Recently, I was lucky enough to get an early hands on with the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist. As stealth/action games go, I had fairly high hopes and a few points of comparison; namely Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
I can definitely say that I'm impressed with the game, and it has a number of features I'd love to see taken up by more developers; read on for my full Splinter Cell: Blacklist Hands on...
Firstly then, what is it? Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest Splinter Cell game, with Sam Fisher once more leading the (quiet) way. Recruited into the newly created Fourth Echelon, Sam and his team (some of which are returning characters) have to stop a new menace: a group of terrorists known as The Engineers.
The Engineers have a list of attacks on American assets that they will attack on a regular basis, and it's your job to find them and stop them, before America's crucial infrastructure is destroyed. Going only on the mysteriously named targets like “American Consumption”, the Fourth Echelon team have to use all the tools at their disposal to take down The Engineers.
Unfortunately, my time with the game was limited, but I can tell you that there is a lot there; just doing a single mission (with a few restarts) took me the better part of an hour and a half, and I was consistently discovering different methods of traversing the levels as I replayed them. Although progression is technically linear, there are numerous ways to sneak past the enemies, or if you're feeling confident, shoot your way through them.
Along with your trusty silenced pistol, you have a number of other gadgets and weapons by default, all of which can be customised to your taste, or to help with a particular mission (the briefing will often clue you in on what you'll need). You can of course take people down in a close combat manoeuvre, which will result in either an instant kill or a quiet knock out.
A new feature A feature that isn't new but is still really useful and awesome is the execution mechanic, which will let you kill up to three tagged enemies rapidly. You have to perform close quarters takedowns to charge the ability up, and it's more restricted on higher difficulties. It can be a very good way to clear a room after accidentally being spotted though, as you can tag enemies from cover and watch them move around you.
Choosing to be lethal or non-lethal is up to you mostly, although be warned that “going loud” with unsilenced weapons or letting guards see you will cause you many problems. (I will add a disclaimer here that I played the game on the Xbox 360, which may account for my inability to shoot). Being non-lethal will get you more points, but you run the risk of the chain of unconscious bodies being woken up by a roaming guard.
The singleplayer is doable without killing a soul, and patience and exploration is almost always rewarded. Completing the level will give you cash and experience in three trees; Ghost, which is the non-lethal, silent route, Panther which is the lethal silent route, and Assault, which involves lots of grenades, bullets, and kicking in of doors. Due to the loadout I had and the lack of precision of the Xbox controller, I found that Ghost and Panther were my preferred choices, with Assault being very lethal very quickly; although more experienced players may be able to blitz through.
The entire game is based from the Paladin One; a flying jet plane that houses all of the things a good spy base needs. Communications, Armoury, Infirmary; all are included, and all can be upgraded as well for cash you earn in game. Completing a level will earn you money, more for leaving foes unalarmed than for takedowns, with kills granting you the least. There are also side objectives in missions, such as High Value Targets; find a way to take these guys down non-lethally to net yourself a nice bonus.
Back to the Paladin though, you had probably the most novel feature of the game, and one that I'm keen to see used consistently. There are three ways to play Splinter Cell: Blacklist, singleplayer, co-op multiplayer, and Spies vs Mercs (competitive multiplayer). Often, games like Call of Duty will make you choose which mode to boot when you start the game, but Blacklist gives you all the options from a single table. The Central Command Interface allows you to choose a mission to go on, both storyline and side missions, but also lets you invite a friend to play co-op, or drop into a Spies vs Mercs lobby – all from one table. I'll talk about the multiplayer modes later.
It's worth noting that this game is fairly brutal; within minutes of starting the game you'll see an unarmed man begging for his life before being gunned down, and the first mission already has a man being shock tortured. Given the nature of The Engineers, it's safe to assume that these are not the only disturbing instances in the game.
My experiences with the singleplayer were overall rather impressive; the tools available to me gave me a lot of options for completing the levels, although as I said, Assault is not easy, especially with a controller. Some issues I had were loading times (although again, I think this is console related); just upgrading your plane would take a healthy ten seconds or so, and loading levels was even longer.
In the game's defence, once the level was loaded there weren't any pauses until the end of the map, which as I said took me a good hour to make my way through. The lack of loading screens and fairly quick respawns meant that once you were in, the gameplay was good.
Take a look at what I thought of my Splinter Cell: Blacklist Multiplayer Hands On, including the Co-op and Spies vs Mercs modes!
In the mean time, tell us what you think of Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Does the flying base station strike you as cool? Is the dark storyline too graphic, or is it ok? Tell us below!