I haven’t played a Splinter Cell game since the 2005 Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, I had heard that the series had lost its way over the last few games, so I was somewhat skeptical about Sam’s latest outing.
To my surprise however, Splinter Cell Blacklist somehow manages to capture the exact same feel of the games from 10 years ago, as such, you pretty much know what you’re getting with Blacklist if you’ve played the previous games in the series –
Stealth gameplay which relies on light and sight lines, moving through areas and completing objectives like a ghost.
On the stealth front there seems to be a larger focus on sound now, everything you do makes sound which enemies can hear, which is an interesting touch. The AI is a mixed bag on this front though, sometimes they seem impressive, going to investigate doors which have been left open, or lights which have been shot out, Other times not so much.
On the whole however the stealth gameplay is pretty spot on, there are a few occasions where you’ll feel like being detected was complete BS, but that’s standard for a stealth game I suppose. You do thankfully get an alert gauge and even a second or so to react if you’ve been spotted (a quick pistol snapshot to the face can defuse most encounters if it comes to it). The light/dark gameplay stuff is really cool, and usually gives you an option to create darkness (EMP’s, Bullets, Lightswitches), it also gives the game a chance to show off its graphics, with dynamic shadows being cast everywhere and looking awesome.
Blacklist seems to have been designed with gameplay freedom in mind, You can now earn points in 3 different ways, depending on your playstyle: Ghost (full stealth), Panther (Assassin) or Assault (Brought an double barrel shotgun to a stealth game). In addition, the game tries to offer incentives to players completing a level with only 1 style, with awards given at the end should you complete the mission without deviating from that style, this probably adds to replay value should you want it, letting you play the game properly once, and then running through it again with a machine gun and frags.
The points you get can now be used to upgrade…everything… You can upgrade your base of operations for more meta-choices, or upgrade your weapons, buy new weapons, buy better clothing (adapted to your style of gameplay), upgrade your goggles and more.
Naturally with a money upgrade style, there are extra missions aside from the story missions – The mission select screen is a map which contains your primary story missions and then some side missions which, upon completion, will unlock the top tier items for equip.
They have also introduced challenges which are like pseudo achievements, and provide extra income, these are the pretty standard ‘Kill 10 people with X gun’, ‘Knockout X enemies undetected’ and so on.
The extra missions are a nice touch, giving more ways to earn money, and are designed with co-op as a possibility, their falldown however is the lack of variety and frustrating design of them.
Extra missions come in 3 flavours: Wave defense, Full Stealth, and Assassin (based on the 3 playstyles I suppose), there are about 5 missions of each, but they are the exact same objectives every time (Kill X people, Kill X people without raising alarm, Complete X Objective without raising alarm). As mentioned earlier, the design around these missions are somewhat frustrating, particularly the full stealth missions, which lack any checkpoints yet span 15 or so minutes and reward alert with instant game over and a load back to the very start of the level. Similarly, alert in the assassin missions results in additional reinforcements which are so hard to deal with, you may as well restart the level. The wave defence levels also have no checkpoints and require clearing 5 waves before you can extract (or you can apparently stay for another 5 waves).
Blacklist is visually incredible by the way, running it on medium-high in DX9 on my PC, it looks amazing and runs at 60 (Drops to 30fps if I put it on high), Textures are really detailed, geometry and environments are lovely (and surprisingly varied). I would love to see how it looks on a good computer in DX11 with everything at max.
I’d love to comment on the music in the game, but honestly I cant remember any other than some menu music, the sound effects in the game are good though.
There were a few small things which kind of bothered me about Blacklist, I’ve already mentioned the lack of checkpoints in the extra missions, but there’s also certain parts in the story campaign where you are forced to escort an NPC – by hand, which basically disables your ability to move freely, crouch, or do anything even vaguely sneaky, You just kind of stand there out in the open with your pistol and walk really slowly, thankfully these escort segments are short, but they are a real blight in the game.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a brilliant stealth action game, a genre which has really been dwindling as of late, I always actually thought the stealth gameplay was better in Splinter Cell than in Metal Gear Solid, and this game really proves it. Great graphics, decent AI, clever environments which allow for many multiple routes and strategies, and a good difficulty level – these all come together to deliver a fantastic stealth experience.
Approximate Game Length : Medium (I havent finished it yet, but wanted to get this review out before I leave for holiday)
Actual Worth / Price : £22 / £30 = 0.733
Should you play it : Yes, It’s a fantastic splinter cell experience.
Ps. Play campaign on ‘Realistic’ if you can stomach it, the difficulty feels about right.