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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review (PC)



Splinter Cell: Blacklist is definitely something special and it’s hard to tell whether or not fans of the Splinter Cell series will think of it as an amazing game, or how many of them will try to compare it to something like Chaos Theory and slate it for everything it lacks. One thing is for sure though, it’s a brilliant game.

Gamers will take on the role of a newly-voiced Sam Fisher in a new unit known as Fourth Echelon who is tasked to stop the terrorist attack from a group known as “The Engineers”. Interestingly, I found that the storyline could be closely related to something that may possibly happen in the future and if not, is at least something believable. Essentially “The Engineers” create “The Blacklist” which is a series of attacks on U.S. soil that will continue on a routinely basis until the U.S. calls back all of their deployed troops abroad. The president of the United States tasks Fisher along with Isaac Briggs, Anna Grimsdottir and Charlie Cole to hunt down The Engineers and put a stop to their evil plans.

The first thing I noticed about Splinter Cell: Blacklist was how some of the mechanics are just smooth. The stealth is done in a brilliant way where players will move from cover to cover, hoping to move in the darkness to stay undetected. Players will be able to complete three missions with three almost “paths” to follow. There is the Panther which is a silent but deadly force that moves around taking enemies out in a quiet manner while not alerting everyone. There is the Assault mode which allows players to just go straight for the big guns to blow everything apart and then there is the Ghost, the one which rewards the most points. Ghosts will need to sneak around undetected, create as little fuss as possible and get rewarded more points for silently sneaking past enemies.

Blacklist does this in a really nice way because there are a huge amount of tools, weapons and customisation options made available to the player that allow them to complete the game the way they want to. If you feel like being brutal, throw some grenades into the fray, if you feel like being a ninja, sneak around like a ghost. There is no specific way to play each mission and the developers have said that each mission can be completed as a Ghost.

In typical Splinter Cell fashion, the Mark and Execute feature is still around and players will be rewarded Mark and Execute points by taking enemies down silently and by surprise. It’s no longer being used as a instant-win button and works much more fluidly with the game. When you find yourself in a tough spot with a number of enemies, especially in co-operative, you can use Mark and Execute to get out of some really tough situations. The controls can sometimes become a bit sticky and found that when I sprinted towards cover to quickly hide away, I ended up vaulting the cover and appearing in plain sight. This was something of an annoying but after it happens two or three times, you generally learn to stop doing that in order to complete you missions in a manner more desired.

Blacklist takes place in Sam Fisher’s home, in the dark. Players will be able to move along ledges and walls while shimmying up and around pipes in order to make your move and plan out your attack. As time goes on, players will earn cash (let me tell you something, it pays to be a spy) which players can then use to unlock weapons, armour and gadgets. I was a little surprised to see how fast you earn cash because if you were to complete all of the proper co-operative missions and perhaps two or three single player ones, you generally have enough to buy everything you have ever wanted including the upgrades to your plan, the Paladin.

The Paladin is your “home base” almost and ala Mass Effect, your mission control center. You can move around and chat to the different characters to do “loyalty” missions for each person and each of them involves something different. Charlie generally has the “horde mode” missions where players will stand up to waves of enemies as it gets tougher and tougher. Anna has the really sneaky missions where you get bonuses if you leave the enemies undisturbed and Briggs has the actual co-op missions. What I mean by actual co-op missions is that these are the missions that can only be played co-operatively. The other missions from Anna and Charlie can be played with a co-op friend, but can also be tackled alone.

Moving back into the single player, the game has a really satisfying way about it and you feel like you have accomplished something great for every single mission that you complete. The way that the developers have incentivised the different play-styles allows players to go back to the game and re-play missions in different ways. Due to the number of awesome upgrades and gear, players can also kit themselves out for a full on assault mode character, or a sneaky little ninja who passes the missions like a ghost. With the right kit, a player can fire off his Sticky Shocker, immobilize an enemy, toss a sleeping grenade into a building, all the while slowly making his way towards the mission objective and leaving nobody seriously harmed. All of these things work hand in hand with the Solar Goggles as you track enemy movements and mark the players you want to execute or avoid entirely.

While the game in no way forces you to play a certain way, there are parts where you can’t help but feel you need to go into bad-ass mode. Certain sections will have three or four enemies patrolling meticulously so you just can’t pass through, or may be able to if you spend a number of hours on it. These are the parts where the developer may have stumbled slightly because it feels like you just need to blast your way through. Thankfully these are so few that you will hardly notice.

The developers may have made a little mistake with the visuals because the PC version, while it looks great, sometimes suffers a bit from carelessness. There are times when you will think your surroundings look amazing and you have fallen into a visual feast of sticky candy but when the camera pans to any character that isn’t Sam Fisher, you get something of a sour taste left behind. There are certain moments that look great and some that should have had a little more polish given. In terms of soundtrack, the game does really well here. Fisher is tough, perhaps a little too tough but the sounds and effects of the weapons and the ambient music will leave you wanting more as each mission passes. In the co-op you often hear the other player breaking things or smashing objects to the floor which seem to be really loud but don’t seem to faze the enemy that much. I wanted that to be more realistic.

Coupled with the multiplayer co-operative mode is Spies vs. Mercs which was introduced back in the Pandora Tomorrow days. Players will be able to take on other players with specific styles and methods which may seem a little daunting but all the while it teaches you more and more about the game which can be nothing but beneficial when heading back into the single player.

Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to simply write-off Splinter Cell: Blacklist because people have said it’s not as good as Chaos Theory or better than Conviction or any of that. I like to judge Splinter Cell: Blacklist as its own stand-point in a series of consistently good games, and when you are able to do something like that, you can appreciate Blacklist for all the brilliant things that the game does and keep it out of the back of your mind in order to enjoy it to the fullest.

Every gamer, whether they are fans of the series or not, will probably find something in Blacklist for them to love. Whether you choose the Ghost or Panther role, there are a number of enjoyable missions that can be tackled in any way you deem fit and these are backed up by heavily stable multiplayer and co-operative features. It’s epic!

90 / 100

Rob 'GrIdL0cK' Clegg has been in the gaming industry for over 15 years and has competed in both local and international tournaments at the highest level. He is also a respected gaming critic and is Telkom Do Gaming’s editor and lead reviewer.

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