Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist (Game) Review

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist

Released: 30th August 2013
RRP: £39.99
Publisher: Ubisoft
Available on: Playstation 3, XBOX 360, PC
Rating: PEGI 18

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Splinter Cell Blacklist is the latest and sixth instalment in the successful Splinter Cell franchise from Ubisoft and finds a leaner and meaner Sam Fisher in the middle of a serious terror threat against the United States.

The game begins with Sam and his old mate, Victor, about to depart from a military base in Guam. Shortly after taking off in a chopper, the entire compound is blown sky high, with Sam's chopper taking a direct hit and crash landing nearby. The cause of the explosion - a radical group of nutters who call themselves 'The Engineers', who announce that the attack was the first of many that will be aimed at the US until they pull their military forces out of every foreign country and return home. Cue the return of Sam Fisher: stealth takedowns, creeping in shadows, high tech weaponry and gadgets that Q would be proud of...and what a return it is!

Since the release of the last game, Splinter Cell Conviction, a number of Splinter Cell purists weren't too bothered about the shift from stealth gameplay to all out action that the game took. I have to say that I wasn't one of them and actually enjoyed running in gung-ho like Arnie on steroids, but for all you stealth fans out there you'll be glad to know that Ubisoft have taken the game back to its roots. The levels have now been designed with stealth in mind, meaning there are drainpipes to climb, dark corners to hide in, lights to shoot to plunge the room into darkness, hidden passageways and so on. The action is still there in abundance, but now you really have to think about the best way forward rather than running in like a man possessed. If you play the game on hard difficulty, I really wouldn't recommend the gung-ho attitude, as you'll get ended very quickly indeed, something I found out within about 2 minutes of playing the game. This isn't
a bad thing by any means; it's actually really rewarding as you now get a huge sense of achievement after silently taking out two guys with a knife, shooting two more in the head and stunning the final one with your stun gun.

Another thing fans weren't too sure on was the execution metre introduced in the last game. Again, I enjoyed having the power to take down 3 enemies at the touch of a button and made me feel like a badass secret agent, which is exactly who Sam is supposed to be. The execution metre makes a return in this game, but is totally optional, much like the rewind feature in Forza. If you think it makes the game too easy, don't use it.

So how does the game handle? Pretty much the same as the other games in the franchise, which is a good thing. There have been several tweaks but overall this is the same Splinter Cell gameplay you know and love and with a formula this good, why mess with it?

The graphics are top notch and are about as good as the current gen consoles can pump out without melting the graphics chips. The shadows and lighting effects are top notch, character animations are spot on and the motion capture makes the characters look very believable. Add in some glorious outdoor locations and impressive cut scenes and Blacklist really is a pretty game.

One of the biggest changes this time around is the way that you select missions. With Sam being part of a new team called 4th Echelon, their base of operations is a kitted out bomber that can fly you around the world. Now you can select the mission you want to play through the onboard computer, meaning you can either stick to campaign levels or break off and do one of the bonus missions, either on your own or with a friend cooperatively, either split screen or over Xbox Live/PSN. This new interface reminded me a lot of the one used in Mass Effect, and it really is a refreshing way to approach the game. If you want to crack on with the campaign you can, or if you want to break it up by doing a few side missions you can do that too, the choice is down to you as the player.

By playing missions you are rewarded currency that you can spend on upgrades either to Sam's load-out or to upgrade the plane. Don't fancy being stealthy? Spend your money on armour, buy a shotgun and incendiary grenades and unleash hell. If you want to play like Leon the Professional, upgrade your pistol, add a silencer, stock up on gadgets and stick to the shadows. Again, the choice is yours.

So are there any drawbacks? Well, yes actually there are. Blacklist is the first Splinter Cell game that hasn't been voiced by legendary actor Michael Ironside. The new voice actor is by no means bad, but he definitely doesn't have the screen presence that Ironside had. Sam now sounds like any other Hollywood spy and not the grizzled, slightly unhinged hard man that he was before, which is a bit of a shame. Also, the save points seem to be very sparse. I spent about 30 minutes creeping through one of the side missions, almost got to the end but was spotted by an enemy. Cue a mission failure screen, which then sends you right to the beginning of the mission. After
failing 10 times, I wanted to throw my controller through the window. Maybe this says more for my lack of skill than anything else, but I bet you'll experience this at some point during your play through.

In conclusion, Splinter Cell is everything a fan of action/stealth games could ever dream of. The tip-top graphics, excellent gameplay, engrossing story and inclusion of coop mean this is a game that you can play through multiple times, either on your own or with a mate, and is most definitely the best in the series to date. It's a shame that Ironside couldn't put in another performance as Sam, but it really is a minor blip in what is otherwise a truly excellent game. It brings the series up to date with a bang and is a great way to sign off on the current gen. I can't wait to see how the series progresses on the Xbox One/PS4.

There's just one thing left for you to do...buy, buy, buy!

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