Video Game Review: Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)

Details: Played on PC. Because Uplay stupidly has no way to measure time played on a game, I have no idea how long I played it. Felt like around fifteen hours.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest in the Splinter Cell video game franchise and was released about two years ago. I received a copy when I upgraded my video card and I am so glad I did.

As the name suggests, the game plays out like a political thriller written by Tom Clancy: terrorists called the “Engineers” seek to commit a number of terrorist attacks and it’s up to Sam Fisher and his crew to stop them. Sam Fish and his crew are part of a splinter cell of American operatives who answer only to the president and can exercise the “Fifth Freedom,” which is to do whatever it takes (legal or not) to protect the country. The story is a lot of fun and really has that Tom Clancy feel. It rivals that of his other works in the political-thriller genre.

Voice acting is top notch and the performances of the actors really come through. I am a little upset they replaced the voice actors for Grim and Sam Fisher, but I can see why they did. The performances require a lot more physicality due to motion capture and hiring actors who can do the voices and act out the scenes really add to the atmosphere of the game.

In regards to gameplay, the game is the best iteration of the Splinter Cell formula yet. There are three ways to get through a level: assault (going in guns blazing, no stealth), panther (remaining stealthy but taking out all the enemies), and ghost (avoiding enemies and stealthing through an entire level without fighting). Personally, I prefer panther style, but I would occasionally engage in some ghost and assault style as well. Enemies generally walk on a predetermined route and your job is to either avoid or take them out as you proceed to the end of the level. It’s a fun formula that gives the player substantial discretion over how to approach a situation.

Of note is the games computer controlled enemies. While not clever in all situations, they can still be impressive. For instance, if you open a door in a hallway along an enemy guard’s patrol route and they come around and see it open, they will notice the door and begin to search the area/room associated with that door.

On the other hand, the enemy guards are completely oblivious to the disappearance of their colleagues as I was assassinating them one by one. This however, is a wise gameplay choice in my opinion because a substantial part of my enjoyment of the game was going around and stealthily taking out the guards at my leisure, without the worry that one of them would fail to radio in and incur the wrath of reinforcements. You still get screwed if the bodies are found, but I found hiding the bodies in creative places (e.g. on a toilet, in a jacuzzi) a hilarious and fun part of the game.

The game also has a kind of level progression in the form of purchasing weapons and armor through in-game currency. You earn money by finishing missions and fulfilling certain parameters during missions (like finding a laptop or capturing a high value target). Armor and weapons have stats which can then be upgraded through further purchases. It’s not an in depth leveling system, but I appreciate the inclusion of it. Furthermore, acquiring money to purchase things isn’t really that difficult and I purchased all of my favorite things around halfway through the game.

In regards to multiplayer, Blacklist provides a fun, if not troll-heavy form of entertainment. One mode is “spies versus mercenaries,” where one group of players play as patrolling guards while another group tries to take them out through stealth.

The game also provides coop missions which can be played with a friend. These are really fun and often provide all sorts of hilarity as you try (and often fail) to accomplish missions with teamwork. I really appreciate that Ubisoft kept this feature from prior games as this is one of the best parts of the Splinter Cell games.

Additionally, the graphics for this game are fantastic. I played this game on my computer on maximum graphical settings. It can easily compete with the games coming out today despite being released around two years ago.

Score: 8/10 Loved this game. I’m not sure it is worth $60, but seeing that it was released a while ago, you could probably get it at a discount. In fact, as I type this, it is currently on sale on Steam for $7.49. For that price, it is well worth the purchase.

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