4cr Plays – Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Let’s start things off properly: I don’t like Splinter Cell games. I’ve tried several of them before and to be honest they never grabbed my attention long enough for me to make a purchase and play them start to finish. Still with me? Great! With THAT out of the way, let’s get this review started!
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the latest release in the ongoing series (the sixth game if you’re keeping count), and it finds Sam Fisher taking on The Engineers, a terrorist group that is threatening to attack several United States owned assets and will carry on with ongoing attacks unless the government of the United States brings back all troops that are deployed outside of the country. As expected, the US will have none of this and the President decides that Sam Fisher is the man that can bring down the Engineers for good.
You can pick between overcoming obstacles with your guns, deadly hand-to-hand attacks, by lurking in the shadows waiting for your prey, or by sneaking past enemies without them even noticed you’re a threat. This reminded me of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the way it allows players to tackle things depending on their personal playing style.
The main multiplayer component this time around is Spies vs. Mercs, a mode in which Spies are set lose against Mercs to prove once and for all who the best really is. Spies are sneaky, fast and clever while Mercs are towering death machines armed to the teeth. To make things interesting, the Spies are controlled from a 3rd Person Perspective to make it easier to sneak around each area while the Mercs are controlled in First Person Perspective to drive home the point that they are out to kill those filthy Spies.
Those of you that played Conviction will be happy to see that the story picks up on several of the details and information from Sam’s last mission. It is not mandatory to have played Splinter Cell: Conviction in order to enjoy Blacklist, but the plot does reward players that were there when Sam exposed Third Echelon.
A nice bonus for the Wii U version is that you can use the GamePad as a quick way to access your inventory in order to select your gadgets without having to enter a separate menu, which makes it easier to keep the action going without breaking the flow. The same controls and menus also apply to your weapons. Additionally you can use the GamePad motion controls to control drones, though you can turn off this feature if you don’t want to use it. You can also target objectives with a Killing in Motion mechanic that allows you to kill enemies while on the move with all the expertise you come to expect from Sam Fisher.
As always, a must-have feature for me is Off-TV play, which allows me to keep on gaming when the TV is unavailable. This is the feature that has sold me on the Wii U since day one, and it’s what allowed me to complete Darksiders II (80% played on the GamePad), Call of Duty: Black Ops II (70% played on the GamePad) and Trine 2 (90% played on the GamePad). Splinter Cell Black Ops has this feature and it is definitely appreciated because it makes playing that much more convenient.
The game isn’t perfect, and is missing the offline Co-Op mode available in the other versions of the game since it seems it wasn’t possible to include it during the allotted development time. This is not a deal-breaker for me since I do 99% of my gaming single player, but it is something that anyone considering buying the game will have to consider On the bright side, you can play Co-Op mode online, so the game isn’t entirely without cooperative play. Initially there were also some problems with online multiplayer but Ubisoft released a patch that seems to fix most of the bugs. One other thing I noticed is that the load times are a bit on the long side. Not as long as those on Lego City Undercover for example, but long enough that you notice it. That being said, I did get used to them eventually and carried on playing.
So, did Splinter Cell: Blacklist change my mind about the series? At first I went into the game thinking “I’m definitely not going to enjoy this”, but as the story moved along and new missions were presented to me, something clicked. Maybe the technology wasn’t there before. Maybe the old controls were far from ideal. Maybe I wasn’t ready to play this series before. But this time around I found myself having fun while using the Wii U GamePad to access my inventory, and mark potential targets using the Killing in Motion mechanic. For the first time EVER, I was having fun with a Splinter Cell game.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist on Wii U is an interesting take on the Splinter Cell series. The Wii U version is presented at 720p with a trade-off of some dips in frame rate. It allows you to play on the GamePad’s screen by itself, or you can play on the TV and use the touch-screen to control the various in-game actions. Overall, it is a fun game that Wii U owners should enjoy, even if you’re new to the series. It managed to convince me and it just might convince you.