System: PS3 (reviewed), 360, Wii U, PC, Rating: M, Length: 12 hrs approx.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a video game review, as is the usual case on my site. I don’t have all the time in the world to play them and it can take me some time to beat a game, as I usually go at my own pace and play when I want to. Splinter Cell Blacklist was very much a game I wanted to play at my own pace, as the game lends beautifully to someone who wants to take their time and really get to know the environment and patterns of enemies and explore the plethora of different paths through each level. Blacklist proudly goes back to the roots of the Splinter Cell series, mixing a nice helping of stealth and action, but sadly it does lack in one small department…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from the Official Site is as follows: The United States has a military presence in two-thirds of countries
around the world. Some of them have had enough. A group of terrorists
calling themselves The Engineers initiate a terror ultimatum called the
Blacklist – a deadly countdown of escalating attacks on US interests at
home and abroad.
Operate Without Restrictions:
Sam is back in his ops suit and goggles, and he’s more lethal
and agile than ever. Granted the freedom to do whatever it takes to stop
the Blacklist, Sam flies from exotic locales to US cities as he races
against the clock to find out who’s behind this devastating threat.
Splinter Cell Blacklist takes place an unknown amount of time after the previous Splinter Cell entry, Conviction. Things seem to be low key for Sam Fisher and his friend Victor Coste, until a direct attack on the Anderson Air Force Base, puts Sam Fisher directly in the action, against the terrorist group known as the Engineers and they vow to put direct attacks on several different key areas of the US. President Caldwell creates a task force, known as Forth Echelon, which consist of Sam Fisher, Anna Grímsdóttir, Charlie Cole, Briggs and several other people, with a base on a sophisticated aircraft, known of the Paladin (which during off missions, you can wander around in and talk to people and upgrade stuff. It actually reminded me a little of Mass Effect).
That’s pretty much all you need to know about the main story for Blacklist. In a way, it’s a pretty straight forward action plot, with terrorists taking revenge on the US, plotting and scheming several deadly attacks and you being the only man who can get the job done right, which of course is correct, cause you’re Sam Mother Fraking Fisher, or you think he is, until you hear his voice. Sadly, gone is the iconic voice of Michael Ironside and instead we have it replaced with the generic hero voice of Eric Johnson, who does an okay job, but he had giant shoes to fill and he just couldn’t cut it. It’s been said on other reviews, when Sam is talking to his daughter Sarah, it comes off as sounding creepy and that’s exactly what it does, creeptastic. Sam does not sound his age, not at all.
Thankfully, during most missions, you hardly hear his voice, as you stalk through the shadows, staying out of the light and shimming up across pipes, or crawling through vents. It’s definitely a return to the wonderful stealth mechanics of Chaos Theory (arguably the best in the series), with a few mixes of Conviction thrown in for good measure. You can still tag enemies for execution (unless playing on the higher difficulty, Perfectionist, which I recommend, as the game isn’t the hardest out there) and if spotted, your silhouette will appear, so you know where you were last seen (once again, not available on Perfectionist).
The game also has three types of play styles, each earning you points as you play through the level, which then gets changed into money come the end, which you can spend on gadgets, suits upgrades and Paladin upgrades and translates to more help in the field. The three play styles are: Ghost, where you don’t want to be spotted, don’t kill anyone and mainly sneak around and avoid as much confrontation as possible, Panther, where you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, but you still don’t want to get spotted and Assault, where you go balls to wall action and just shoot the shit out of everything. Splinter Cell Blacklist definitely doesn’t lack in allowing the player free reign.
Besides the single player campaign, which should run you around 12 hours of playtime, you also have some multiplayer options. There are 14 co-op missions, that you can play with a friend. They are given to you by each person on the plane and they range from stealth missions, survival missions against waves of baddies, kill everyone missions and a mix of different styles. It’s pretty comprehensive and a blast to play with a friend. You can help each other boost up into different areas, take people out at the same time, or distract a guard, while the other player hacks a computer. My brother-in-law and I had a blast going through most of these and I can’t wait to finish them off.
As for the other multiplayer mode, you have Spies vs Mercs, a mode I didn’t play, so, I can’t really say one way or the other whether it’s good or not, but I can tell you, people are loving it. Here is the info on what the mode is all about:
Spies vs. Mercs is a unique multiplayer experience that innovates from the roots of the Splinter Cell franchise.
On one end, you have a team of agile, stealthy Spies looking to
infiltrate a location and hack terminals to gather information, all
while remaining undetected. On the other end, you have a team of heavily
armed and powerful Mercs that must defend their terminals and stop the
Spies from gathering the data by any means necessary.
Each team has different abilities and tools that they must
leverage to outsmart their opponents, setting the tone for big rivalries
and very fun competitive gameplay.
So, I do obviously have to try the mode out, but I just wanted to make sure you know that I didn’t actually play this mode, so that part is not factored into the score at all.
Rounding everything out for this review, I should mention the graphics and sound. The graphics for the most part are astounding, with some beautiful level design (the levels are laid out to be explored). However, the character models could use a little work, with some enemies just being a copy and paste job. It doesn’t really distract from the gameplay and thankfully, there is no need to worry about Sam, as he is by far the best looking character model in the game. Finally, sound is phenomenal (besides Sam’s voice work), with music being dynamic depending on what’s happening on screen. Gun sounds are loud, the iconic night vision sound is present and pretty much everyone’s voice was good (the main bad guy, Majid Sadiq, played by Carlo Rota, does a wonderful job) and thankfully this time around, the bad guys aren’t yelling out Fisher’s name every five seconds.
Fans of Chaos Theory are going to love Splinter Cell Blacklist. I’ve been a fan of every single Splinter Cell, so obviously I came out loving this one as well. Yes, the lack of Michael Ironside is like a stab to the gut, but you get over it after awhile and move on (well… somewhat move on, as evident by this review). The extensive mutliplayer modes and the varied single player campaign make up for any misgivings you’ll have. My recommendation is to pick up Blacklist ASAP, strap on the night vision goggles and get enveloped in an amazing video game experience. Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Fisher is back… well most of him.
Rating: 4.5/5 (-0.5 for the lack of Ironside, overuse of generic character models. +4.5 for a return to form and offering a plethora of different gameplay styles, modes and handfuls of stealthy fun.)