upgrade your gear. Before entering a mission you are greeted with what can only be described as a terrible early 90’s action movie complete with flat stale dialogue and various sound drops when tension needs to be built up. That being said these cutscenes, just like an early 90’s action movie, kind of grow on you. The term “it’s so bad it’s good” comes to mind and by the second hour of gameplay I was genuinely enjoying the characters’ serious stares and expressions that come with every bit of serious intel that they come across. The main structure of the story is pretty simple and stereotypical with you traveling around the world getting more and more intel to stop various attacks on the US.
Even with the story kind of lacking, Ubisoft have done a fantastic job with the gameplay of Blacklist. Staying true to the earlier Splinter Cell games, your objective is often to sneak around and past various types of terrorists and small drones in order to get to someone or some kind of intel. I was very satisfied at the length of this game, taking me around 15 hours to complete the main storyline with many side missions left to complete. Blacklist was not the easiest of games and there were many points where I would have to try multiple times to avoid dying or being cornered by guards. As usual the stealth and sneak elements are rock solid and as a result, loads of fun! The only real downside to the gameplay is that sometimes the difficulty spikes came out of nowhere and I was simply not prepared for them, resulting in many tries before being able to get past a section.
Blacklist also has a nice amount of customisation. Most of your weapons can be upgraded and you have a fairly expansive choice of gadgets and tech to choose from before deploying to each mission. That being said you will probably find what loadout you like and stick with it throughout the entire game just as I did.
The presentation during the gameplay looks good and the shader work by Ubisoft was definitely a highlight during my playthrough, but the engine really shows its age during the cutscenes where the characters faces often look very static and the textures are muddy at best. When you think about it Splinter Cell is the only flagship series from Ubisoft not to have a newer engine and while I will cut them some slack for their fantastic shader work, if Ubisoft choose to stick with the modified Unreal Engine 2 that has run every Splinter Cell game since 2002 they would be shooting themselves in the foot.
Now I can’t talk about this game without touching on the voice acting, which has been the topic of a great deal of controversy. Every Splinter Cell game up until now has featured the great Michael Ironside voicing Sam Fisher and in turn giving Sam a great personality and slight familiarity. This time though, Ubisoft has opted for a much younger actor to perform the voice and the motion capture for the role. Eric Johnson was selected by Ubisoft and his voice acting is adequate although having a younger voice doesn’t really help the fact that Sam Fisher seems to be getting younger as time goes on.
Blacklist‘s multiplayer marks the return of the fabled Spies vs Mercs mode from Pandora Tomorrow, the game mode pits a team of spies against a team of mercenaries. As a spy you are presented with the familiar third person perspective and the focus is on using stealth to hack one of three objectives on the map without getting killed by the mercenaries. When playing as a mercenary you are given a first person perspective, an assault rifle and a flashlight, this perspective surprisingly gives you a real sense of fear as to where there could be a spy about to pounce on you and makes way for some great fun. The real disappointment is that Ubisoft opted for a peer to peer system, so you will be presented with the dreaded “host migrating” messages during gameplay which really takes you out of the moment. While online I did notice that there were not many people playing and I only managed to join 2v2 matches.[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]Enjoyable Stealth Mechanics
Rock Solid Gameplay
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]Generic Story