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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review


 

Before I start…

We at CCwant to approach our reviews a little differently, by providing you — the reader with our history with said game. You know, hitting the extremes and everything in between ie. whether this is our first time (noob) with the franchise (of course New IP’s everybodies new to it right?) or  if we’ve bought every game in the franchise or have extensive history or knowledge of a particular title.

Basically our personal background so you again — the reader can see not just a review score but exactly the mindset behind the review; is this my first time playing A RPG? A first person shooter?  Do I even like first person shooters? That way you can determine whether the person reviewing the game is coming from a place where you can relate or if it’s something that you need to consider.

Now as far as Splinter Cell: Blacklist…

or the Splinter Cell series in general  goes; my background? My history with Splinter Cell runs deep; somewhat of an expert if you will… (joke) no, no it doesn’t and no, no I’m not. I admittedly  just recently came across this franchise about 2 years ago, (I know, shame on me). I’m a huge stealth-action 3rd person gamer, I just love it! One day I was encouraged to try it  and was hesitant at first or definitely not overly excited, I already had a bonafide 3rd person stealth-action game, ever heard of Metal Gear Solid? Yep! In my opinion the stealth-action game of all stealth-action games, anything else is a carbon copy (was my mindset). But in my ignorance — and stubbornness did not even realize two stealth-action games (or more) can be done well, stand out from each other and co-exist.

The game was Splinter Cell: Double Agent, a fantastic title that I can’t believe I initially missed, I know I missed at least two more in the previous generation and I heard they were fantastic too but this was the game that piqued my interest. After that experience  in combination with seeing the E3 trailer for Blacklist I  was SOLD! I pretty much knew at that point I have two “go to” stealth-action games from now on. Thanks Ubisoft!


 

(You see before you touch right?)

Ah Yes! The Graphics, the graphics in Blacklist look pretty darn good —  when in motion that is, animations are fluid and looks life-like mimicking human motion pretty accurately, environments are done great as well.

But…

That darn ‘Unreal Engine’! — aka the most overused engine this generation. I always felt it was a step behind it’s competitors, it aged very badly in my opinion and Unreal’s greatest weakness? It can’t seem to deliver compelling, interactive, believable sequences when it comes to lip synching and producing  life-like characters…of course the ugliness and  lack of life-likeness gets extremely exposed mostly during cut-scenes,  when this occurs it provides almost a “dummy” feel to it.

In fact it reminds me of part of the reason why I don’t enjoy “pure” RPG’s. Now of course Blacklist is not an RPG but  the stop, pause conversation that Ubisoft implemented into the games’ interaction with your team when back on the plane are what most RPG games present — usually waiting for you to make a choice, doesn’t make for the best immersion. On top of  that the unnatural camera angles don’t come off human but more robotic albeit a cool idea to keep everything integrated. And choosing to use the Unreal Engine may have made the problem even worse.

But…whoa ho, ho, ho wait just a minute, even though I feel developers need to put the Unreal Engine to rest  (for now) and the Unreal itself needs some overhauling, it’s greatest strength? The Lighting. Oh my goodness! The lighting in this game is phenomenal! Dare I say it’s one of the best in the business if not thee best. If the Unreal doesn’t do anything else  right it gets this right. It is indeed the “star of the show” in the graphics department and ultimately saves this game from looking like just another bland generic B rated title.

All that said I believe Ubisoft was one of the best developers to utilize that old engine and make it a pretty great looking title.

I was sold on the plot pretty much since it was first revealed. A terrorist named Majid Sadiq planning “hits” on various US constituents and buildings calling it the “Blacklist” that you, Sam Fisher, NSA special forces agent, leader of ‘Fourth Echelon’ (Yes for SC enthusiasts ’3rd Echelon’ was disbanded because of corruption) and crew have to stop before it’s too late? Yeah, I’M IN! But of course the story has to come together right?

Well…the story was told pretty well, the elements that make a great story; cast, voice acting, plot, were all done well but something was still off.  No time did the story or it’s supporting elements feel “epic”, my conclusion? It always does its job but never became “Michael Jordan”; not the best story I’ve come across but the plot is so good that it doesn’t tremendously hold it back.

Actually to hint that the story could’ve held it back is a bit misleading —  it is pretty good people, but it does have this feeling of; it’s not the weakest but it’s not the strongest vibe over it.

The Gameplay is undoubtedly the best part of this game and is Highly, Highly, Highly (did I mention Highly) Addictive, I still play this game it’s so darn addictive even though I technically finished and should be fully immersed in Grand Theft Auto V right now.  I could see me playing this game over and over well into the future.

And I’m pretty sure the whole world knows, as Ubisoft did a great job in promoting it;  “Ghost”, “Panther” and “Assault” are all the different playstyles you can use to approach the same situation and is the core of the gameplay, you can even combo them up, however sticking to one style awards you more points and gives you the chance to “master” it. I’m not sure though if mastering a style comes with anything tangible —  which sucks, like if I choose “Ghost” I should be able to move around environments via gadgets Ops suits or otherwise quieter and more efficiently than less say a “Panther” and really feel the difference.

But between, the different playstyles,   the phenomenal gadgets — including sticky bombs, (one of my favorite) ahhh, the sticky bombs, I longed for a return of that gadget in a game ever since ‘Perfect Dark’, the different Ops Suits that have different perks such as carrying extra clips or having more stealth or armor brings a ridiculously amount of fun and strategy experience.

Not to mention the “Mark and Execute” mechanic where you can mark up to 3 enemies at a time to shoot in the head in quick succession. Let me tell you about “Mark and Execute”, I thought I was going to hate this, when watching it, it looked a lot like bullet-time which I hate! And had already made it up  in my mind that I wasn’t going to use it — ever! But when it comes to tactics and feeling like a bonafide Secret Agent it works extremely well, surprisingly so.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t overuse it, Realistic Mode ( which I’ll get to) doesn’t even allow me to, but it’s great for situations like busting in a room of baddies knocking out the light, throwing a smoke grenade or tear gas and while they’re all discombobulated running through the room serving up perfectly placed headshots all while saving your “Target” who was being held hostage in said room. Not only is it a great tactical approach but it looks good in motion too, you really feel like a professional. The feeling  you get when done right is highly addictive.

Ubisoft does throw in a surprise and although warranted I rather they didn’t. I’m saying this for all who don’t like First person shooters, at some point you will be forced to play from that perspective albeit just two small sections but I figured I throw that out there.

As far as my feelings, me, who very much dislikes first person shooters especially in a story driven, plot based, single player campaigns it wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong I couldn’t wait for it to be over but they’re not brutally long and I see the end goal — to prepare you for  ‘Spies vs Mercs’, the multiplayer portion that pits one team playing in 3rd person while the other team plays in first.

My experience with realistic mode, which is the mode I played on is that it was brutal and unforgiving.  If you die and you had one man left to kill it will start you from the very beginning. I don’t know if it’s less unforgiving in other modes but it’s a heads up to any who may consider going “realistic” but  frustrate easy. Fortunately it is so fun I didn’t mind it that much, sometimes even cool with it because I wanted to approach the situation from a tactical standpoint different anyway.

In the sound department (as far as music) nothing groundbreaking but it does it’s job. There is no defining — if any soundtrack in the game which is fine — I like it, I would rather hear  feet creaking under wood, sloshing in water, or running through dirt anyway, especially in a stealth game where sound is critical. The sounds of guns with silencers, bombs and electrocution tactics all help to play the part and bring this delightful package together.

The voice acting is pretty darn good too not ‘Triple A’ good but a very sound (no pun) cast I must say. The unity the team displays, as well as the arguments the team has, on top of  the highlighting of what each team member does well, help shape the characters and they give an all around solid performance. It does nothing to hurt the game at all.

I do want to add that Sadiq as the villain is fantastic, he played his role superbly, his acting and his “darkness” made him a memorable; believable terrorist,  it allowed the threat on America that Ubisoft is selling to shine.

I’m sorry, I could not give my thoughts on  the online competitive multiplayer portion of this game due to my extreme dislike for FPS’s and because they force you to play in both roles; 3rd (Spy) and first (Merc) in my mind I deem it unplayable. I guess those who fought for the return of Spy vs Mercs also really like first person shooters too because I was thinking this mode could of still soared if it were all 3rd person.

However any who feel the same about FPS’s don’t worry the Co-op portion of multiplayer more than makes up for it with 14 co-op missions (more if you obtain DLC) with each one being unique, from the layout of the map and part of the day (daytime, night time) to the tactics used on said map. Some feature fighting off waves of enemies, some feature you having to go completely undetected and some where you can use a combination of the playstyles (Ghost, Panther, Assault) to obtain information pertaining to the mission.

All highly addictive (there’s that word again) and highly fun. Me and a co-op partner of mine on one particular map  found a “sweet spot” on the map and “set up shop” by placing sticky bombs and sticky shockers at all the possible entrances that a enemy could reach Us and watched the show as enemies would unknowingly walk into our trap while we picked off the rest; fun, fun, fun!

I would encourage trying new approaches and using new gadgets and see how many different ways you can approach the same situation — of course playing with another human enhances this. Ubisoft gives you options to play split-screen, only with friends from your friend list, or opening it up to the world to play with. Have fun experimenting!

Simply put you’ll want to play this again and again. And yes they have cute little things to collect if you’ve missed it the first time like HVT’s  (High Value Targets) which are individuals that you are ordered to subdue and keep alive as the NSA needs them for special purposes and Dead Drops that reveal some interesting information, but the three aforementioned playstyles (Maybe you played as a  “Ghost” and now you want to try “Assault”)  as well as unlocking Ops suits, trying new guns, unlocking guns and gadgets and combo-ing up all the above —  just the pure strategy of it all are the true highlight.

If you like 3rd person stealth-action games then you’ll definitely want to pick this up. If you love Splinter Cell I reckon you already have it but for whatever reason if you hesitated, hesitate no longer!

I give Splinter Cell: Blacklist 9.0 ControllUs out of 10 with a “Mind Control” Rating.

 

 

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