by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Back to Stealth
I still remember playing the original Splinter Cell games early last decade. You could play as an actual spy, stealthily infiltrating enemy bases and extracting information, rather than running in and shooting up the place like a James Bond type character. The stealth genre has certainly evolved in recent years, with more and more games giving you different options for what to do if you get caught. Many people thought Splinter Cell: Conviction leaned too heavily in the way of action, so fans of the original will be pleased to know that there is more of a reliance on stealth in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft’s latest addition to the franchise. Some of those action elements return, though, as shown in the announcement trailer last year, so it will be interesting to see if the game can cater to both parties when it releases later this year.
You will once again be taking on the role of super spy Sam Fisher. Controversially, Michael Ironside will not be coming back to voice the character, instead handing the torch of gruff, gritty voicework over to Eric Johnson, most recognisable for appearing on Smallville for several years. In the game, Fisher becomes leader of Fourth Echelon, a new spy establishment dedicated to preventing terrorism on American soil. The US is under threat from steadily worsening attacks, so it is up to Fisher to stop the bad guys before it’s too late.
Luckily Fisher is used to this kind of thing by now, and is well equipped to combat his enemies. Along with his handy standard weaponry, sleeping darts and unrivalled hand to hand combat skills, he also has plenty of gadgets. The Tri-rotor is a small flying machine which will be used to scout forward areas, mark the locations of enemies, and if spotted can even be detonated to create a deadly explosion. Of course, this has to be remotely controlled, so you will have to find a safe spot to sit and guide it, for fear of being spotted by roaming guards. Night vision and thermal vision have become synonymous with the franchise and make a welcome return here. Everything is controlled from Fisher’s Operational Satellite Uplink (OPSAT), a portable computer strapped to his arm. Not only will this manage gadgets, but will also be used as a communication device to stay in contact with his team.
Trying to play the game as an action shooter will be difficult. Many enemies will be tough to bring down, and Fisher himself will only take a few shots to kill. It won’t be impossible to play the game like a shooter if you wish, the marking system to quickly kill a group of enemies is still here, but you will have a hard time doing it. Blacklist will reward you for playing stealthily too, with its new currency system. Taking down a guy silently will get you more cash than if you, say, run at him while firing wildly with a shotgun. Non-lethal take-downs will be even more cost effective for you. All the money you accumulate will be used to upgrade Sam’s suit and buy more gadgets.
Multiple Game Modes
I went to see Blacklist at Gamescom last year, and wasn’t particularly excited about what I saw. The story and gameplay looked pretty standard to me, and while it looked like it would be a perfectly fine and polished game, I wanted something a little more. However, once I found out about the return of the Spies versus Mercenaries mode I was right back on board. Sadly, the multiplayer mode was missing from Conviction, which the developers quickly realised was a mistake. As the most requested feature by fans since that game’s release, Spies vs Mercs will be making a triumphant return in Blacklist. ‘Classic’ is a two on two mode much like Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. The two spies are played in third person, and must stick to the shadows in order to hack terminals and complete their objectives. The two defending mercs are controlled from first person. They are heavily armoured, and wield superior firepower as well as flashlights used to peer into the darkness. However, the beam will give away your position to the spies, so it becomes an intense game of cat and mouse as each team tries to out manoeuvre each other in pursuit of their ultimate goal. ‘Blacklist’ is a new mode which is a four on four game, featuring deeper customisation options for players.
Luring back the Fans
Ubisoft attempted to bring in new fans with Conviction, but may have ended up losing some old fans in the process. With Blacklist, the series returns to its old ways in part, while still retaining some of the newer features. The exciting multiplayer making a comeback will be music to the ears of many and will keep people coming back to the game long after they have completed the deep, lengthy main campaign mode.