Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Blacklist is the latest in the Splinter Cell series, following on from Conviction, a game which divided audiences by simplifying and streamlining the classic Splinter Cell stealth ’em up formula. So has Blacklist sneaked off back to its roots in the shadows, or is it still flying its new, more action based colours loud and proud?

The answer is that it falls somewhere in the middle. Ubisoft have taken the simpler, speedier gameplay of Conviction and added back in some of the more traditional Splinter Cell elements that the purists missed in the last title – such as moving through air ducts, knocking out grabbed enemies, making a noise to lure enemies, etc. I personally found Conviction to be a little too dumbed down for my liking, so this compromise works well for me. If old Splinter Cell was a heavy stodgy fruit cake, and Conviction was a cream puff, Blacklist is perhaps a nice madeira cake, still light, but with a bit more substance to get your teeth into.

Speaking of substance, I’d recommend getting a friend if you want to get the most from Blacklist, as a large amount of the secondary side missions can be played co-op, and a smaller number actually have to be played co-op. Co-op is just as much fun as it always was, as one of you distracts a guard while the other walks up behind him and grabs him. You also have Dual Execute, a variant of the Mark and Execute mechanic introduced in Conviction, where the two co-op players mark up a heavy trooper with a helmet, then synchronise up and bang, one player shoots the helmet off, and the other takes the headshot immediately afterward.

there are more gadgets than you can shove into a neoprene outfit

As per any self respecting Splinter Cell game, there are more gadgets than you can shove into a neoprene outfit, and this one introduces the (now compulsory in gaming) crossbow. Joking aside, it’s an effective weapon for deploying non-lethal smoke, gas etc across distance, and opens up some interesting gameplay options.

Blacklist is all about options, with the game encouraging you to beat scores on each level in one of three styles: Ghost, Panther and Assault. The Ghost leaves enemies alive, the Panther kills from the shadows, and the Assault guy kicks in the front door and starts throwing frag grenades until there’s nothing left but pieces. With co-op and these three different styles of play to perfect, this is a really solid package of gaming for your money.

It’s not perfect, though. Purists will say there’s too much open combat for a Splinter Cell game, and the co-op has some annoying glitches which can cause you to have to restart a mission occasionally. The Spies vs Mercs multiplayer returns, and within two days of launch was being subverted by morons on Xbox Live by the Spies not actually taking the objectives, instead turning it into a glorified deathmatch where they held all the cards. The game overloads buttons, so sometimes you’ll be trying to revive a fallen co-op partner and end up turning on a light or similar. You also have to swap discs occasionally on 360, and perform a half hour long HD texture pack install, but at this point I’ll blame this generation of consoles for that and say roll on next-gen.







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