Level Up: Tom Clancys Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the 6th installment in the series and returns the franchise to its stealth-based roots that were largely lost in the previous entry, Splinter Cell: Conviction.  And yet as a direct sequel to that game, Blacklist still gives the player the flexibility to go the stealth route or go in guns blazing in an all-out action style.

You play once again as covert operative Sam Fisher who escapes a terrorist attack at an Air Force base in Guam.  A terrorist group called "The Engineers" assumes responsibility for the attack and announces that it was the first of a series of attacks (called "The Blacklist") on United States assets, demanding that the U.S. government remove all American troops deployed abroad.  The President assigns Sam, Charlie Cole, Isaac Briggs and Anna 'Grim' Grímsdóttir to a newly created special operations and counter-terrorism unit called "Fourth Echelon" and orders Sam to hunt down The Engineers and stop their plans.  Your base of operations is a customized cargo plane dubbed “Paladin”.  It is here where you get your mission specs, upgrade your gear, and speak with the other members of your team.

While I am not a huge fan of stealth games Splinter Cell has always been an exception due to its incredibly smooth and realistic style of play that makes stealth rewarding and less of a pain in the ass for fear of being observed.  You move in and out of shadows with fluid grace, tracking your enemy and either killing them or avoiding them by using clever distractions.  The cover system is as strong as ever giving you the ability to use your environment for fast concealment.  How you choose to play is up to you.  You can take out foes with sleep grenades or by blows that render them unconscious.  Or, if you want, you can use lethal methods.  Either way you can still stash the bodies to keep them from discovery.

However if it is more all-out action you are going for look no further than the new Kill in Motion system that allows you to mark and execute multiple targets with one tap of the button.  This springs Sam into a flurry of action to take targets out quickly and in multiple ways utilizing both stealth and acrobatics on your deadly path.  The great thing about the different types of gameplay as it gives the experience strong replay value as there are different rewards and achievements to be gained through varying your style of play.

Speaking of rewards and achievements, the cash you get from these is used to customize your gear and weapons so you can develop Sam the way you want…load up on quiet or non-lethal items that maximize your stealth capabilities or heavy weapons if you want to eschew stealth and go in fully loaded.

Level design is spectacular as you will shimmy up and down drain pipes, crawl through air duct systems, dash across rooftops, scouting for guards on patrol and employing sticky cameras, proximity mines, drones, remote noise makers, and other items.  The sets are gorgeously rendered with appropriate lighting, shading, and color effects.  The voice acting is good although new actor Eric Johnson doesn’t have the same gritty style as previous voice actor Michael Ironside.

In addition to the campaign there is a 14 mission co-op campaign as well as multiplayer which returns the "Spies vs. Mercs" competitive mode introduced in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. 

There are only a few stumbles along the way…some level screwiness that can make them frustrating especially if you are trying to make it through them without the Kill in Motion system.  But overall, Blacklist is an outstanding game and the best entry in the series since 2005’s Chaos Theory.


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Mania Grade: A-
Publisher: Ubisoft
Rating: M (Mature)
Platform: PlayStation 3