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Gaming review: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

September 12, 2013 15:54 IST

Gaming review: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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Murali Venukumar

A slick, well-produced big-budget game that starts with a bang and doesn't let up till the end credits roll.

Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC

Price: Xbox 360/PS3: Rs 2,999 / PC: Rs 1,499

Developer: Ubisoft Toronto/Shanghai

Publisher: Ubisoft

Distributor: E-xpress Interactive Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Action-Adventure/Stealth

Age Rating: 18+

Let’s get down to brass tacks, folks. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist is damn near a Conviction 2 if there ever was one. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you. The last game in the series may have ticked off stealth nuts, but just the slithery slickness of its presentation and the fact that Sam Fisher didn’t necessarily need to stick to the shadows endeared it with folks who didn’t mind leaving a trail behind them. It’s biggest failing however, was the inability to cater to different play styles, and that’s something Blacklist has (at the very least) tried to address.

With a premise that revolves around a coordinated threat against the United States (again?!) by a group called the Engineers, the story doesn’t stray far from the expected Clancy potboiler tropes. What’s different this time is the Paladin, a flying fortress that doubles as your mobile command center. There’s an almost Mass Effect-like serenity in watching your own private hub between missions evolve. You’ll get to talk to fellow Fourth (yes, fourth) Echelon operatives, purchase and upgrade your gear and loadout, look up all available singleplayer, multiplayer and co-op missions on a world map, in addition to a lot of stat tracking between mission briefs and debriefs. You also have a variety of tools to kit yourself out with including noisemakers, myriad grenades, and a hover-drone. It’s also cool that the Paladin itself can be upgraded, again very Mass Effect, to give you in-mission bonuses that will help you during your playthroughs.

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Photographs: UbiSoft

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Gaming review: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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Murali Venukumar

One of the best things about Blacklist is how it lets you customise Fisher based on your play style. You earn cash based on your performance during missions which you then use to purchase gear and upgrades that’ll further enhance your chosen play style.

Stealth suits for example give you near-invisibility while lowering your armour rating. Similar skews apply for other gear and upgrades, although it still is possible to find a balance if you like to tackle each combat situation differently. You’ll immediately notice that the game goes out of its way to highlight and reward you when you take a stealthy approach. While it’s nice that it encourages a classic Splinter Cell style of play, it’s also a little disconcerting considering how much the game emphasises player choice. 

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Photographs: UbiSoft

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Gaming review: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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Murali Venukumar

Aside from this oddity, the levels themselves feel a tad more spread out this time. Certain marquee areas really stand out for the varied paths you can employ to complete them. The AI is serviceable and will give you a fair challenge although it’s also largely similar to previous Ubisoft offerings, so much so that you’d think they’re reusing a lot of components between games (surprise!). The missions are mostly par-for-the-course aside from the expected AAA set-piece moments peppered through the game.

While they seem odd contextually, what they do is give the game a chance to show off its Engine. Ubisoft Montreal hasn’t outright overhauled the tech behind the game, and while you’ll see a lot of very similar-looking animations if you’ve played Conviction -- your Mark and Execute skill, and move-to-cover animations being particular deja vu moments. Textures do look a tad sharper and the game does have a nice look about it considering the aging console hardware it’s running on.

Michael Ironside is sorely missed, however. It’s not that the new VA isn’t good, but it’s a tough task stepping into the shoes of a confirmed icon.

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Photographs: UbiSoft

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Murali Venukumar

Thanks to you now having the Paladin hub, you’ll also occasionally chance upon side missions (either co-op or solo), with a variety of objectives ranging from simple wave based survival to hardcore stealth. The seminal (and mad fun) spies versus mercs mode also makes a much needed return in Blacklist. It’s a big deal considering just how much fun it is. Playing a merc lets you play in first person, while both sides have access to unique gear and abilities. It’s more fun than this description can ever give it credit for, and is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Blacklist isn’t a revolutionary re-imagining of the stealth genre. The last few years have seen fewer titles focused on pure stealth, so it probably shouldn’t be expected of Ubisoft to bank their money on a losing proposition. What we have instead is a slick, well-produced big-budget game that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up till the end credits roll. It’s the sort of game you should be spending your hard earned rupees on, especially when you consider the breadth of the package.

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Photographs: UbiSoft

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