Welcome back Sam Fisher, it’s been too long.
We have finally received the third installment of the Sam Fisher chronicles of Splinter Cell, and boy does it not disappoint. Ubisoft’s follow up to the critically acclaimed Conviction chapter, picks up right where they left off with Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Conviction had more of a personal feel to the Fisher character, with the story involving Sam and his family. This time around, we are treated to the political/war action story more in line of what we had with Chaos Theory and previous Splinter Cell installments. This time around, we are getting the best of both worlds.
The main story for the single player is pretty straight forward. A group of mercenaries have launched a devastating attack on a U.S. military base in Guam, killing hundreds of soldiers and uploading video of it online. This video was also accompanied by threat: all U.S. military personal must leave every single base around the world, or risk another attack, but this time on the U.S. homeland. This mercenary group calls themselves The Blacklist. It’s up to Sam and his crew to figure out not only who these individuals are, but to find them and stop their planned attacks. You will go all over the world in search for intel, bad guys, and weapons to help aid in the fight against the biggest threat to America yet.
Blacklist hasn’t changed much from the control scheme we were use to in Conviction. And that’s not a bad thing! The controls feel tight and Sam moves smoothly, dashing from cover to cover, getting into place to launch many different varieties of attacks to advance the mission. A couple of nice and new gadgets have been added, as well as multiple different weapons to use to give you the upper hand against the enemy combatants. The Karambit blade is a lovely addition that allows you to slice and dice your way, stealthily across the country without a soul knowing about it. Patience is also a must, as there are times where going “Rambo” mode just doesn’t cut it when the deck is stacked against Sam. Smarts will need to be used, as well as your plethora of gadgets to help you get by. There are moments where you think, “do I use a sleep gas grenade to knock them out, do I climb this pipe and take them down from above, or do I pick them off one by one as they go about their patrol routes?” This gives the game so much replay value, as there are so many ways to go about each mission. You have multiple options of disposing of enemies, and in some cases, multiple paths to take to get from point A to point B. Graphics wise, there was hardly any framerate drop or stutter throughout my entire playthrough, which is very impressive and made for an enjoyable experience visually. The game is running on the Unreal Engine, so vistas and backdrops look outstanding, as well as detail in the main characters of the story. The generic AI enemies do have more detail than what I anticipated, but not nearly to the extent the Sam and the rest of the crew get. The only gripe I have, is that when you are disposing of a body, the enemy always drops their weapon, and the button to pick up the body and the button to pick up the weapon are the same, leaving you sometimes in a frantic hurry to get your weapon back and dispose of the corpse before any of his buddies come by to catch you in the act.
This is where Splinter Cell really shines. Of course you have the fun and heart-pounding single player campaign, but sprinkled throughout the campaign are what’s called Fourth Echelon missions. These missions are side-missions to the main story, and for the most part, can be played either solo or via co-op either online or split screen. Each one of these missions has some tie-in into the main story, allowing you to fully immerse yourself into this world of Sam Fisher. When playing co-op during these missions, it also allows you to access co-op specific paths, which changes the game up from just playing it solo. All of these missions earn money that you use in-game to purchase upgrades to both Sam, as well as your headquarters, Paladin, which is a souped up bad-ass plane that you use to fly from mission to mission. Once you find you are done with both the single player, and the coop side missions, you can move on into the full fledged multiplayer mode of Spies Vs Mercs. It’s a basic setup, where the Spies are agile, use 3rd person view, and can use the patent Sam Fisher goggles, while the Mercs are powerful but yet not so fleet of foot and are in 1st person view. The two modes featured are a basic 2 on 2 and the more familiar, 4 on 4 deathmatch style of game. Teamwork is a must during these and offers a refreshing take on versus modes compared to the stale offerings from other games in the genre.
Once the single player story has been complete, there’s still a lot going on in Blacklist. Friends can upload their high scores and challenge you to beat them, which if you do, there’s a nice reward for doing so. These can be number of kills in a certain style, total points scored during a coop mission, or time challenges. You have multiple upgrades for weapons, your headquarters, and all the other gear that Sam wears that it’ll take months to unlock it all. There’s a lot packed in and with the promise of future DLC for co-op mode, this should keep gamers busy up until the Holiday season.
Overall, I absolutely loved Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The graphics looked solid, the audio was amazing, and there’s just so much do to that sometimes I find myself taking 5-10 minutes just trying to figure out which mode to start! The upgrades and customization is also something to marvel at. It truly reminds me of Mass Effect 2, where you not only customize your characters armor and weapons, but you can even customize your aircraft. Ubisoft has done a fantastic job bringing the Splinter Cell series back to it’s former glory. Double Agent was an alright game, Conviction did some great things and got the series heading the right way, but Blacklist has fully put Splinter Cell back on the list of top shooters.
Ubisoft has added another fine Sam Fisher game to the Splinter Cell series. Solid graphics, great gameplay, and a furious multiplayer will keep gamers busy for hours.