Blacklist is what you can expect from a Tom Clancy title story-wise: Conspiracies, running against the clock, facing an seemingly untouchable villain, who targets the U.S. of A. and of course, against all the odds. Did I forget something? Oh, yeah. You, Sam Fisher, will must go and save the world once again. The plot isn’t one you will remember after beating the game, though it gives Blacklist space to lead you to a large variety of levels from urban cities and jungle estates to oil refineries and underground bases. Overall the presentation of Blacklist is great. Sometimes some textures load slowly, but that’s just a minor problem. And Blacklist doesn’t just look, but sounds great too. From the weapon sounds and explosions to the classic night vision “bzzzz” and even the dialog that I actually liked. Shame that the voice-acting then again wasn’t as good, the highlight being Sam Fisher no longer voiced by Michael Ironside.
Your base of operations is the Paladin. An airplane with all the newest high-tech machinery you can find. From here you can select campaign or side missions, customize your various character classes, interact with your crew or jump online for some PvP fun. The menus are clean and easy-to-navigate. When you’re finally on the field, you will notice the amount freedom that Blacklist offers . At the start your equipment is limited, there isn’t much space to improvise, but after getting through the first missions, and with the cash earned, you can start customizing your character to one of three playstyles.
Ghost is classic Splinter Cell. Get in and get out without being seen by anybody. Shadows, taser guns and sleep grenades are your friends. Assault is as the name suggest, the shooter-style, where you go in guns blazing not worrying about casualties. Panther is the hybrid of the three. You try to stay hidden, but in the process you eliminate enemies, since it’s better to have a dead terrorist than one that’s just unconscious. Each playstyle is unique and most of the levels give you possibilities to explore each style to the fullest . After each mission you are ranked depending on which style or combination of styles you used. There are high scores to achieve in each playstyle of almost every mission, so there’s a lot of replay value.
In between campaign missions you have the chance of tackling shorter, more intense missions available from your crew. There are four types. Sneaking and gathering intel, kill everything without being seen, a Horde-type survival and exclusive co-op missions. All the other side missions can be played co-operatively offline/online also, but the co-op missions were specifically designed for 2 players, which are more enjoyable to play too. Though, a slight annoyance is, if you’re playing splitscreen, the screen is cut diagonally, minimizing your field of view, which in a game where knowing your surroundings is vital, is almost frustrating.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist re-introduces Spies vs. Mercs. SvM is a 2v2 mode where two spies try to hack terminals while the mercs try to stop them. The spies play like Sam from the campaign with nightvision and various gadgets aiding them. Mercs on the other hand, play from the first person like a shooter. They have thicker armor and, though having no nightvision, own a flashlight to see into dark corners. Let me just say: this mode is exhilarating! When the last bits of data are being transferred and both Mercs frantically look around with their flashlights desperately trying to find you, while you manage to stay hidden, jumping from cover the cover…it brings a fresh take on multiplayer after the countless TDM and CTF matches. Though, Blacklist has those too, but you want to play SvM. Also, have to mention that TDM with mixed Spy/Merc team works surprisingly well.
There’s also a modified SvM Blacklist 4v4 mode. To me it felt a bit too hectic, there wasn’t much stealth, just running and hoping for the best. Also, playing against high level enemies, who have unlocked all the juicy upgrades and gear was frustrating. Personally, I prefer the SvM Classic for its smaller and intensive players and everybody has to use a default class, thus making it more fair to all.
Overall Splinter Cell: Blacklist surprised me. I thought it would be an okay game like Conviction with good sneaking, but the freedom of choice in levels, combined with satisfying rewards for each playstyle and huge replay value, makes this for an amazing package of quality for your money. And even though, it feels a bit tacked on, the co-op is a plus. Above all that, the online with its flagship mode, Spies vs. Mercs will entertain you for a long time to come.