If you have patience, tactfulness and persistence, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a blast from beginning to end. If those qualities don’t come naturally, you’ll have a bit of a learning curve – but it’s worth every second.
Blacklist delivers the perfect mixture of tension and excitement through varied gameplay, stunning environments, and a fantastic single player campaign.
A terrorist organization called The Engineers initiates a series of attacks, both inside and outside of the United States. They promise the attacks will continue until the U.S. removes their troops from all the countries where they’re stationed. Once again you’re the stealthy, shadow-loving Sam Fisher and you need to systematically shut down The Engineers.
The plot in Blacklist is fairly standard. It’s structured to support gameplay, and that’s about it. You never feel emotionally involved. Sam’s relationship with his crewmates aboard the Paladin (headquarters for the Fourth Echelon) seems superficial at best.
But this game isn’t about story. It’s about gameplay. So as a mechanic to support the style of gameplay that Splinter Cell is known for, the storyline in Blacklist works just fine. Don’t expect emotional jaw-dropping moments like those in The Last of Us or Bioshock, but it’s a solid story that comes together in a nice package. Tension is built through gameplay, not narrative.
Blacklist is a stealth game and you’re encouraged to creep in the shadows, but it’s not your only option. You can customize three different loadouts and manage your style of play based on mission briefings, preference and what works best for each situation.
Weapons, gadgets and tactical suits are purchased with money earned by completing different missions. Each piece of gear will either increase “armour” or “stealth.” You can jack up your armour and become less vulnerable to enemy attacks, improve your stealth and try and avoid enemy contact all together, or build a cocktail of each and experiment with different styles.
New boots silence your footsteps, gloves improve weapon handling, and silenced weapons keep gunfire hidden from enemies. Using a variety of gadgets will also help you complete each mission:
- Scout ahead with the remote flying tri-router and shock your enemies,
- lure them into the shadows with a sticky noisemaker and dispense of them quietly, or
- launch a sticky camera to scope the lay of the land, distract enemies, detonate them with a powerful explosion, or release gas to knock them out.
Experimentation is fun and helpful. Different weapons, upgrades and attachments will also support your preferred style of play.
Stealth is a big part of the game, but there’s still room for running and gunning. Sometimes it’s even a necessity. However, the difficulty increases once you give away your position, and in most cases you’ll earn more money and points with less enemy contact.
A white, ghost-like silhouette of your character appears when you’ve been made. It represents your last known location. This is one of my favourite mechanics. You can surprise, distract and flank enemies once they think they’re on to you. As long as that white silhouette is on the screen, that’s where they think you are. It adds an exciting tactical layer to gameplay and helps keep things interesting.
Next to gameplay, the overall presentation compliments the action in a functional and aesthetic manner. Set pieces are purposefully placed to provide a variety of cover, levels are multidimensional to encourage vantage point exploration, and the detail and textures are phenomenal. Blacklist is truly an achievement of level design.
Although Blacklist isn’t an open world game, missions give you a feeling of freedom. Similar to the Crysis franchise, you approach each set and decide how to proceed. I encourage you to experiment with different styles and enjoy all the game has to offer.
Characters models look good, but the star of the show is the environment. Detailed textures make your surroundings come to life. The rocks look crumbly and fragile, the shadows are deep and expansive, and the lighting can either blind or help you.
There was controversy surrounding Ubisoft’s decision to replace Michael Ironside with Eric Johnson as the lead for Sam Fisher. I’m new to the franchise, so I don’t have a point of reference. I did a little research and found this interview with Ironside:
I enjoyed Eric Johnson’s performance, but the emotional care that Ironside seems to have built into the character of Sam Fisher has definitely persuaded me to try other games in the series.
Blacklist is a triumph. The gameplay goes beyond fun and forces you to be patient and cognitive of each situation. You need to think on your feet and adapt to different styles of play. It was very frustrating for me at the beginning, but once I settled down and found my groove, I couldn’t put the controller down.
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