One more time...
If you'd have asked me a few days ago what the definitive stealth-action experience for me was, I'd have said Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. I had immense fun with that particular game and countless hours spent on the co-op missions playing with friends, not to mention Spies vs. Mercs and so on. For me it had the right mix of sneaking and infiltration coupled with action and adventure, with Michael Ironside on top form as gruff spy: Sam Fisher.
If you ask me now, I'd have to say it's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, because this game combines the best of Chaos Theory with the polish and control of Conviction.
For all the naysayers out there who say that the game is an action remake of Splinter Cell and it's just the same as Conviction. You're entitled to your opinion, but you can play the game as a pure ghost not being seen not interacting with guards in any way/shape or form.
Like I did here:
100% stealth: Night Vision and a single EMP gadget only on the hardest game-mode which is Perfectionist.
Splinter Cell is back on form.Story
The game opens with a bang, as the Engineers attack the US at Guam. Sam is caught in the fireworks and very quickly the story takes a turn for the dramatic as things escalate. It's obvious that Ubisoft have been watching a lot of films and TV shows these days since their cinematic flare have taken a turn for the better. This is high-octane high-stakes spy-fiction at its finest and yet grounded in a grim and gritty realism that introduces us to new Sam Fisher even though we all wanted Michael Ironside back.
I'm not going to go into details why Ironside isn't in this one, because that ship's sailed and it's about time the new guy was recognised for his talents Ironside endorses him and from his performances in the cut-scenes he's got Sam down to a T.
I accepted him from the first few moments we're introduced to Sam and Vic again, and that's all I needed to see. He fits and the cut-scenes and storytelling work to integrate him into the universe almost immediately.
We find out about the Blacklist and some information but that's all I'm going to say since you know by now our policy on story spoilers. The rest of this is REDACTED
This isn't the Splinter Cell you know and love, but it's the closest you're going to get to Chaos Theory married to Conviction. A game which offers you three paths of approach in terms of core gameplay and puts you into a varied sandbox per mission which lets you apply a mix of the three styles, or just concentrate on one.
It's this play as you want' approach which endears me to Blacklist more than previous iterations of the series. You're not forced into a particular style of gameplay as you explore the areas as Sam; you're rewarded with laptops you can hack (for cash) and dead-drops to find (for more cash) as well as given an end-of-mission bonus for exploring alternate pathways and hidden routes.
Before we get into the core gameplay techniques I'm going to explain the three play-styles in more detail.
Ghost: This is the style which rewards you the most points, you are a shadow. You are never detected, you are never engaged in any kind of combat non-lethal or otherwise and you disturb nothing in the mission unless it's a specific objective in a cut-scene. A true ghost player reaches the objective with no one knocked out and the guard's non-the-wiser (see above video). Ghost also rewards non-lethal takedowns and hiding bodies so that they can't be found.
Panther: This is the style which allows you to take on enemies from the shadows, more like a ninja than a spy you kill silently and use a variety of lethal tactics to murder your way from point A to B. Your gadgets and weapon choices enable you to survive extended bouts of combat, but you're always on the move, relocating and using your last position to outflank and confuse attackers. Panther rewards brutal and effective kills and skill at evasion.
Assault: This is the style which lets you be loud and proud; you don't care about reinforcements and being sneaky. Your Ops Suit is geared to take a beating and keep you alive in the field. Your weapons are the ones with the most stopping power and the punch to drop the heavy armoured bad guys who show up in seconds. You use gadgets like incendiary grenades and proximity mines to decimate your enemies before they have a chance. Assault rewards balls to the wall action.
Any run-through of a Blacklist mission, be it a core story mission or one of the many 4E side-missions in the game can be made up of several of these styles or if you're looking to master one aspect, just the tactics from that style alone. Bypass guards to gain a maximum ghost score and leave nothing undisturbed, or slash their throats from the safety of a concealed location as they come to check out a nearby noise. Get detected, switch to a combat weapon with more power and put them down before they do the same to you.
Mix it up and you're rewarded with various scores at the end mission style-screen, scores translate to CASH and cash is used to upgrade Sam's Ops Suit, his weapons and the Paladin Mobile HQ aircraft 4th Echelon operates from.
The experience feels a little strange at first, getting rewarded for challenges (and there are a lot) which translates into cash bonuses allowing Sam to further upgrade his arsenal. Get x-headshots with x-pistol and earn $1000 for example. Once you're comfortable with it or you remember the PEC challenges from Conviction, you soon get into the flow and relish the next badass amount of money you're given for murder-hoboing a bunch of enemies or knocking them out from a hidden position.
These challenges help keep the game fun, interesting and fresh however and encourage you to experiment with all the weapons/gadgets in the game over time and accrue more cash to spend on getting all the toys/upgrades not only for Sam in Campaign but for your Spy and Mercenary in the series' signature multiplayer mode.
The Paladin is Sam's Normandy, it's upgradeable and it offers a variety of bonuses when you pour cash into the plane. You'll unlock new weapons, better in-field support and other interesting features (such as increase the money multiplier for the end of mission screen) as you gain more cash from playing any of the game modes on offer and there are a lot. Blacklist IS big; it's amazingly big for a Splinter Cell game and offers a ton of replay value right out of the box.
Aboard the Paladin is the Strategic Mission Interface (SMI) and this is your hub to the world of Splinter Cell. Here Sam can choose from Blacklist missions (campaign) and a variety of 4E missions all designed to test the agent's particular skills either Solo/Co-op or Co-op only. You can check an incredible amount of stats here too, as well as the Shadow.net which is Ubisoft's in-game social feed providing challenges which reward you with various amounts of cash. Daily challenges, weekly challenges and friend challenges all show up here and you can do them or ignore them as you see fit. You can also fire up Spies vs. Mercenaries mode from here too.
It also serves as the window to the Gone Dark intel meta-game which sees Sam solving clues from reports and searching the SMI with the cursor to find the next link in the chain. Get it right and you'll get a nice boost to the 4E multiplier at the end of a mission, more multiplier means more CASH.
4E missions are different and take place in different (large) maps which again offer a sandbox style of play each providing alternate routes and hiding places to facilitate sneaking or good cover for assault.