Being a special operations squad member is hard, but not if you’re Sam Fisher.
I have always been a fan of stealth-based games, as it all started with 007 Nightfire and carried on from there. After getting a new voice, as well as a new development studio, Sam is back and better than ever. It’s time though that the obligatory “terrorists” make a return and in next to no time Sam and his team are heading out to stop the people behind the mischief called “The Engineers”. The deadly terrorist cell has unfortunately started counting down a series of deadly attacks on American soil known as, the Blacklist. As Sam is now head of the newly formed “Fourth Echelon” it’s only fitting that series favourite Grim also joins him for the ride, alongside a handful of new faces of course.
First off the bat, this game is a package that’s full to the brim with tactical, fast-paced stealth action and I love it! I’m personally fairly new to the series, but have begun to wonder what I’ve been missing out on. Each mission can be played a multitude of different ways, it’s your choice whether you want to take the most direct route and shoot the hell out of everyone or whether you decide to skirt around the edge avoiding all enemies and leaving them none the wiser. Within Splinter Cell: Blacklist there are three main play styles: Ghost, Panther and Assault. Assault is fairly self-explanatory; you go into the mission headfirst, shoot everyone and raise all the alarms. No need to worry about being quiet and how many reinforcements they send, you just shoot everyone; a very fun way to play but not very challenging. Panther is a slight variation; instead of all guns blazing you go for the stealthy kills. So this time you don’t set off the alarms but everyone still dies. A quick bullet to the head or a knife in the back – your choice, you decide. The final play style, and my personal favourite, is Ghost. If you decide to play with Ghost in mind you will be avoiding every single enemy. Don’t distract them, don’t kill them just let them be. The more enemies that have no idea you’ve passed them the better because at the end of the mission you’ll be receiving some serious scores. I find myself playing Ghost more than any other play style because it’s challenging, really challenging. I didn’t quite realise how hard this game would be until I had to change the difficulty of the tutorial level to beginner, shocking, I know.
Sam Fisher and his team are based on an aircraft called “Paladin”, this is essentially your home screen, where you choose your missions, change your gear or talk to your team members. There are so many customisable options in the game it’s unreal. Firstly the aircraft can be upgraded to help you in the single player missions. The cockpit can be upgraded to give you a mini map on the HUD to show where the enemies in close proximity are and the holding cell can be increased to allow you to buy black market weapons. After you’ve played around with the aircraft upgrades you’ll want kit out Sam himself. Each item of clothing either adds better stealth, better armour or better gun control. You decisions will therefore affect how you play the missions but I went for the stealth upgrades. His iconic goggles can be upgraded too, adding sonar, footprint tracking and thermal imaging. Both the goggles and the clothing can also have a camo pattern, which adds a more personal side to the customisation. When you first start the game you have access to limited gadgets but you can purchase these within the upgrades menu. Again, the gadgets you buy will depend on your play style but they’re all useful and all awesome.
The actual gameplay is a delight. The climbing and mantling is smooth, the cover system is slick and easy to use, allowing you to sneak past enemies without a hitch. I’ve never been too comfortable with 3rd person shooters but this game really nails it. On the rare occasion that I end up shooting someone it’s wonderfully accurate and really quite fun. The levels are designed brilliantly well enabling you to climb round the side of buildings or sneak underneath the enemy and if you take a particularly different route you are awarded bonus points for “exploration”. All in all the gameplay has been designed perfectly and makes the game really easy to pick up and play, but also lends itself well to those who want to dig deeper into the mechanics for perfection.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist also adds a multiplayer aspect. This comes in two parts, playing certain missions co-op or going head to head in online battles. Let’s start with the co-op missions. Each member of your team has different missions for you to go on separate from the main story and they can be played either co-op or solo. One set of missions, the missions from your wingman Briggs, can only be played co-op and require intricate teamwork to complete. Playing the missions together allows you to complete them quicker and also give you different paths to take. For example, there are some doors that require a “Dual Breach” meaning that both Sam and Briggs have to open the door simultaneously. Playing these missions solo is still great fun but co-op is infinitely better.
The online head-to-head, entitled “Spies vs. Mercs”, makes a joyful return and is a clever and enjoyable part to the game. The standard game mode for this is two spies against two mercenaries. The spies are tasked with hacking three terminals before the time runs out whilst the Mercs have to stop them. This game mode only allows the player to pick one class with no special gadgets or weapons. This means the Spies have to stick to the shadows in order to stay hidden whereas the Mercs are equipped with a flashlight to uncover them. The other game modes are similar but let you customise your class beforehand adding all sorts of fancy extras. The Spies can gain access to cloaking suits which render them invisible for a brief amount of time and the Mercs can get special suits which makes them regenerate faster and see better in the dark. The online games are super tactical and require a lot of teamwork if you wish to come out on top. Once you’ve gotten used to the controls and how it all works you’ll have a blast.
- + Play exactly how you want
- + Easy fluid controls
- + Extensive customisation
- - Can sometimes be a bit awkward when using the cover system
- - Online takes perseverance to master