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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Splinter Cell: Conviction had fans of the series in a bit of divide. On the one hand the game, as a game, was rather well done. The cover system still stands as one of the best cover systems to date in the franchise, the action was well done, and while the story on the weaker side, it took a back seat for what you participated in. It’s been likened to playing through an episode of 24 due to the high octane action and that was what Ubisoft wanted at the time. On the flip side, many veterans were disappointed by the peculiar departure from the tactical espionage and stealth action that they’ve supported up until this. Sam Fisher’s own voice actor, Michael Ironside, had even commented on Sam’s character going in a different route than he had envisioned when commenting on Double Agent and Conviction. Because of this, he declined the role of Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Blacklist. He probably should have waited because while Blacklist doesn’t replace Chaos Theory as the series’ poster child, it certainly makes up for the more recent instalments.

The story follows the events after Conviction, with Third Echelon being shut down. Fourth Echelon has since taken its place for counter-terrorism and special operations. Sam Fisher, our protagonist, is the Commander in Chief. Also returning to the scene are Anna Grimsdottir, Victor Coste and Andriy Kobin, all of whom fans will recognize from previous entries. There are also two new introductions, Isaac Briggs who will be your cooperative character, and Charlie Cole – the witty tech specialist and computer hacker. The main enemies are known as The Engineers – a group of 12 terrorists who have had enough of the United States’ global military presence in what they say is two thirds of the countries around the world. And so they offer a terror ultimatum; withdraw their presence or suffer one escalating terrorist attack after another.

Some may see some predictable turns in the story, but as a whole, it was thoroughly engaging, and well done for a series not wholly known for its narrative. The elephant in the room is the sad departure of Michael Ironside, but to be perfectly honest, Eric Johnson does a very good job.

There was a lot of caution on the build-up to Blacklist’s release, mainly because there were some doubts about the gameplay. And it’s safe to say that the gameplay hits a nice sweet spot that caters to both demographics. Blacklist has enough stealth in the game to warrant the action breaks in between. In fact, both definitely complement one another in terms of pacing and progression.

With the exception of scenes that force an action route, you are primarily sneaking your way through the majority of the game. Of course, the enemies have scripted paths, but they will look high and low for you if they suspect something’s wrong. It’s impressive to see them peek over balconies in the off chance that you might be shimmying across. Another great nod to the AI is the way they communicate. There will be times where they ask for a buddy to search together, limiting your points of attack.

Fortunately, Ubisoft Toronto has given a slew of weapons and gadgets both lethal and nonlethal play styles to ensure that players can find their comfort zone. If you want to play as a Ghost you will be penalized every time you’re spotted by an enemy. But to match this play style you are offered gadgets ranging from EMP grenades, sticky cameras, and even a tri-copter that you can manoeuvre for surveillance. On top of this you are given flashy takedown attacks that look absolutely gorgeous in motion and make you feel like a total badass. Successful takedowns will replenish a meter for Ubisoft’s newest mechanic the mark and execute. You can tag up to 3 enemies so you can monitor their whereabouts, and if they are in a highlighted range (when the marker turns red) you can press the execute button which is very similar to Red Dead Redemption’s tagged kills in slow motion. Some may see this as an auto kill which makes the game easy, but really it’s just one option for people to use and obviously isn’t encouraged for those wanting to truly play the game like a stealth game.

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