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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

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On 10/08/2013 at 02:24 PM by Jon Lewis

Hello darkness, my old friend.

For both Splinter Cell veterans, and newcomers to the series. Many will find something to enjoy.

Even after playing, and enjoying games with heavy stealth influences like the Batman: Arkham series and The Last of Us, I wouldn’t say that I prefer stealth games.  So, going into Splinter Cell: Blacklist, I was hesitant.  My past experience with the series is terribly limited, having spent the most time with 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction. Though I initially worried that I wouldn’t find my footing, I quickly found that Blacklist had a lot to offer and by the time the credits rolled, I was more than happy to have experienced it.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist was explained to me as somewhat of a return to form for the series. This is because of the emphasis on stealth and choice while on missions. Different play styles are encouraged in many ways. For example, there are different character upgrades that you can purchase during the campaign. These upgrades will improve stats like your armor, weapon handling, and stealth. Gear can also be purchased that will provide you with different gadgets while on the field. These range from stealth options like Smoke Grenades and Shock Mines, to lethal alternatives like Frag Grenades and Proximity Explosives. This choice was much appreciated, as I felt like I was given the options and tools to shape the way I wanted to play. Early on, I decided that I wanted to play more of a stealth role, and by the end of the game I felt like I had enough tools to handle a multitude of situations by taking out my enemies before being seen or by avoiding combat all together.

Of course, these upgrades would mean nothing without engaging gameplay fundamentals. Thankfully, Blacklist provides that, though it might take some learning. Continuing from Conviction, Blacklist keeps the Mark-and-Execute technique which allows you to mark enemies preemptively. By completing stealth or action oriented sequences, a meter builds that lets you quickly kill the marked enemies with the press of a button. Whether you need to quickly take out opponents, make up for a mistake, or just keep tabs on enemy location, it’s a feature that really helps the experience.

I also enjoyed the variety of ways that you can handle situations. As I stated earlier, the gadgets you equip shape the way you play. By equipping myself with items like Shock Mines, Noise Makers, Vision Cameras, and Sleep Gas, I was able to plot out my strategy and use my items to get the best of my opponents. It was not always easy, as mistakes can quickly get out of hand and lead to death. Thanks to a pretty generous checkpoint system, I was able to keep trying until I found a strategy that worked. The levels are also brilliantly designed. On some occasions, I found myself in situations where my current load out wasn’t necessarily optimal. However, by exploring the open environments, I was able to find hidden passageways, pipes, and alternative routes that would give me the edge that I needed to succeed. Those moments were intense and satisfying.

All wasn’t perfect, though. When in a fire-fight, things weren’t exactly smooth. While it was competent, I did find going from stealth to gunplay quite jarring, especially with the load out that I preferred. While someone who decided to go the gunplay route might have had more comfort in that area, I still felt the shooting was mediocre.

I played this game on Wii U, and that presented its own set of positives and negatives. Having the weapons readily available on the GamePad was a feature that I was ecstatic to have. Not to mention, certain gadgets and sections of the game take place exclusively on the GamePad. These sections are controlled by motion by default, and I found that to be pretty inaccurate and opted to control these sections with the much more accurate analog sticks. The game also provides Off-TV play, which works just fine; however, losing the GamePad menu was unfortunate, and I opted to play on the TV most of the time.

Other minor issues include random glitches where environments wouldn’t load and generally long load times. These problems seem to be universal regardless of console, as both the Wii U and Xbox 360 versions seem to have random occurrences of these issues. Graphically, the game does hold up – especially during the missions, but character faces look dated. To round out my complaints, I also found that the voice acting was inconsistent. Most of the performances were fine, but others – especially Briggs – managed to get on my nerves with what seemed like overacting to me. Plus, I personally felt like Sam Fisher’s new voice seems a bit too youthful for the character, though he does do a good job when you take your mind off the fact that Michael Ironside isn’t the voice anymore.

Though those issues dragged the experience some, one of the highlights was the story. To my surprise, Splinter Cell: Blacklist has a pretty engaging and interesting tale that reminded me of a really well done spy thriller in a feature film. The plot revolves around a terrorist organization known as the Blacklist which continues to terrorize the United States for every day that American Troops aren’t sent back home. The story is reflected in side conversations between missions, where you can engage with other members on Sam’s team. It’s a nice break from the action and many of the conversations help to flesh out the cast. Though I’m generally new to the series, by the end of the game I felt like I came a long way with these characters and I’m more than excited to see what lies ahead for them.

On top of an exceptional single player experience, Splinter Cell: Blacklist also offers both Co-op and competitive multiplayer. Co-op and Multiplayer can be accessed at any time through the single player’s main hub, and they're are all linked together. All money you earn is combined, so you can always upgrade your single player, or multiplayer characters. The multiplayer continues to be fun, with Spies vs. Mercs being the star. While I didn’t find myself getting too into the experience, I found it to be pretty thrilling and reliant on cooperation with teammates for optimal gameplay. 

I was happy that I got to spend time with Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Normally, this would have been a game that slipped past my radar, but now I can see why the series has endured. With an engaging story, satisfying gameplay and a ton of value, Blacklist is a game that veterans will likely enjoy and is a great jumping-on point for newcomers like me. The game might be about stealth, but don’t let this one slip past you. You might be surprised.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Jonathan Drake

10/09/2013 at 06:58 PM

Although I was already interested in purchasing Blacklist, the game surprised me with its quality. It takes Conviction aggressive stealth and improves on it, offering even more room to tackle challenges.

I still have to go through the whole story, but so far the plot has me interested too. The cast is likable enough and tension builds quite nicely.

A must-play for stealth fans, and a good entry point for those who wish to play spy.

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