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Why Splinter Cell Blacklist Worries Me

Posted on June 11, 2012 AT 03:40pm

No, I’m not worried about Micheal Ironside leaving though he will be missed. The voice actor and his grizzled voice has long been a staple of the Splinter Cell franchise. I am sure Ubisoft has made sure that they have a good replacement for him. No, my worries are about something a little deeper than the voice coming through the speakers.

In the most recent iteration of the stealth-action series, the gameplay went through a rather drastic change. Ubisoft removed the majority of the stealth gameplay which distinguished the series. Replacing it with a more action oriented style of gunplay to appeal to a wider audience. Fisher became a hunter, a quick and stealthy killer that could take anyone down with lethal efficiency at any range, while still avoiding the bullet sponge ability that many games seem to have now. Being able to quickly clear a room using the mark and execute system and stealth takedowns became the trademark of Conviction instead of being undetectable.

Many were uncomfortable with this change at first and I certainly was as well. One of my favorite moments in gaming is still breaking into the French bank during Chaos Theory, that level wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun or as challenging if I was able to shoot my way through the level. Hell, even the stealth sections in broad daylight that you had to do in Double Agent had their own appeal to them. Though the moment I got my hands on Fisher and smashed a hitman’s face through a urinal in the first level, I understood the change.

Having to kill his best friend for his country made him bitter, having everything he cared for taken from him made him give up for awhile and move through life in a hollow fashion. Then finding out that it was all a lie made him into something we hadn’t seen before in the Splinter Cell series. Fisher was pissed.

To quote a friend of mine, if Fisher was a pokemon, he would be a legendary, made entirely out of hyper beams and rage, annihilating entire regions at a time and leaving only bodies in its wake.

So yes, Fisher was angry and you could tell that in every scene through the game. Whether he was talking to his old coworkers or interrogating someone, the bottled up anger that now had a target demanded a change to the way the game was played. No longer would you be silently moving between guards and leaving no trace of your existence, instead, everyone was an accomplice to ruining your life and they would be removed from your path in whatever way was necessary.

In Blacklist, Sam is now the commander of the newly formed Fourth Echelon, a replacement for the corrupt Third Echelon you helped to take down in Conviction. Your job this time is to track down a group of rogue nations that have had enough of the United States’ military presence in their countries with The Blacklist provides a countdown of escalating terrorist attacks on U.S. assets. While still bearing some of the resentment that you saw in the previous game, Sam is back in the role we are accustomed to seeing him in, that of a soldier trying to protect his country. This is not personal for Sam anymore, he has his daughter back and that anger he held is mostly resolved now after the people responsible were dealt with.

Except from the looks of things, we are still controlling the panther when we should have the soldier back at the reins. While it made sense in Conviction, the action oriented gameplay will not fit in the same way now that most of Sam’s emotional turmoil is dealt with. I have no doubts that I will enjoy Blacklist despite this issue, I loved the feel of the combat and I’m sure they will only refine Sam’s abilities in the coming title. However, there will always be that little voice in the back of my head, saying that this isn’t how Sam would act and preventing me from enjoying it as much as I otherwise would.

I hope Ubisoft will prove me wrong again, I really do. I understand that stealth sections do not make good press conference material so we may still get some of the action that we are used to, but from the looks of things so far, that isn’t how its going to play out. Ubisoft has done great things before and I want to believe that they have found an interesting way to blend the two styles into a coherent whole, keeping the emphasis on stealthy infiltration that defined the series while still incorporating the strengths of Convictions running gunplay. Unfortunately, I see this as yet another established franchise sacrificing what made it famous to the gods of the bottom line. Don’t worry Sam, you won’t be alone on the altar, you’ll have Lara Croft and the cast of Resident Evil to keep you company.

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