Friday, February 28, 2014

Splinter Cell: Blacklist, a true successor to Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell Blacklist is probably one of the best games I’ve played in a very long time. I’m a huge Splinter Cell fan and I have to say that it is equal to the quality that Chaos Theory brought to the table. I’ll admit that I was at first a little disappointed at the way the game played but in the end I was proven wrong. This is Splinter Cell at its finest. It takes best of worlds, Conviction’s fluid gameplay and Chaos Theory’s emphasis on stealth. Splinter Cell Conviction was a great game but it was not a great Splinter Cell game. It lacked a lot of the features that made the original Splinter Cell games so fun. However Ubisoft has learned their lesson and made an outstanding game within the Splinter Cell Franchise. This review is mainly going to focus on only single player aspects since I haven’t had a chance to play online yet.

At first the lack of a light meter and sound meter had me worried about whether or not Ubisoft was trying to bring the Splinter Cell franchise back to its roots. The Splinter Cell franchise has evolved into a quick and action oriented stealth game.  Blacklist has three distinctive play styles, Ghost, Panther and Assault. Ghost (my preferred style) grades the player based on avoiding enemies or knocking out enemies without being detected. The player receives extra efficiency points for every guard they leave untouched. Panther style awards points to players who kill enemies without being detected. Assault is your typical guns blazing approach and doesn't rely on stealth at all.  I actually went through the entire game as a Ghost on Perfectionist. Perfectionist is the hardest difficulty which prevents the player from seeing through walls in sonar vision and removes the ability to Mark and execute. I was extremely satisfied with this difficulty since mark and execute was a simple "I win" button.

The stealth works different in this game. The player can still be detected in the shadows but they have a certain amount of time before they are detected. The time is influenced by how dark the environment is around the player. I believe higher difficulties also reduce the time available before detection. The old splinter cell games worked differently. The darkness would provide you with cover for as long as you were still covered in shadows. However in Blacklist, the player must stay out of line of site, similar to how Metal Gear Solid series operates. This is fine because it keeps the player from feeling safe in the darkness. It forces them to become more proactive.

Blacklist provides a huge arsenal of weapons for Sam to use and upgrade on his journey to stopping terrorists. Honestly I didn't see a need for all these weapons for a stealth play through since I barely shot any bullets through the main campaign. The weapons are more for the Panther and Assault play styles which depend on killing foes. Sam Fisher also gets to choose different sets of armor that suit either a stealth or combat play style. The player gets to choose from 3-4 stealth suits and 3-4 combat suits. The stealth suits make less noise and provide higher stealth rating but very low armor. The combat suits are the exact opposite of stealth. The difference between each of the stealth suit is just a higher stealth rating. The combat suits work the same way with progressively higher armor rating. The higher quality suits require the player to purchase the previous suits except for the ultimate version. The ultimate version of each can only be unlocked through finishing the specific set of side missions.

The Splinter Cell series isn't really known for having an amazing storyline but I did enjoy the campaign’s story. A group called the Engineers are planning to attack the United States unless the United States removes all soldiers from every country around the world. Sam Fisher has to find out who the Engineers are and stop all attacks. Blacklist’s campaign missions alternate between stopping the Engineers’ attacks and gathering information about the Engineers’ plan. The side missions are more about gathering general intel on the Engineers and other enemies. Almost every mission in the game has some extra objectives such as gathering data drops, capturing high value targets and hacking laptops. The player is awarded cash to upgrade armor if these extra objectives are completed.

I honestly don’t have any real problems with Blacklist. I think it’s a well designed game with a variety of enemies in each level. I did think the game was a little on the easy side since I was able to complete it with relative ease on the hardest difficulty as a ghost. The only thing I really didn’t like was the way they portray Sam Fisher in this game. However Ubisoft has been constantly changing his personality with each new Splinter Cell game so this is nothing new. I think I would appreciate them giving Sam a break and introducing a new protagonist for the Splinter Cell series. Splinter Cell Blacklist is tied with Chaos Theory as the best Splinter Cell game. If you only had time to play one game from the Splinter Cell franchise, Blacklist would be that game.