Superspy, Sam Fisher, steps back into the shadows. This time, he's faced with a global terrorist unit, known as "The Engineers". They have demands, and broadcast a bold statement that if their not met, they will attack the United States of America every seven days. The clock is slowly ticking, and it's up to Sam and his newly formed team, Fourth Echelon, to stop the threat before the countdown reaches zero. Blacklist takes place after events of Conviction, so you do see some familiar faces, such as Grim and Victor Coste. It's a gripping Tom Clancy espionage plot, filled with explosions, twist and turns. However, it's not quite as consistent as Sam's personal vendetta in Conviction.
Splinter Cell: Blacklistcertainly has all the goodies you'd want from a Splinter Cell game. It's got the brutal stealth takedowns, the high-end equipment and weapons, but something is missing. That something is Sam's voice, who is no longer voiced by actor Michael Ironside. It does seem rather odd to not hear Fisher's famous gruff voice. It feels like it's lost a spark, but it's something you get used too over the games course. Blacklist still feels like a Splinter Cell game, however. In fact, Blacklist brings back memories of the older games in the series. It's like a rebirth of Chaos Theory, reintroducing some gadgets, and bringing back the freedom to moving dead bodies. Blacklist is a solid entry, and one that proves it's shadowy roots are resurfacing.
Ubisoft tries to please both crowds in Blacklist. The game is built with player choice in mind, allowing you to choose how a mission is executed. If you like playing it the old fashioned way, sticking to the shadows, eliminating foes discreetly, then you can. If going in guns blazing is more your scene, then you can do that too. It's entirely up to you how you approach the game. It blends stealth and action surprisingly well, and works similar to Conviction. It's almost a clone, bringing along some of the same mechanics. The cover system is back, allowing Sam to swiftly slide into cover, then dart across to nearby structure with a simple button tap. The "Mark and Execute" ability also returns, allowing you to mark distant targets, then trigger a slo-mo execution, taking them out in quick succession. A new tweak, called "Killing in Motion" now allows you to execute whilst running. It's fluid, responsive, and a thrill to use, no matter how many times you do it.
You are greatly rewarded in Blacklist, regardless on how you play. Whether you choose stealth or not, you are given a score and cash based on your performance. Each mission ends with an overall score, which is split into three play areas: Ghost, Panther and Assault. Ghost is for those who enjoy silently taking down enemies with non-lethal force. Panther is the same, but for those who prefer lethal takedowns. Then finally, there's Assault, which is for those with a happy trigger finger, going in loud. Your never punished for combining the stealth and assault route. Once a mission is complete, the scores are totalled in each area, then the cash is dished out.
Blacklist takes freedom even further with it's custom-load outs. Before each mission, you are briefed, then given a recommendation to which weapons and gadgets best suite the objective. You can, however, choose your own equipment to take with you. It's fairly limited to begin with, but as you earn some serious cash, you can purchase from a large verity of items. From Sonar Pulse goggles, grenades, tear gas, and even a Tri-Rotor, which is a remote controlled flying drone, capable of stunning foes with shock darks. There's also a wide selection of weapons, such as an AK47, FAMUS, and more. Surprisingly, all these items can be upgraded. Whether it's adding sonar scanning to your tri-rotor, or placing a red dot sight to your assault rifle. Fisher is customizable too, allowing you to equip him with various clothing. From suits, gloves, boots, and even the colour of his goggle lights. It's not just a visual treat either, as dressing up Sam can dramatically improve gameplay. For example, placing gloves can increase weapon handling, whilst boots can reduce the noise from waking or sprinting. It's a surprisingly deep system, and it's addictively fun to work your way through the unlocks. Even after one play-through, it's fun to replay a mission with a different load-out.
The Paladin plays a key role in Blacklist. This is a military aircraft, used as Fourth Echelon's headquarters. Smartly done, the plane is your interactive menu, allowing you to freely move around it at your leisure. You can talk to your team, and even phone Sarah, which each have something new to say between missions. From the SMI - Interactive Map, you can select single-player levels, co-op missions and multiplayer modes. It's a clever way to showcase the various game types, and it blends in very well. The plane can also be upgraded, allowing you to gain access to custom-built prototype weapons, faster health regeneration and more custom loadouts. It's a nice little distraction, but cash is received a bit too easily, and fully upgrading the plane doesn't take that long.
Sam and Grim using the SMI to plan their attack.
Singleplayer is satisfying , lasting a good 8-10 hours. The levels are varied, and presented with the same projected text seen in Conviction. The environments are well detailed, but seem slightly dated. However, everything runs fluidly, and the voice acting is sold throughout. It's the cinematic cutscenes where the game truly suffers. It may be different on PC, but the 360 version is hurt by aggressive screen tearing. It can be distracting at times, but it shouldn't stop you immersed in it's beautiful set pieces.
The weakest part of the game has to be it's singleplayer. It's by no means bad, but the multiplayer offering is far more creative. Co-op missions are varied, providing a nice verity of objectives and team work. One mission could have you surviving a wave of foes, whilst another may force you to be stealthy. One of the best mission has you taking control of a UAV, defending your friend whilst he reaches the objective. Working together is thoroughly enjoyable, and If found it more enjoyable than most of it's solo campaign.
Fans will be most excited for the return of Spies VS Mercs, which was first introduced in 2004's Pandora Tomorrow. It's back, and better than ever. If you are new to the game mode, then it's as simple as the title. One team are the spies, and the other side are the Mercs, which play in a first person perspective. Each side has a verity of gadgets to aid them, and you can set your own custom load-out, just like in singleplayer. The maps are very well designed, making it a blast to sneak around as a Spy. There's plenty of climbable structure, meaning you have to keep a keen eye on death from above takedowns. As a Merc, it's rather creepy, especially in the low light environments. It's extremely intense, and probably the best multiplayer offering the series has seen for a long time.
Splinter Cell : Blacklist is a solid entry that perfectly balances it's stealth mechanics, and those introduced in Conviction. It may not be the ultimate Splinter Cell game, but it's not far away. With some cool gadgets, thrilling co-op and the comeback of Spies VS Merc, Blacklist is a return to form, and shouldn't be missed by fans of the series.