Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist (360)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Friday, August 23, 2013

Way back in 1996, famed science fiction author Tom Clancy co-founded Red Storm Entertainment to bring some of his books to life. Over the nearly twenty years since games started receiving the Tom Clancy brand, the company has sold tens of millions of copies of some of their biggest franchises including Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, EndWar and Splinter Cell over multiple console and PC generations.

That brings us to 2013, and the release of Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Following the events of 2010’s installment Conviction, President Caldwell has shut down the increasingly corrupt Third Echelon and replaced it with the cleverly titled Fourth Echelon. The newly minted Fourth Echelon is a much more streamlined covert team rather than a massive agency like the NSA or CIA.

Blacklist’s plot follows a group of terrorists called The Engineers as they attempt to force the United States into bringing all of its troops home from abroad (or perhaps another ulterior motive?) by revealing a list of escalating US-based terror plots over the course of a month a half. This terrorism-in-America plot definitely adds another level of realism to this very plausible problem. The Engineers leader Majid Sadiq (voiced and portrayed by Carlo Rota) was layered enough to be believable, but not stretched so thin that he seemed cartoonish.

Fourth Echelon sees some of the brightest members from several other government agencies being acquired including main characters Sam Fisher and Anna Grimstottir and two new team members: Isaac Briggs – a recruit from the CIA and co-op partner for Sam during missions – and Charlie Cole, a computer and tech expert who worked with Sam and Victor Coste at Paladin 9 (a PMC). Each has their own unique perspective on each mission and helps you in various ways.

Much like the squad being streamlined, their area of operation is as well. All operations for Fourth Echelon start out on their new private plane; a jumbo jet retrofitted and repurposed for their use. Throughout the course of the campaign, co-op missions and multiplayer you’re able to spend your hard earned money to upgrade the plane. Each upgrade has its own perks to help you. You’re able to upgrade the medical bay which gives you faster health regeneration, sensors that give you a better radar reading around you on the ground, Charlie’s workshop: gives you access to prototype weapons and various other upgrades. I won’t spoil them all. While upgrades are fairly expensive, it’s relatively easy to earn money throughout the course of the game.

In Blacklist, you’re able to earn accumulative income spanning all aspects of the game: single player, co-op and multiplayer. The main gameplay focus for the Splinter Cell franchise has always been about stealth. Sure, we know that main protagonist Sam Fisher is a badass, but what makes Fisher so scary is that by the time you realize he’s there, it’s too late for you to do anything to stop him. You’ve got three ways to play Blacklist: Ghost, Panther and Assault. Ghost requires you to play through without killing or alerting anyone, panther allows you to kill as long as it’s stealthily and assault allows you to go into any situation with guns blazing, but you’ll only be gaining about half of the amount of experience and money as you would be playing on ghost.

I tried my best to play through completely as a ghost, but I always ended up giving in and headshotting a few pesky mercs before the level was over. Regardless of how you want to play it, make sure you upgrade your character accordingly. If you want to play through the game as a ghost you need to upgrade your stealth equipment and if you want to go more assault definitely upgrade your armor or you’ll be dead before you can even reload.

For the most part, co-op maps feel more like they’re meant for one person with a second player added rather than truly necessitating a second player. They’re still a ton of fun though.

It was great to see the immensely popular Spies vs Mercs multiplayer mode making a triumphant return after a two game absence. You’ve got classic 2v2 and then a new version for Blacklist that features 4v4 with customizable load outs. Spies vs Merces pits a team of spies against a group of heavily armored mercs as they attempt to hack terminals and gain information. The spies have tons of gadgets at their disposal including mines, tri-rotor drones and other fun toys. They must stick to the shadows as best they can or mercs with superior firepower will destroy them. This back and forth keeps matches fair and fresh.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist should easily appeal to stealth aficionados and run-and-gunners alike. With day’s worth of content, many alternate ways to navigate each mission and tons of player customization, you shouldn’t have any issue getting tons of replay-ability out of Blacklist.

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The Good

+ Crisp gameplay

+ Beautiful lighting and environments

+ Quantity AND quality

+ Awesome amount of character customization


The Bad

- Playing as Briggs during the SP campaign

- Faces look awful during cinematics

Verdict9.5

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