Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

There was some trepidation among Splinter Cell fans that Blacklist wouldn't live up to the stealth oriented entries in the franchise that came before it. With videos showing a more action-centric approach to gameplay, the worry was that what was once a thinking mans stealth game would become just another Call of Duty wannabe. Then again, Splinter Cell: Conviction had a completely action approach, so I'd argue that the dream was already dead at that point.

Set after the events of Splinter Cell: Conviction, the game focuses on the newly formed Fourth Echelon. The team, helmed by veteran agent Sam Fisher, must stop a terrorist organization before it unleashes an attack upon the United States in seven days. It's a typical set up for a Splinter Cell game, but while it's Splinter Cell through-and-through in the story department, everything else is a little wonky.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a bizarre mixed bag. It's a game that allows you to go both completely stealth based, or lets you go in with guns blazing. That's admirable and a change from Splinter Cell: Conviction, however while it does let the player go through the game with little or no kills if they so wish, the level design and art direction forces the player into a bloodbath approach. While Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was designed with very dark levels, large open spaces and very few- though extremely deadly- guards, Splinter Cell: Blacklist puts the player into more tight spaces, areas filled with heavily armed yet easy enemies, within levels that are mostly painfully brightly lit.

I understand that the story doesn't allow for our heroes to wait around for nightfall, but shit, it completely takes the need for stealth away. Instead of hanging from a pipe in utter dark silence hoping a guard with walk away in Chaos Theory, Blacklist has you hiding behind a crate having to get through 10 guards. It's easier to just kill them all, something that wasn't the case in Chaos Theory. In this way the game bottlenecks you into just shooting shit up. And yeah, it's fun, but it's not exactly Splinter Cell.

Even viewed as something different, Splinter Cell: Blacklist just doesn't stack up. There's no feel of espionage here, and no feel of true danger to Sam Fisher mainly because he's armed to the teeth, and very rarely will you find yourself stuck in a truly dangerous position. In those cases it just becomes a fucking cover based shooter, where gameplay consists of mindless shooting, cheap quick melee kills, and that fucking annoying blood-splatter-on-the-screen effect some games do. Ugh!

Another annoyance is the constant hand holding. Gone is the need to really listen to the dialogue in the game, to truly explore and examine your environment when looking for a target. But hey, that's boring, right? Instead, the game constantly tells you what to do, which is further hampered by floating targets and markers just to make sure you don't get lost. It's one of those games that kind of thinks your dumb. You'll find yourself simply trying to get to the source of a marker, instead of, you know, doing spy shit and adapting to your environment!

Maybe I'm coming down on it a little too hard, but I would have preferred if Ubisoft just tried something new, as opposed to trying something new while also trying to replicate what came before it. It doesn't work! It doesn't know what it wants to be, comes across like a bit of a mess, and that's just detrimental to the game design. But hey, it looks pretty, and you get to blow shit up!

Splinter Cell: Blacklist gets a pretty lacklustre 4.5/10

Denis Murphy

Splinter Cell: Blacklist at CeX

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