|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Release: August 20, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Sean Engemann
The Ubisoft booth was certainly crammed with games this E3. Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed IV alone were drawing in hours-long queue lines. I, however, took the opportunity during my appointment to dive into Tom Clancy's duo of upcoming titles, first partaking in a closed door demonstration of The Division, and then getting my hands dirty with Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The majority of my time was spent trying to complete a co-op mission with the game's lead graphic designer, making it an even more intimidating experience. I did, however, take away a ton of information about this very robust entry in the Splinter Cell series.
Following the events of Conviction, where the treasonous Third Echelon is brought down by none other than our hero, Sam Fisher, the president of the United States puts Fisher in command of the new counter-terrorist unit, Fourth Echelon. After trying to return to a normal life with his daughter, disaster strikes when a group of terrorists called the Engineers begin a series of deadly attacks on the U.S. called the Blacklist, calling Sam back into action. Now Sam and his small team must stop these attacks and eliminate the terrorists.
As with every Splinter Cell, gameplay is all about covert operations, tactical combat, and a strong focus on stealth. However, that's not to say Blacklist doesn't allow you to make some noise. There are three different play styles you can pursue at your leisure: Assault, Panther, and Ghost. Assault is where you handle the situation quickly and with plenty of firepower, sacrificing your location for aggressive engagement. Panther players creep through the shadows in order to silently and lethally pick off enemies, one by one. Ghost is the most challenging mode, testing your stealth skills by getting close to enemies and subduing them non-lethally. How you handle each situation will not affect the outcome of the story, however, you receive a higher score and grade the less attention you draw to yourself. Thus, you'll score higher playing a Ghost style than Assault.
Of course, few games let you play with as many cool gadgets as Splinter Cell. Sam's signature night/sonar vision goggles makes a return after being absent from Conviction, a sore spot for many a fan. The high-frequency activation initiates a visual sonar blip that lets you spot enemies, mines, and security obstacles–even through walls (unless you're playing on Perfectionist difficulty). Like a sonar, though, the visual feed fades, so keeping track of your enemies' whereabouts requires you to be alert. The spherical sticky camera can attach to surfaces, giving you an extra set of eyes. The sticky noisemaker will lure enemies away from you or into a trap, and the sticky EMP can disable nearby electrical devices. The most useful gadget is the tri-rotor, a remote device that you manually control for recon and dispatching enemies. All of these tools can be upgraded with new features and increased range and sensitivity.
Effectively utilizing all of your resources is critical in the game's co-op mode, as I quickly found out. There are two types of missions in the co-op mode, Briggs and Grim. The Briggs missions are more Assault oriented, where you must use all your combat prowess and arsenal of weapons to defeat an overwhelming wave of terrorists. The Grim missions, like the one I demoed, are much more complex. They require absolute stealth. Our goal was to hack three terminals around a concentrated group of buildings. Not only were there plenty of guards to bypass, but mines were scattered about, laser fences blocked our path, cameras were discreetly hidden, and the target terminals were guarded by heavily armored sentries. To convince you just how challenging it will be, if spotted, we had less than two seconds to take out the enemy, otherwise the mission failed. There are no checkpoints, so failure sent us back to the start. Enemies have random patrol patterns, so attacking the objectives the same way twice was futile. Finally, even after we hacked the three terminals, we had to make it back to the extraction point unnoticed, or all that progress goes kaput.
The popular Spies vs. Mercs competitive multiplayer makes a return in Blacklist. The Spies team must use their gadgets and stealth to successfully hack terminals, while the Mercs team hunts them down with superior weapons and body armor. If it's even remotely like the similar mode from Splinter Cell: Double Agent, I can already see hundreds of matches stealing me away from my family.
No matter what system you opt to play Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist on, the amount of engaging content should be well worth the retail price. Sam Fisher seems to only be getting better with age, and Ubisoft's latest entry looks to be the best one yet. Get your goggles ready boys and girls, because Blacklist arrives on August 20th.
Date: July 15, 2013