Sam Fisher is in charge of stopping a mysterious group called “The Engineers” in this installment of Splinter Cell. Can the American symbol of stealth surprise us after two years since his last title?
It all starts at a military base in Guam, where Sam Fisher and Victor Coste (Vic) suffer from a mysterious terrorist attack. After escaping from the wreckage of the helicopter they were manning, both receive the help of the hacker Charlie Cole and make their way through the base to find out who is responsible for the attack, but Vic is injured while trying to protect Sam from a grenade. After that, we learned that the culprit of the attack call themselves “The Engineers” and aim to target distinct U.S. key points unless they comply with their demand of rolling back all its troops throughout the world.
To stop the advance of the Blacklist, President Patricia Caldwell (in charge of dissolving Third Echelon) assigns Sam, Charlie, Isaac Briggs (CIA agent) and Anna “Grim” Grimsdottir to a new unit called Fourth Echelon, where Fisher takes the role of commander and has as base of operations the cargo plane called “Paladin”. From there, you use all the resources at our disposal to identify possible targets of and members of the terrorist group with the help of SMI (Strategic Mission Interface), a global map where you find all the primary and secondary missions of the game.
Using a modification of the Unreal Engine called LEAD Engine, Splinter Cell: Blacklist presents large scenarios with abundant light sources (natural and artificial) to make the most of Sam’s skills . As in previous installments, almost all artificial lights can be turn off or destroyed in order to move more quietly, but this is not the only factor that influences when we want to get closer to our enemies (sound, enemy troop training). Although all the characters have quite detailed models (especially Sam and Briggs), there are some moments where you can tell how old it is the graphic engine, but never fails to be pleasing to the eye. The flexibility of this engine can also be seen when you activate the different types of views and the map is analyzed in seconds, just to generate a completely different layout and help us to know the position of cameras, enemy troops, light sources, etc.
The game’s voice acting has the characteristics of any current action movie , where each character show their own personality in the scenes they appear, whether they are in the foreground or just providing information through a communication radio. Unfortunately, the title suffers from a major drawback: the lack of Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher. His replacement, Eric Johnson, tries to fulfill the role in the best way possible, but those who had the chance to listen to Ironside, will realize that this may sound new voice to too young for the role that he intends to comply. The music is usually kept in the background, but it takes more importance if we are discovered or initiate any kind of combat.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is divided into two main game modes: the story related missions (singleplayer / cooperative) and competitive mode called Spies vs Mercs. At first, whether playing for 1 or 2 players, missions have different ways of being completed and our performance is classified into 3 styles: Ghost, Panther and Assault.
- Ghost: knock out enemies undetected.
- Panther: kill enemies without being detected.
- Assault: start fighting looking to be detected (weapons without a silencer, grenades, mines, etc.)
Each of these styles are those which determine how much funding we get at the end of each mission to improve our equipment or purchase new weapons and gagdets for singleplayer or multiplayer. A returning ability from Conviction to influence over these styles (either alone or in co-op) is “Mark and Execute”. This allows us to achieve almost instant executions to all kinds of enemies, and can also be used to generate chain takedowns or kills, increasing the amount of score you get in each scenario.
As mentioned earlier, besides the main missions, the SMI has side missions that appear as we interact with other members of Fourth Echelon and Paladin passengers. These can be played locally or online co-op and generally have as objectives to survive a certain amount of waves of enemies, kill all the troops that are occupying a territory or get more information regarding The Engineers.
Spies vs. Mercs returns as the competitive mode for SC: Blacklist, where we take the role of one of the members of the two factions and, depending on the mode of the game, we need to fulfill different objectives in a certain amount of rounds. The game modes are based on the popular Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination, etc. and most of these gives us the chance to use classes created with the funds we get from each mission. Note that in this mode, the spies have greater mobility throughout the stage, better tracking of enemies with their skills, and the chance to play in third person, but lack offensive gadgets and resistance. Mercenaries, however, have more weapons at their disposal and more resistance, but their tracking is not very accurate and must use a first person view.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist gives us the chance to choose our game style and doesn’t force us to use only one (except certain missions). The presence of a co-op mode (local / online), and an original competitive mode are some of the things that stand out the most from the title.
The review code used was provided by Ubisoft and the game is available since August 20th for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC and Wii U (Retail / Digital).