Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist launched Tuesday, August 20, 2013 for the PlayStation 3 game console. The game is the latest in the long running Splinter Cell series, which saw its first release back on the original Xbox. The series has come a long way since then and has made a number of changes to the gameplay formula. The game sees players once again assume the role of Sam Fisher, a super spy who has been trained to infiltrate enemy bases without being detected, but who knows how to handle his firearms if a confrontation should arise. And confrontations will arise. That’s one thing that separates Splinter Cell: Blacklist from its early predecessors. While the first incarnations in the series put an unprecedented emphasis on the stealth, this latest release is much more trigger happy and action friendly.
Whether or not the majority of the Splinter Cell fan base welcomes the more action centric focus remains to be seen, but I thought that it worked well throughout most of Blacklist. The games aiming and shooting mechanics have been refined to make using your weapons a more viable and enjoyable option. The game also has a greater focus on action set pieces than previous entries in the series. If the early games were taut spy thrillers, this latest game is more in line with your summer action blockbuster. The game opens with Sam Fisher crash landing a helicopter at an Air Force base in Guam. Here you look to be battling a mysterious terrorist sect who refer to themselves as “The Engineers”. The group claims that it will continue to carry out attacks on American forces until its demands are met. It’s Sam Fisher’s job to figure out who these people are and what they really want. Plot twists and intrigue follow.
The campaign does an admirable job of keeping the player engaged, but feels a little to similar to other third person shooters at times. At the end of the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation, players have likely encountered situations that are similar to many of those that are presented in Blacklist. If you are a devoted fan of the stealth and action genres, this game will likely be right up your alley, but you should not expect a reinvention of the wheel.
In terms of graphics, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a mostly polished package. It won’t stand out as the prettiest game on either console, but its performance on the PlayStation 3 is, at the very least, solid. I encountered very little in the way of frame rate drops and character models were generally detailed and possessing of a high polygon count. It may not win any awards for its visuals, but it rarely disappoints and provides the best visuals in the series thus far. The lighting in the game deserves particular commendation. This is one area that the series has always excelled in an and Blacklist is no different. The contrast between the harsh sun and shadows makes for an interesting game world and the three lights on Sam’s headgear look as cool as ever.
When it comes to gameplay, most of what the game is putting forward works. Sometimes it finds itself in a weird space of trying to satiate both stealth devotees and action enthusiasts. The game’s larger set pieces sometimes have a tendency to fall flat and the transition from stealth to shootout often feels a little abrupt. The game features a first person section that is mostly disastrous. It’s obvious that the single player game was built around the third person vantage and the change of perspective doesn’t do the game any favors. That said, the game’s multiplayer mode is a true standout. There are hours of entertainment to be had with the games plentiful online modes. Interestingly, the online mode provides the best balance of the stealth and action formula that is evident in the main game. While the single player campaign may not be very long, it is likely that the multiplayer will keep those who purchase the game occupied for a long period of time. Fans of the series will find a lot to like, but the online modes are the real standout.