- Game: Splinter Cell: Blacklist
- Release Date: August 20, 2013
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Genres: Third-person, Action-Adventure, Stealth
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
- Platform Chosen by Reviewer: PlayStation 3
In Splinter Cell: Blacklist (or simply Blacklist for short) players control Sam Fisher, the Splinter Cell series’ main protagonist and most notable character. At the beginning of the game players witness a terrorist attack on a U.S. military base in Guam, leaving dozens of soldiers dead. Sam Fisher, accompanied by his long time friend Victor Coste, happened to be at the base during the attack. Both men attempt to help fallen soldiers and stop those responsible but end up failing after receiving various injuries and simply being too far behind. After learning about the terrorist group responsible and gaining perspective in their motives, Sam Fisher and other allies regroup on the Paladin – the “home base” or base of operations throughout the game.
A terrorist organization known as “The Engineers” reveal themselves as the group responsibly for the attack on the American military base in Guam while detailing a heinous plan of attack. The Engineers want the United States to return all deployed troops to American soil. A countdown clock is set with cryptic clues about planned attacks, each taking place subsequently unless The Engineers’ demands are met. Dubbed “the Blacklist”, these attacks are aimed solely at American assets and citizens, theoretically putting millions of lives at risk. Once the President of the United States gets word of The Engineers and the Blacklist she creates an anti-terrorism unit called Fourth Echelon. Anna “Grim” Grimsdottir, Charlie Cole, Isaac Briggs, and Sam Fisher make up Fourth Echelon and they have only one mission; To stop The Engineers and save American lives.
Blacklist’s storyline remains consistent and smooth, there is not a dull moment to be found in this game. Alongside the main story missions are a plethora of side missions that may be found or given out by either Isaac, Charlie, Grim, or other temporary allies. These side-missions may be played solo or cooperatively, so players can either try their luck by themselves or invite a friend (online or split-screen) to help out. The main story is solo online, so the side-missions are a great opportunity to get friends involved. Side-missions add a lot to the game and help with unlocks such as new weapons and upgrades as well as dealing out generic experience. There is also a multiplayer mode accessed via the Paladin called Spies vs. Mercs which can be played at any time between missions.
One of the main highlights in Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the play-style rewards. Previous Splinter Cell games focused on stealth gameplay with the occasional action sequence. Blacklist, however, features three interchangeable play-styles that allow players to choose their style. Each play-style features rewards and bonus based on how much of the play-style was used by the player. There are three recognized play-styles: Stealth, Panther, and Assault. The Stealth style plays a lot like it sounds – stealth is the main focus, remaining hidden and using non-lethal ways to incapacitate enemies (or avoiding combat all together) will earn players points in Stealth. Panther is a more lethal form of Stealth – silently killing enemies and remaining undetected will earn the player Panther points. Assault is also just as it sounds – this is a more “run-and-gun” style of play, being detected and killing enemies with guns or grenades will earn players Assault points. At the end of each mission the game will tally points earned in each play-style, the more points earned in a specific play-style the higher the bonus. It’s typical to get at least a few points in each style, but more often than not the player will focus on one specific style above the others.
Players have the opportunity to customize Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Blacklist like never before. Customization in Blacklist involves not only weapons and gadgets but also clothing and personal gear. Specific sets of gear are dedicated to each of the above play-styles. For example, if a player wished to go the Assault route they can choose gear tailored to that style which gives them more armor so that less damage is taken. This goes for weapon load-outs and gadgets, as well. Players gain access to three saved load-outs which they may customize individually and at will. These can be created and customized to fit a play-style or in any other way the player wishes. Certain weapons and gadgets are best for certain play-styles but they may all be interchanged. For example a Stealth player may want a silenced weapon and smoke grenades equipped to remain undetected while playing the game. Each weapon can be individually customized with scopes, silencers, special ammunition, etc. This allows for a more tailored experience for each individual gamer.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist features plenty of shooting and killing, as expected, but also has some interesting platforming elements such as wall-scaling and rock-climbing. Getting from point A to point B can be a fun journey as opposed to boring downtime between combat scenarios. Executions are back in Blacklist and are gained through silent kills or knockouts. Once the execution ability is earned, players can mark a set amount of enemies and press one button to kill them at simultaneously. As an extra bonus to each mission, hackable laptops and captureable high value targets (or HVT’s) are placed on the map. Players can hack or capture these targets to gain extra bonus points and money, which is used for unlocks and customization. Overall the gameplay is smooth and fun, making players comfortable through the various play-styles and keeping them entertained with combat sequences.
The graphics in Splinter Cell: Blacklist are very up-to-date and refreshing. Scenery and surrounding areas are well put together and looks great. The motion capture is notable, characters make realistic facial expressions and movements. Mouths move along with words as opposed to opening and closing when speaking. Subtle facial movements like raising an eyebrow or smiling look amazingly detailed as well. Voice acting is well done though players of past games in the series will notice the lack of Micheal Ironside as Sam Fisher as well as a change in the voices of other notable characters. While I don’t think this degrades the game in any important way, it does break continuity if you know Sam Fisher based on his voice as many do.
A very notable presentation feature is the game’s sound. Sound effects such as gunshots or enemy movement/conversations comes through very clear, making it easier to judge their movement or gauge distance. Controls handle well on both console and PC, gameplay feels smooth as the controls remain uncluttered. The WIi U version of the game uses the gamepad to display the hud or OPSAT that Sam Wears on his wrist. Other platforms allow players to access the OPSAT through the menus or in a specific area on the Paladin but Wii U players will have the ability to view missions and customize characters and load-outs at the tip of their fingers.
- Story/Plot: 9.5
- Gameplay: 9.5
- Presentation: 9
- Length: 10-14 Hours
- Replayability: Moderate
- Entertainment Value: High