Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist for Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
I’ve never played a Splinter Cell game before, but on sale for a tenner on the Wii U seemed like a good enough deal to give it a go. Overall, it was a positive stealth experience, only slightly overshadowed by my recent playing of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.
Blacklist follows long-time series protagonist Sam Fisher, as head of the clandestine US agency known as Fourth Echelon. A group calling themselves ‘The Engineers’ have released the ‘Blacklist’, a plan for a series of terrorist attacks on the United States with the intention of forcing them to leave nations they are currently occupying. Fisher and co travel around the world in their fancy expensive plane to head of the attacks and stop the Blacklist.
I kept expecting Blacklist to develop a sense of irony or moral ambiguity about what was happening but, no, that didn’t really happen. The whole thing is so gung-ho and macho, with Fisher doing some really questionable things. It skirts near lots of interestingly risky territory, but never does anything with it. When Fisher tortures for information, it’s always ok because he saves the day. There’s even a visit to Guantanamo Bay which contrasted heavily with the much more interesting story of Ground Zeroes. It’s not all bad; I liked the villain, and the Engineers are a genuinely interesting group. Maybe I’m missing something coming to the game new, but Blacklist almost struck me as a parody of manly American military games.
Blacklist is a stealth game, with really solid mechanics. Sneaking around, knocking people out and infiltrating areas never really stopped being enjoyable for me. The ‘mark and execute’ function was a lot of fun, which sees Fisher identifying up to three targets then shooting all three in the head if you’ve managed to knock enough people out stealthily. It looks cool and it’s really satisfying. In fact, for a stealth game the actual shooting mechanics are pretty good, but your priority will always be to stay undetected, and it’s clear that’s the best way to play. The basic mechanics are solid, but there are all other sorts of gadgets and other stuff put on top. From grenades to noise makers up to a remote controlled drone, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. More often than not though I opted to just sneak around and knock people out, but it’s nice to have options. The levels are reasonably open and very well designed and are a lot of fun to explore. There’s an upgrade system, as new suits focusing on stealth or defence can be purchased, alongside new guns and gadgets. You’ll likely end up with a lot of money after every mission, particularly if you complete optional objectives, so you’ll always be able to buy something new to suit your play style. Aside from a bafflingly unnecessary and clunky FPS section, Blacklist was fun throughout.
You could never accuse Ubisoft of being stingy with their games; you always get a huge amount of bang for your buck. Alongside a meaty main campaign are a whole bunch of side missions with a focus on co-op play. Of course, I was playing on the Wii U so there was literally no one else ever online. It’s not really the games’ fault though, but if you’re a Wii U owner with a taste for co-op, you may want to keep that in mind. Again, the intriguing looking multiplayer mode didn’t get a look in, so keep in mind that from a practical standpoint the Wii U version may miss a few features, even though they technically are there. All these are accessed from the plane you return to between missions, making everything feel nice and coherent and connected.
Blacklist has a hugely bland look, but it’s functional enough and the big action moments are appropriately action-y. The voice acting is good, even if the actual characters they were playing weren’t particularly. The biggest technical issue I found were the brutal load times for almost everything. Make sure to have something to do while you wait or a lot of time will end up being wasted.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an unremarkable game, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. I wouldn’t pay more than £15 for it, but if you do see it for a price like that it’s definitely worth a go. You could do a lot worse.