Sam Fisher’s life has been complicated to say the least. He’s been just about every type of secret agent you can think of, from rogue to double. Saved the world countless times and killed soooooo many bad guys. You’d think he’d be ready for a break or a quick vacation. Instead he’s chosen to take up the reins as the head of the super top-secret agency, Third Echelon and continue his battle to save the world. And that’s just what Sam and his crew are going to do in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
This time he’s up against a group of guerilla nations calling themselves The Engineers who have made a blacklist of their own. They want America and all of its soldiers to get the hell out of their respective countries and they’re not afraid to kill thousands of innocent civilians to get what they want. But as anyone who’s ever seen a Tom Clancy film already knows, “America does not negotiate with terrorists.” So now Sam has to team up with some old friends (and some enemies) in order to stop this new threat to freedom and all it stands for.
The first thing fans will notice is that Sam is (finally) back in his classic super spy stealth suit, goggles and all. Sure, his hairs a little salt and peppery, but this is definitely the Sam Fisher fans of the old school Splinter Cell games have been waiting for to make a comeback. But not everything about Sam is old school. He’s got plenty of new moves and gadgets to help him along the way including remote controlled hovercrafts armed with tasers and deployable surveillance cams. His movements have gotten more fluid and actions, like taking out a guard as you leap over an obstacle, look to be carried out seamlessly.
For folks who may have been hesitant about jumping on board with the series due to all the sneaking around may find Blacklist to be a good jumping on point as it introduces a point system broken into three different categories. Players who are totally ninja and like to do their killing in the shadows will get points for their “Ghost” style of play. Or, if you’re like me and lose patience waiting for guards to run their routes, you can just go nuts and shoot everybody in a stylish manner in order to get “Assault” points. And those walking the line between the two styles will get themselves some sweet “Panther” points.
You can use those points to purchase varying upgrades for Sam’s suit that cater towards your playing style in between missions in the new in-game hub, a flying base of operations known as Paladin. The hub will give you a chance to interact with NPCs and gather information as well as pick up some side missions from your pals. Optimizing loadouts will mean stealthier boots and pants for some while it may mean more flak armor and deadlier weapons for others. You’ll also be able to earn points for gear unlocks throughout every gameplay mode, including multiplayer co-op and competitive play and can earn bonus unlocks for completing missions in one style of play rather than varying them.
Not much else is being said about MP yet, other than the fact that it exists, but there was plenty of single player action during our demo. The first mission we had a glimpse of involved removing an informant from a safe house somewhere in Benghazi. It’s a bold daylight espionage mission that finds you in the middle of a shootout between your support team and a group of terrorists. Using the environment to your advantage can be key if you’re trying to be ninja about things and in many cases throughout the level, but a good old fashioned showdown is still always an option you could take. Still, Blacklist seems the most satisfying when dropping down on an enemy from a zipline or using a lightswitch to draw guards away from your exit door. There was one moment at the end of the level that forced you into open combat, which some players may not be extremely jazzed about, but it was a good way to learn the assault mechanics and strategies for situations in which you’d be totally screwed if you didn’t defend yourself.
Next it was off to gloomy, rainy London for a nighttime warehouse raid. Sneaking around guards having a conversation, throwing snipers off of rooftops, yeah, this was definitely classic Splinter Cell right here. Movements required much more forethought and planning than the previous level and compelled me to use Sam’s tech much more. Especially the goggles and their new upgrade ability that allows players to tag and track enemies similarly to system found in Far Cry 3. The end of the mission was sort of an inverse of Benghazi, forcing you to sneak through a heavily guarded area in order to put a tracking device on a dirty bomb instead of mowing down insurgents with a gun.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is shaping up to be a triumphant return of what made the original games so great while adding enough new stuff and player options into the fold to entice an entirely new generation of field operatives. Will this new hybrid be enough turn the series around and bring it back to its former glory? We’ll have to wait until August 20th when it launches on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 to find out for sure.