The latest stealth game to star everyone’s favorite night-vision wearing spy, Sam Fisher, is back with Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Officially announced during Microsoft’s E3 2012 conference, the game is set as a direct sequel to 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction and looks to raise the bar once again. During Comic-Con 2013 I had a chance to go hands-on with the campaign, co-op, and the much anticipated return of the ‘Spies Vs. Mercs’ versus mode. August 20th can’t come soon enough.
Starting the campaign demo, it felt very much as I expected a new Splinter Cell game to feel. I naturally moved around from cover to cover mapping enemy locations, using my silenced pistol to take an unlucky few out with deliberate aim. To save ammo, many times I would sneak from behind to quietly knock them out and hide their bodies in the shadows. Sadly, when I was finally caught from an unnoticed onlooker, the new ‘Killing in Motion’ mode would have allowed me to take out the soldiers that had moved toward my position, but my reflexes proved too slow and I was quickly taken out.
Splinter Cell has been made famous by its fun-to-use gadgets that offer flexibility in difficult situations. During my short play-through I found great use of the Sticky Noisemaker, an item used to direct a guard's attention. This little gadget had profound effect on the environment and allowed me to treat any situation like a deadly version of chess, as I was able to move certain pawns out of my way. This allowed me to bypass critical choke points or move an enemy in a specific manner so that he could leave himself exposed to my lethal skills.
Visually, Splinter Cell still has some of the best shadows seen this generation, but as only the Xbox 360 version was on-hand (played on a developer kit) I cannot speak for how it looks on other platforms. Unlike Conviction, which was ridiculed for lacking in color, Blacklist has much more vivid textures. The environments seem to vary from indoors to outdoors, and a night/day cycle adds an additional variable to the levels.
The co-op mode felt quite a bit different than single player, as the reliance on a teammate and the requirement to remain undetected was taxing on my patience. Having spent the most time on this mode, I was able to try it out with various partners and each proved different than the last. Moving about the level I ran into snipers, land mines, and heavily armored soldiers, each of which could end the game at a moment's notice if they found myself or my partner. Trying to disarm three checkpoints, the mode was incredibly difficult and required concise communication. Furthermore, the experience relied greatly on having a good teammate.
The return of the ‘Spies Vs. Mercs’ mode was by far my most anticipated part of Blacklist, as I had loved playing through it in Splinter Cell: Double Agent. The mode tasked a team of Mercs to try and stop a team of Spies from dismantling three checkpoints before the time ran out. While feeling a bit more sluggish than I remember, ‘Spies Vs. Mercs’ was still a blast to play as the Spies were able to set ambushes while deactivating nodes, and the Mercs were constantly communicating enemy locations in a mad dash to try and stop the infiltrators.
Overall, Splinter Cell: Blacklist felt like a major step in the right direction by balancing the need for combat while allowing for a deep and meaningful stealth experience. The various modes and ability to play with friends through split-screen or online makes this game a much more complete package than we have seen in the past.
Be sure to stay tuned to Crave Online for more coverage as we near the game's August 20th, 2013 release.
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