Oh Sam Fisher, how you’ve changed. No longer are your movements slow and stiff – but instead they’re fast and agile like a panther hunting its prey. Also, though you lost your voice, you now sound younger and more forward. Out with the old and in with the new, it seems.
Recently I went to play a little bit of Splinter Cell Blacklist during a lock-in at my local GAME store, being pleasantly surprised that all the systems to demo were on Playstation, especially as this title marks the return of the series on Sony’s platform. After spending over an hour with the title, I went away feeling happy about where the series is headed. Splinter Cell has seen a lot of changes since its birth on the original Xbox over a decade ago, but now with its sixth title – not counting portable – Sam is back and better than ever. Fans who have stuck with the series since the beginning may have some trouble getting used to the changes at first, but believe me when I say they’re for the best – even if Michael Ironside has left, taking Sam’s iconic voice with him.
Yes, it’s true, the iconic voice of Mr. Fisher has left but that doesn’t mean he’s any worse for wear. In true style a terrorist group calling themselves The Engineers are threatening the world, by initiating something called the Blacklist. This places Sam back onto the battlefield and sees him take lead of a new Fourth Echelon, taking on missions across the world in a bid to stop the looming threat. The important thing to keep in mind is that if you’ve played the last game, Conviction, you’ll feel a little more at home than if you’ve only stuck to the older titles. The fast paced gameplay returns and you can also still ‘Mark and Execute’, but possibly the best part is that each level seems to keep an open ended experience.
Another important factor is that this game is the first title to be developed by Ubisoft’s new studio in Toronto, and they definitely have made their own mark. Once I started the game I was met with so many different things, starting with my main base of operations on a plane called Paladin. From here I could upgrade my aircraft (a first for the series) as well as plan my next attack. Once I opened up my tactical map of operations, I then had free will to choose from a handful of missions at a time, whether it’s the main story or any missions offside that. Each mission also has options to be played via co-op online or split screen, which seriously impressed me. I look forward to seeing how different a level will be once I team up with a friend.
It took me a while to get used to the control system of Blacklist, as I initially had no idea how to play or what to do. I felt as though I was discovering the series for the first time, even though I had played the fast paced Conviction once or twice. I felt faster and stronger, with many more options available to me from the beginning of a level; I could choose where I wanted to go and when I wanted to do it. But after a lot of dying (and asking the Ubisoft rep about controls) I finally grasped the controls and now I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Within no time I was marking my enemies, flanking them and dealing a world of quite, yet lethal pain.
That’s quite possibly the best thing about this new Splinter Cell, with choice being the key word. Through out my demo I was met with different choices of who to kill or not to kill, and which mission to choose first – as I gather certain missions have a time scale to them, which means you can miss out on them altogether, adding extra replay value. But just as I was getting into the flow my time was over with the new Sam Fisher. Right now all I want to do is put on my night vision goggles and go into stealth mode. Come August 23rd, I’ll be able to do just that.
Spies Vs. Mercs Impressions (Tom)
On Monday night Josh and I caught the train to London and attended a multiplayer event for Splinter Cell: Blacklist. We arrived in a small warehouse kitted out with 24 consoles just begging to be played. We were assigned a team and immediately got to it. At first it was a struggle, neither one of us, or our teammates, knew the controls overly well and the maps were completely unknown. Given a little time we became more accustomed to the game and started to enjoy ourselves. I should mention now that as a team we didn’t win any of our 3 matches. Our main objective comprised of stopping, or initiating, hacks on data terminals dotted around each level; depending on whether you were a Merc or Spy respectively. As a Spy we’d be tasked with hacking a terminal and then proceeding until the intrusion was completed 100%. If at any point the player who initiated the hack was killed, then it would leave a small window of time for a fellow teammate to ‘re-connect’ as it were, before the percentage bar reset to zero. Therefore the main aim of the game was to protect the teammate hacking; strategically surveying the surrounding area and taking out Mercs accordingly.
Switching sides and following a Merc however, was considerably different, as our objective would be to defend each terminal and hold off the Spies for the time period of the match. The tricky part we found was that we were placed into a 1st person perspective that gave us a smaller field of vision and left us much more vulnerable in combat. Whilst waiting for the enemy to start their siege, we began by spreading our team out across varying strategic positions, therefore giving us the better coverage. The key element to our success was communication – even more so than as a Spy. That coupled with the speedy actions of our teammates gave us a firm foot up against the opposition.
Personally I found the game intuitive, tactical and above all else – enjoyable. The controls were a delight to use after my first couple of games and within no time I was waltzing around the maps with ease. Overall I found playing as the Spies was a lot easier than the Mercs. As a Spy I felt near invisible, as I hid in the shadows and snuck up on the enemy with ease – especially if I had the digital camouflage add-on equipped. As expected this would render you completely invisible, being able to knife the enemy without anyone else noticing. Needless to say that playing as the Mercs was equally as fun. Equipped with heavy weaponry and explosives, these guys could tank gunfire damage easily. Unfortunately they were very slow and clunky classes, but once again given enough time I was able to hunt down my stealthy opponents and start winning a few matches.
Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell Blacklist will be available on August 23rd in the UK for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Look out for a review of the game shortly after.