Splinter Cell Blacklist Multiplayer

We recently sneaked past Ubisoft’s army of highly trained guards and grabbed a peek at the competitive multiplayer of their forthcoming skulk ’em up Splinter Cell Blacklist.

Spies vs Mercs makes its long-awaited return. The poster boy for asynchronous multiplayer modes, it casts half the players as vulnerable first-person Mercs wandering around in a state of abject terror with the other half playing the role of murderous third-person Spies parkouring about the place like the mischievous scamps they are. The Mercs will almost always beat the Spies in a straight firefight, but the Spies can move far faster and more dynamically in a constant bid to either avoid detection or outflank the Mercs and take the opportunity for a near-instant melee kill.

bumps in the night in Classic mode will jolt jumpy Mercs into firing blindly into the shadows

Two flavours are served up: the new Blacklist mode gives both sides a choice of loadout classes, where as Classic mode strips things down to the bare bones – Spies essentially have naught but a selection of non-lethal grenades and night vision to bring to bear, and Mercs get lethal explosives, their rifle and a flashlight. Classic mode is 2 vs 2, while Blacklist mode is 4 vs 4.

Either way, this sort of thing will frequently happen to and around you.

In both modes the Spies’ objective is to hack three terminals. Once a spy starts a hack, they must remain within a certain distance of the terminal until completion. Whilst a hack is in progress, no other terminals can be hacked, so the focus for both sides immediately switches to one small area of the map. If the hacker is discovered and killed by the Mercs, the Spies have a short amount of time to get to the terminal and restart the hack. If they fail to do so, their progress against that terminal is reset. Those fundamentals serve to constantly shift the paradigm for each side between offensive and defensive, always forcing the initiative on to one of the groups. The maze-like maps we saw facilitate that ebb and flow by offering multiple routes from A to B to C.

On the face of it Blacklist mode tends to serve up the more frenetic encounters. An initially baffling plethora of gadgets and augmentations is available to bring into the fray for each opposing force, with most having a natural counterpoint in their opponents’ ranks. For example, the Spies’ Intel Scout class comes equipped with the nifty ability to send out an electronic pulse that automatically tags all Mercs within a generous area of effect (making them visible through walls to all other Spies), but the Mercs’ Disruptor class can respond with their own pulse that removes those tags from any Mercs in the immediate vicinity. As such, communication and teamwork become key to success, but matches still hinge on the judgement, luck, and instinct of individual players. A single spy can silently kill the entire enemy team with well-timed melee kills in a matter of seconds.

Doing so is the closest you'll ever feel to being God. Stabby God.
Doing so is the closest you’ll ever feel to being God. Stabby God.

Classic mode has a bucketload of creeping tension in place of the Blacklist mode’s fulcrum of electronic pulse abilities and regular gunfire. The maps are darkened, with more places for the Spies to move unseen. A greater emphasis is placed on sound, especially with only three other players on the map, and two of them hostile. In its best moments bumps in the night in Classic mode will jolt jumpy Mercs into firing blindly into the shadows, like the hapless final goon in the Arkham games, jabbering insults at imagined faces in the dark. The Mercs are ostensibly the hunters, but that misconception will crumble after a few minutes playing as one. In truth, they are like field mice to owls.

Hoot Hoot

Regardless of the food chain, when proceedings hit their stride the feeling on both sides is uniquely one of glorious pressure. While Blacklist mode can tend to descend into something approaching chaos perhaps a little too often, Classic mode could be the final great multiplayer flourish for this console generation despite being essentially unchanged from the previous console generation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Splinter Cell Blacklist is scheduled for release in Europe on August 23rd for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC. We’ve received no word of midnight releases at any game stores across the UK, so your best option to get it first is probably to don your night vision goggles, break in to your nearest store post-haste and hang from a pipe in the darkest corner of the stock room like the cheeky little spy-monkey you are.







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