• Game Review: Splinter Cell Blacklist

    Score: 8/10

    Violence in video games isn’t always satisfying. It’s fun to mow down bad guys. But nothing can compete with the pure satisfaction of overcoming vulnerability. I can’t say I have ever experienced a higher degree of gaming blood lust than when Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory dropped back in 2005. Sure, stealth games have a bad rap for being “slow” but there is nothing like that pulse pounding moment before you drop from the ceiling to stab one guy in the back, shoot his friend in the face and slip back into the shadows. Methodically plotting out your next move, being forced to outwit your enemies and pulling it off results in a felling of accomplishment no crazy sci-fi gun could ever hope to replicate. The absence of that vital “don’t get caught” exhilaration in Conviction netted us a far shallower, far less satisfying power fantasy.

    Yes, Conviction had these utterly bad ass interrogation scenes. But it also forced that mark and execute crap on you which only looks cool.

    Splinter Cell : Blacklist wants to strike a balance between play styles, and does so with a lot more success than some other games that have tried the same (ahem Resident Evil 6) but its stealth roots are ultimately the most engaging thing about it so those moments where you are encouraged to stand and fight are just bizarre and discouraging. Not to mention fruitless as if you spec yourself for stealth the moment alarms sound you are a dead man, and you won’t always have the option of continuing to sneak past the situation. Blacklist’s best moments are still the ones when you are just one wrong move away from a crisis or when you have taken down terrorists that will never even know you were in the same room with them.

    Chloe's ex-husband from 24 is out to destroy America and only you can stop him.

    Before you even get started with brutally difficult but addictive Spies vs Mercs mode there are a metric ton of side missions to keep you busy after (or during) the main story, including a co-op only storyline and several missions that can be played alone or with a partner. Although personally, when given the option I found I was 50% more successful alone because without a partner I’d play the same missions much more carefully, and nearly all the optional solo or co-op missions penalize aggressive tactics. And the missions that require co-op sometimes miss the point in favor of being more accessible. In past Splinter Cell games constant co-operation and communication was vital, you were legitimately completing tasks that required two spies. In Blacklist you’ll sometimes be stopped by doors or ledges that you can’t traverse until your partner catches up.

    In what has to be the game’s biggest sticking point for fans of the series and good voice acting is that Ubisoft’s new performance capture regiment has axed Michael Ironside from the cast (It is still beyond me how a different voice actor can’t still be dubbed after the fact). And his replacement is like a bland imitation of someone doing a bland imitation of Sam Fisher. The gruff, cynical, and often hilarious spy we know and love is gone even if this game is a bit more worthy of him.

    Even the co-op side characters have lost a little personality. In Conviction Archer was a smarmy asshole while Kestrel was dutiful and serious. A new agent named Briggs joins Sam in co-op missions and he's essentially a brick with night vision goggles.

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