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Splinter Cell Blacklist Review and Gameplay

Posted on August 29, 2013 AT 08:53am

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist is the latest installment in Ubisoft’s stealth-action series. I would say this iteration actually transcends the normal expectations, delivering alternate methods of gameplay to the user normally saved as an afterthought of “well…yeah, you could play it that way, but…” Developed at Ubisoft Toronto, the player is encouraged to seek out a play style that suits them.

There are three gameplay styles you are given to master: Ghost, Panther and Assault. Ghost is your non-lethal, typical stealth technique. You were never there. Panther is all about quick, lethal strikes from the shadows. The enemy knows you’re there and they’re scared of every shadow and bump in the night. Assault is your typical run-and-gun game play. The enemy knows you’re home because you blew the door open and announced yourself with a hail of gun fire. What I love about the way Blacklist is set up is just how freely you can jump from one play style to another without really being penalized. Being discovered is not a fail state; it’s simply a new challenge.

You are never locked into anything. When I started Blacklist, I read through the three descriptions and decided I wanted to play as a Panther. After a few missions, I realized that I was trending roughly 40% Ghost, 40% Panther and 20% Assault. I was only scoring 4000 points per level. I then thought that maybe I would do better with a more non-lethal approach. My breakdown went more to 75% Ghost, 15% Panther and 10% Assault. I began getting into fewer fights and started avoiding confrontation all together. My score reflected the change with a 50-60% jump in total points for each level. I found a play style that worked for me.

Supporting the concept of alternative playstyles is a great system of customization. From different weapons, gadgets and armor, you are able to further express your play style. My ops suit and gadgets are suited for a Ghost strategy. I wear soft, lightweight, noiseless attire and carry around distraction gadgets, sleeping gas and the ultra-sweet Tri-Rotor drone. I could just as easily suit up with heavy armor weaving, frag grenades and well, let’s face it, the drone is still badass and I would take it anyway because you can always detonate it in the middle of a group of bad guys.

From a game perspective, everything feels really tight. The controls are spot on; I rarely, if ever felt I was out of place or discovered due to the controls or the camera. Even in combat, which I avoid like the plague, felt responsive and unobtrusive. What really blew me away was the enemy AI. I went into this review fully expecting brain dead goons who walk the designated path from point A to point B, turn around, rinse and repeat. My thinking was instantly corrected. Even playing on the Normal setting, the enemy AI constantly surprised me. They investigated noises, alerted other guards if they found a body, took different paths and actually looked around. Being great in this area is so crucial in a game like this. It kept me from breaking the disbelief. I was engaged instead of saying “Ok, I died, now this guy is going to walk by, then I knock out this guy and then I…and then I…” and falling into mental monotony.

There is more to Splinter Cell Blacklist than saving the United States again as Sam Fisher. Ubisoft delivered various co-operative missions with your 4th Eschelon teammates, the return of Spies vs. Mercs competitive multiplayer, a meta-game played through your flying fortress’s SMI (read: mission hub) and the integration with the mobile game Splinter Cell Blacklist Spider-Bot. All of these options keep the game fresh along with leaderboards and challenges from other players in the solo missions.

Overall, Splinter Cell Blacklist is everything you want in a third-person stealth game. It has great handling, plenty of customization and stays true to itself and its goals. Fans of the series are going to really feel how this game goes back to its roots over the more action-oriented Conviction. To the unfamiliar, this is an excellent way to start delving into this storied franchise. I have absolutely no reservations recommending Blacklist as a purchase.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Nintendo Wii U. For this review, I played on the Xbox 360.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Gameplay Commentary

Splinter Cell Blacklist Launch Trailer

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