If you have patience, tactfulness and persistence, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a blast from beginning to end. If those qualities don’t come naturally, there’s 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 other countries. 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) seems superficial at best.
But this game is all about gameplay. As a mechanic to support the Splinter Cell style of gameplay, the storyline in Blacklist works fine. Don’t expect emotional jaw-dropping moments like those in The Last of Us or Bioshock, but it comes together in a nice package. Tension is built through gameplay, not narrative.
Blacklist is a stealth game, but it’s all about options. You can customize three loadouts and manage your style of play based on mission briefings, preference and mission requirements.
You can purchase weapons, gadgets and tactical suits 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 an enemy learns your position. 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 keeps things interesting.
The overall presentation compliments the action in a functional and aesthetic manner. Set pieces are provide a variety of cover, levels are multidimensional to encourage vantage point exploration, and the detail and textures are phenomenal. Blacklist is an achievement in level design.
Although not 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. Experiment with different styles and enjoy all the game has to offer.
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 cognizant of each situation. You need to think on your feet and adapt to different styles of play. It was very frustrating at the beginning, but once I settled down and found my groove, I couldn’t put the controller down.
If you haven’t played Splinter Cell: Blacklist, play it today. Whether you’re new to the franchise, or a seasoned veteran, you’ll be glad you did.
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