Thursday, June 18, 2015

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Out of all the different gaming genres out there, the stealth genre is one of the few genres that I have only recently looked into.  While I have played some games that contain elements of stealth like the Batman Arkham games, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is my first official foray into the stealth genre.  With that said, however, is Blacklist a good game?
The story follows series protagonist Sam Fisher and his newly formed team 4th Echelon, as they are in a race against time to stop a terrorist group known as the Engineers.  The Engineers' plan is to initiate a series of attacks known as the Blacklist, and each day, the Engineers will target something different and vital to the U.S.A., until the American government pulls out all American soldiers that have been deployed around the world.  Unfortunately, Blacklist's story isn't that good, and this is because this is a typical story about terrorists who plan to spread chaos, and only one group is able to stop them.  It's formulaic and predictable, plus the main bad guy of the game, Sadiq, isn't that interesting.  Another character in the game, a member of 4th Echelon named Charlie, annoyed me as his many attempts at being funny fell flat.
My final gripe with the story involves a certain level in the game.  At one point, Sam Fisher learns that one of Sadiq's high-ranking men, Nouri, has been captured and sent to Guantonamo Bay, and instead of getting permission from the U.S. government to interrogate Nouri, Sam Fisher, with assistance from fellow member Briggs, infiltrates the prison posing as a prisoner so he can find and interrogate Nouri.  It made me why wonder why Fisher went through all of the trouble of infiltrating Guantonamo Bay, when they could have easily just gotten permission to interrogate the man.
Even though the story of Splinter Cell: Blacklist isn't good, the gameplay greatly makes up for it by being really good, challenging, and rewarding.  Compared to other games in the stealth genre, Blacklist is a lot more active when it comes to pacing, it's a game that encourages players to be mobile, rather than stay in one spot most of the time.  Another way Blacklist differentiates itself from other games in the genre is in its ranking system that awards points for playing the game using one of three different playstyles: Ghost, Panther, and Assault. 
 Ghost involves sneaking by enemies and using non-lethal methods such as stun guns and sleeping gas to take out enemies.  Panther is like Ghost only you're using silenced weapons and lethal takedowns to take out enemies.  Assault speaks for itself, as it's all about causing a ruckus and letting the enemies know that you're here and in the open.  This system encourages experimentation as you can either focus on honing one playstyle or using a combination of the three methods.  However, you may have to shift some tactics during a mission as sometimes there may be certain parameters involving a mission's current objectives, like avoiding enemy detection or causing any casualties.
At the end of a mission, points earned from one of the three playstyles are tallied up, as well as additional points for beating the mission within a certain time limit, finding hidden paths, and hiding bodies.  You'll also earn cash which can be used to purchase new gear and weapons for Sam Fisher, or it can be used to upgrade the Paladin, your flying HQ, and some parts of the plane you upgrade will potentially open up special bonuses for Fisher such as faster health regeneration, more slots to hold gadgets, or new weapons to purchase and unlock.
Besides the main missions, there are also special missions members of 4th Echelon offer that are varied from each other.  For example, missions that the member Grim offers involve completing different objectives, and should you get spotted by a guard, it's an instant mission failure and you have to start from the beginning.  Missions offered by a man named Kobin will have you making your way through a level, eliminating all enemies that are in the current section of a level, and if you get spotted, reinforcements will be called in, increasing the number of enemies to get rid of and also making things more challenging.  Splinter Cell: Blacklist is not an easy game, and there were plenty of "trial and error" moments which often resulted in me reloading from the last checkpoint, but at the same time, though, it felt rewarding once I managed to make my way through a section that was giving me trouble.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist has good visuals, and one of my favorite aspects of the visuals is that any new objectives you receive will often flash up in front of you, either on the side of a wall, or out in the distance.  While the voice acting is good, at times the person who voices Sam Fisher, Eric Johnson, sounds like he's sleepwalking through his performance.  The music, though very subtle, manages to make things more tense as you're sneaking around and taking out bad guys.
As someone that has only recently gotten into the stealth genre, I very much enjoyed playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist.  While the story wasn't anything special, the gameplay makes up for this by being fun and challenging, but also rewarding.
Final Score: 8/10

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