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Review: Splinter Cell Blacklist

By Damian Seeto, Fri 27 Sep 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Splinter Cell Blacklist is the sixth main entry in the popular stealth franchise published and developed by Ubisoft.

The series as a whole has been renowned for taking to the stealth genre to new heights, although it appears as if Blacklist has borrowed elements from other recent games to make this entry more action-packed than ever.

The major difference long-term fans will notice about Splinter Cell Blacklist is that Sam Fisher has completely changed. This is because Michael Ironside’s deep and gruff voice has been replaced by the boring and bland portrayal of Eric Johnson.

I don’t want to criticise the game mainly on one man’s voice, although I have to say that Eric Johnson is one of the worst voice actors I’ve ever heard.

He gives no expression or range to the voice of Sam Fisher whatsoever. It’s almost as if he’s talking like he just got out of bed. Seriously, anybody else off the street could do a better job than he did.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, the actual game itself improves on its predecessors in many ways and Blacklist potentially could be the best Splinter Cell game of all time. One aspect of Blacklist that has been improved dramatically is the overall story and the addition of more exciting cutscenes.

The first level opens up in explosive fashion (literally) when a terrorist group calling themselves “The Engineers” starts destroying a USA military base.

Sam Fisher and his friend Victor Coste are there first-hand and manage to survive the attack, although Coste is severely injured. The Engineers announce a series of attacks on the USA they call “The Blacklist”.

Without spoiling anymore of the plot, let’s just say Sam Fisher has to put any personal differences aside in order to find out who’s responsible for the attacks. Even if this means keeping one person that he really hates alive for information…

In terms of the story and cutscenes, Blacklist is the most cinematic game of the entire Splinter Cell series. While playing the game, sometimes it feels like you are watching an action thriller type of movie.

Not to mention there are sections in the game where Sam Fisher has to run from explosions as if the game was directed by Michael Bay.

Some long-time fans may feel these sections are unnecessary since they branch out from the game’s main theme of being quiet and stealthy, but I welcomed these sections because they made the game more exciting in my opinion.

The main great thing that I loved most about Splinter Cell Blacklist is that the game gives you many options on how you want to play. Even though there are some sections that require you to remain undetected, you don’t necessarily have to stay hidden in the dark all of the time. You can also choose to knockout or kill your enemies depending on how you’re feeling.

I remember 2004’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow being the hardest game in the entire series because you were forced to remain undetected at all times. I applaud Ubisoft for taking a risk and allowing not-so-quiet gamers like myself a chance to succeed in a game like Blacklist.

The game’s mechanics themselves favour those that are stealthy anyway, despite the game allowing you to been seen in most cases. This is because the enemies in this game are smart and don’t waste bullets like they do in most other games.

When enemies shoot at you, you are likely to get hit 90% of the time. Not only that, but they’ll call in reinforcements and you’ll mostly likely die within seconds if you don’t find a decent hiding spot.

Splinter Cell Blacklist is unlike games such as Call of Duty or Gears of War because shooting at your enemies all of the time is a strategy that will get you killed very early.

Gameplay wise, Splinter Cell Blacklist is not too dissimilar to the gameplay seen in Splinter Cell: Conviction. That is to say that the gameplay is a lot smoother than the PS2/Xbox Splinter Cell video games and Sam Fisher has a lot more moves in his arsenal too.

Ubisoft did a lot of work in the animation department as Sam Fisher has several different new techniques to taking down enemies. This includes both lethal and non-lethal attacks.

As stylish as you can be in this game, I experimented a bit and decided to throw enemies at one another and bash doors loudly. This gameplay style is not recommended, although it’s nice that you’re able to have a little bit of fun in what is essentially a serious type of game.

Visually, Splinter Cell Blacklist is a huge improvement over Conviction. The game’s levels looks a lot brighter and the character models have more detail to them as well. I remember being a bit disappointed by the visuals in Conviction as they looked a bit rushed considering the game as in development for around four years.

Blacklist may not look as good as games like The Last of Us or Tomb Raider, although I would say it’s the best looking Splinter Cell game ever.

Other than the single player campaign, there is also a ton of side-missions you can undertake and a separate co-op campaign Sam Fisher can do with a new character called Briggs. You can play the co-op mode via two-player splitscreen or with a friend online.

I have to admit that the co-op is pretty hard as Blacklist introduces a lot of new enemy types that weren’t featured in the previous games. This includes enemies wearing heavy armour and helmets plus people that even wield shields. These enemies also appear in the single player mode too, although they seem to increase in number for the co-op campaign.

If you want to tackle the co-op mode, just make sure you are both skilled at the game as it’s quite difficult to complete.

The other main area of the game is the “Spies vs Mercs” mode. This mode has always been popular and it’s great that Ubisoft decided to bring it back. It’s more unique than any other multiplayer mode out there because the “Spies” play in third-person trying to hack terminals.

The other opposing teams are the “Mercs” who play from a first-person perspective as they try and kill the “Spies”. Another great thing about this mode is that you have access to a lot of gadgets too. This includes drones, mines, and other pieces of equipment other guns.

All in all, Splinter Cell Blacklist is a quality entry to the popular series and improves in a lot of ways from its predecessors. The gameplay is excellent and there are a ton of modes that you can play outside of the single player campaign that prolongs the fun.

Blacklist is a near flawless game that should satisfy most fans. The only thing wrong about the game is how boring Sam Fisher has become…

Graphics: 9.0Gameplay: 9.0Sound: 8.0Lasting Appeal: 9.0

Overall: 9.0

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