On release, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell brought a new angle to military franchises with its combination of stealth gameplay and gadgets. It was true “tactical espionage action” where Metal Gear Solid only talked about it (a lot).
Considered the high point of the series was Chaos Theory which combined its single player campaign with a suite of multiplayer modes that showed the core mechanics could work in PvP scenarios.
Then things changed. On release of the Xbox 360, the games went in a direction that was more Bourne Identity than Splinter Cell. It seemed the games we loved in the past were gone.
But it now appears that the developers were listening as Splinter Cell: Blacklist looks to be an attempt to return to the play styles of old. And it is something that I am grateful for. Splinter Cell was the only game I ever player that could make standing in one spot for five minutes genuinely thrilling.
Right from the outset you are given opportunity in missions to choose a play style and either go in silent or all guns blazing. However, a lot of this will come down to the weapons and gadgets at your disposal.
These are gradually handed out in game via a credits system earned during the course of the campaign and multiplayer.
The rewards system feels similar to what was used in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 in that there are multiple mini objectives throughout the game earning you credits but instead of being assigned a new weapon or piece of equipment automatically you get to choose what you want. And those rewards can be applied to multiplayer at the expense of the campaign or vice versa.
Game mechanics in single player take some getting used to but they do their best in giving players freedom in choosing how they approach both movement and combat. A few tricks from past games show up such as tag and execute to reward players for their efforts if they choose to use them.
The campaign is mostly derivative of earlier games but new gadgets such as the tri-rotor bring variation that is missed early in the game. Multiplayer is a tense affair, much like the campaign but with teams tackling objectives together. The mechanics can be harder to grasp under pressure but impressive to watch.
The game itself seems almost like an amalgam of other Ubisoft franchises. Aspects of Assassins Creed as well as other Tom Clancy games make it feel like less of a game pushing the envelope and more one leveraging existing work. The technology in use seems to confirm that; the visuals are serviceable but rarely go beyond that.
Nevertheless it still accomplishes more in restoring the old vibe than its predecessor did and hopefully a sign that the Splinter Cell boat has righted itself again.