There are a lot of highly anticipated games due for release this year, and it would be hard to be forgiven if you didn’t include Sam Fishers return in this list. Sam Fisher is the central character in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the sixth instalment in the Splinter Cell franchise and a direct sequel to 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Developed and Published by Ubisoft, the game focuses around a terrorist group called ‘The Engineers’ who are responsible for a series of attacks on the US. The terrorists announce that there will be an increasing amount of attacks on US assets that they have labelled to be the Blacklist.
For fans of the series, they will remember that Sam Fishers team was shut down at the end of Conviction; however the president knows just how good Sam Fisher is (don’t we all) and sets up a new unit called Fourth Echelon. Setting up Sam as the commander of this task force players are introduced to other team members and the team’s headquarters which is based on the customisable cargo plane, Paladin.
The game is action packed from the start and there is a quick tutorial that acts as the first mission and prologue to the game. Many of the features that were upgraded and introduced in Conviction have been brought back for Blacklist including silent takedowns and the mark and execute function which enables players to mark three enemies and then hit Y to see a slow motion execution.
The style of the game including how you are introduced to your location or new mission objective, through to the way the cutscenes are played out, look beautiful and if you want to increase the look further, the game comes with a second disc for you install HD textures, making the game look even more beautiful and detailed. There are times when you have to put your night vision goggles on and the textures and graphics still look phenomenal. There has been a lot of care in ensuring this is a great looking game as you carefully plan your root around each mission and learn the route your enemies take so you can silently take down each enemy.
Another element of the game worth highlighting, aside from it looking great is the customisability of it. Your HQ can be upgraded through money you earn for completing missions and challenges. As you upgrade different areas of your HQ, this enables you extra customisation such as new guns to buy and upgrade, extra loadout slots to have a predesigned loadout removing the need to customise yours style when you want to change game play from assault to stealth. As mentioned you can also customise everything you wear, suit, goggles, gloves, boots or trousers; all of which helps you in deciding how you want to approach the game.
One thing that is very positive about Blacklist is the vast amount of content the game offers. Not only is there the excellent campaign mode, but each of Sam Fishers team members also have some side missions for you to complete. Tech guru Charlie has what can be best described as a horde mode, Briggs, your combat partner has co-op only missions that you can play via Xbox Live with a friend of through Splinter Cells matchmaking functionality while Analyst Grimm offers Stealth only missions that need to be aborted if you are seen.
While all missions can be played co-operatively there is also the multiplayer option of “Spies vs. Mercs”. This is a gamemode that was originally introduced in Pandora Tomorrow, the second game in the Splinter Cell franchise. The aim of the multiplayer mode is that players are split into two teams, either merc or spies. The mercenaries defend terminals while the spies must try to bypass the enemy and hack the terminals.
While the game is designed as a stealth action adventure game, if players decide to go all out assault then it is an option, however not one I would recommend. Each mission is scored on your approach and you are awarded more points and money for the ghost gameplay style of non-lethal takedowns and not being spotted. No matter how dressed to the nines you are in action and combat gear, it will not take long if you rush out into a group of enemies for you to die very quickly. The best way to avoid this is by hiding in the shadows and working on the ghost gameplay style.
When talking earlier about the side missions, it is worth highlighting Grimm’s mission as this is an area of the game that was very unforgiving. The aim is to not be seen and even on the easiest of the four difficulty settings, it takes a lot of patience and trial and error gameplay to successfully navigate these side missions. If you were trying to pick faults with Splinter Cell: Blacklist it could be that these missions were overly difficult and the game was quite merciless and unforgiving in terms of the stealth element. On the other hand this could be seen as a realistic approach to the gameplay. In the main campaign you are also spotted very easily which can then see you change your tact from ghost to assault for completing the remainder of the level.
Overall, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is another great addition to the franchise.
With hours of gameplay including single player and cop op functionality, side missions and an online multiplayer mode that guarantees additional hours of gameplay with its own separate unlock system it is a game I know that will continue to be put into the Xbox disc tray.
Waiting three years patiently for the return of Splinter Cell was well worth the wait and it is interesting to look at how this series has progressed. I really do hope we see further instalments with a shorter wait than we had with this title.