Grim's missions are pure stealth based; they test your infiltration and espionage skills to the maximum limit. A high score on these requires knowledge of enemy patrols, evasion and a zero mission footprint – you can't even disturb a single guard. If you're spotted the mission is scrubbed and it's back to the start. (Co-op/Solo play)
Charley's missions are a different take on a horde mode. Welcome to a sandbox killing zone, the enemy knows you're around – just not where. Keep out of their line of sight and eliminate them one by one. It's a great playground for Assault and Panther kills. Survive every 5th wave and you'll get a chance to extract. (Co-op/Solo play)
Brigg's missions test your cooperative skills with another player, story based and full of high-octane action at times these are a mixed bag and can only be played with a friend. They're still good and one mission has you controlling a drone whilst the other player sneaks around, then you swap to bring the other player home. These missions are awesome for Assault. (Co-op only)
REDACTED's missions are terrorist hunts from Denied Ops. You have to clean the site however you like and if you are detected the enemy send in more troops. This is really great for Assault style. (Co-op/Solo play)
Once you've customised Sam and chosen from Rookie through to Perfectionist difficulty it's time to get into the mission at hand.
A quick note on Perfectionist: It disables Sonar vision, Execute (you can still mark) and makes enemy combat/stealth spotting skills as hard as they can be. The AI is beefed up and this is the true mode for anyone who loved Pandora Tomorrow or Chaos Theory.
In mission Splinter Cell Blacklist controls in third-person with a smooth GUI and control system taken from the best of Chaos Theory and Conviction. Sam's gadgets and weapons are easily selected making in-field adaptation quick and painless as you can very smoothly change weapons, swapping out a lethal for a non-lethal approach and a variety of other things from a simple wheel system.
Sam's new arsenal of toys is also impressive as is his array of lethal/non-lethal takedowns, options and tactics. If you're playing a ghost style, you can choose to hide bodies (missing from Conviction) and knock enemies out. Otherwise expect Sam to show no mercy and use his knife to effectively end their lives quickly.
The gadget list sees the return of the sticky camera, with a variety of optional upgrades and sticky shockers! There's the new excellent tri-rotor mini-drone and a bunch of other gadgets to use in various scenarios. Sam's arsenal of weapons has expanded with the spy being able to tote a primary (pistol) and an alternate (rifle/sniper rifle/shotgun and so on) along with a special weapon (stun gun or crossbow).
Sam's goggles have been upgraded beyond the sonar capability, and can be expanded via cash to include footprint tracking and a variety of stability upgrades as well as quicker pulses and better range.
(I did find the fact that you had to buy previous upgrades to get the next one a bit strange, same with the weapons, it's a minor thing though and doesn't stop you enjoying the game.)
The crossbow fires a variety of non-lethal bolts and expands Sam's options when playing Ghost style. Sleeping gas, noisemakers, shockers...
Sam is more athletic than before and his speed/action is definitely an improvement from Conviction, with his combat movement allowing him to strike and evade and lot faster. At full run he can cover a lot of ground and holding down the A button (to interact) sees him vault over objects and climb in seconds. These new athletic skills make Sam a vicious combatant when cornered and allow the player to take advantage of enemy AI to flank them and get the drop on them in a variety of satisfying ways.
One of these is KILLING IN MOTION.
As you kill/knock-out guards your Execute bar fills (unless playing Perfectionist) and once full it can be used to take out 3 marked enemies in a cinematic badass fashion. Sam has never looked so good doing these kinds of things, because now after you press the Y button to begin the move you can press the left stick to continue moving (in slow mo) rather than stopping on the spot.
This KIM is a new tactic you can use to smoothly transition towards a 4th guard, get close, grab him and quickly mark more enemies to create a streak of murderous badass kills. Or just get to cover to protect you when the lead starts flying. Unless you've upgraded the Ops Suit to be more armoured you're not going to last long against gunfire.
Another KIM scenario sees you mark 3 targets, grab and kill a 4th in the same room – your Execute bar is now full and you smoothly take down the other 3 in a dramatic fashion whilst still in slow-motion.
Using all the skills new Sam has at his disposal and meeting a variety of new enemies, including the drone tech and the heavy with gasmask, means that you need to keep battlefield awareness and your senses sharp in this instalment of Splinter Cell. Heavies are nasty and they will decimate you if you try and tackle them from the front, it's best to take them out from a high vantage point or from behind unless you really feel like picking shotgun shells out of your face.
Sam can also attract his enemies with a quick tap of the back button; this is best used sparingly as AI will react based on its type. Some will investigate and others will call backup before they do so.
Drone techs are evil; they jam your goggles and send out dangerous drones to hunt you down.
There's a lot more to the new Splinter Cell in terms of single player tactics, campaign stuff and 4E missions but we want you to explore that yourselves and get stuck into the SMI.
Splinter Cell gameplay is back and it's DAMN good this time around.
It comes on 2 discs and both of them contain the campaign, so it's a BIG game.
Saves are check-point based and pretty well implemented.Graphics
The game looks good, really good if you take the time to install the HD texture pack from disc 2. The visual fidelity of the engine is nice and there's a lot of detail on the levels, the characters and the weapons. There are no discernible texture issues and the light/shadow engine handles things really well with deep pools of shadow provided by the many light sources which can be destroyed since Sam Fisher really hates lights. Or as the Boss from Saints Row IV would say: that light had a family!Animations
The animations for the game are excellent with Sam's lethal and non-lethal approaches being context sensitive and at times quite brutal. Select non-lethal from the wheel and Sam will smack a guard's head against the rail rather than pulling him to his doom. Change to lethal and he'll pull that guy off the ledge into the water or onto the ground below. In combat he becomes a killing machine up close and personal, or a lethal H2H stun-god – but you had better upgrade your Ops Suit's armour to handle that kind of play or Sam's reign of fist-face terror is over before it starts. Everything about Blacklist's animations screams quality and attention to detail.
Facial animation is some of the best we've seen in Splinter Cell yet.