'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' - review

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 12:00 PM Written by 

SCBcover“Splinter Cell: Blacklist” marks the return of the stealthy, special-ops soldier Sam Fisher. Sam is back in a big way in this sequel, but it may not be the same Sam fans are used to.


“Blacklist” is a reboot of sorts. Gameplay is the same with some improvements. His role in the U.S. governments is also the same, but Sam has a slightly different look and a new voice. Michael Ironside is no longer the voice of “Splinter Cell.” Eric Johnson lends his voice talents as the new Sam Fisher. It will likely take some getting used to for long-time fans, but after a mission or two it will seem like the same old “Splinter Cell.”


A terrorist organization known only as The Blacklist has shown its face. The Blacklist plans on carrying out a series of terrorist attacks across America if their demands are not met. Their only request is to send American troops home. It’s up to Sam Fisher and his team to uncover the people behind the threat, and stop The Blacklist.


“Blacklist” combines all of the best aspects of every “Splinter Cell” title to make what is arguably  the best in the series. The gameplay is what you make of it. If you want to go into an area guns blazing, you can do that. Want to get in and out unseen and unheard like a ghost? That’s another option.  Whichever the style, “Blacklist’s” quality shines with unique gameplay that yields satisfying results.


A ranking and score are earned after each mission in the categories of Ghost, Panther, and Assault. A high ghost score is earned if Sam stays undetected. The Panther style is the silent-but-deadly type, and assault is awarded if you treat “Blacklist” like the typical third-person shooter.




Playing missions in different styles offers hefty replay value. Even when playing a mission multiple times in the Ghost style revealed pathways I missed the first time around that changed my entire approach to the mission.


I started with the Panther style, but changed to Ghost because of how rewarding that style became. It’s similar to a retro-esque trial-and-error game. I tried different paths, was sighted and shot by patrollers, and then had to try a new approach. The environments are vast, with many hidden passages and areas. It would be difficult to find two people that played “Blacklist” in exactly the same way.


Usually a game that tries to be a “jack of all trades” gets the clichéd label of being a master of none, but “Blacklist” has surprisingly impressive chops as a pure shooter. The game has an excellent cover system, quick targeting, and tight shooting mechanics. There’s a large catalog of different firearms that handle differently.


“Blacklist” has an array of RPG-like upgrades. Nearly everything about Sam Fisher can be altered. Different guns can be equipped from a selection of pistols to useful silenced sniper rifles. But his arsenal of guns is just the beginning. Sam’s gloves, pants, torso, boots, goggles, can all be upgraded and customized.




Then come the gadgets, and there are plenty. Sam can carry smoke, tear, and sleeping grenades. Proximity shock mines are an option. There’s even a remote controlled helicopter device called the Tri-rotor that can be your eye in the sky before detonating and incapacitating nearby enemies.


Between this assortment of offensive options and large missions to explore, there are plenty of opportunities for replay value. Add these to the co-op and competitive modes, and “Blacklist” is a meaty $60 title.


“Splinter Cell” games usually have a linear set of campaign mission that raise difficulty by adding more enemies, but “Blacklist” has an entertaining story with varied mission objectives and tasks. The plot is captivating, but the climax has some questionable use of quick-time events.


The campaign’s mission map displays optional missions that include co-op gameplay. These co-op missions are completely separate from the story missions, and add the ability to play with a friend to what already makes this game so enjoyable. Sneaking through an area as silent killing machines is stealth-based gameplay at its finest.




The surprise hit of the total “Blacklist” package is the competitive multiplayer called “Spies vs. Mercs.” This mode pits two teams against each other, and both control quite differently. The spies must hack three computer terminals, and it’s the mercs’ job to stop them. Spies control just like Sam Fisher, and come with many of his gadgets. They can climb, hide, and assassinate, but have less armor. Mercs are armored brutes. They can’t climb, but they can take punishment while being able to dish it out. Mercs are controlled from the first-person view, too. The match is two rounds. Both teams switch sides at the intermission.


Spies vs. Mercs is a total joy, especially when playing with friends to orchestrate a flawless plan. On the Mercs side, searching the hacking area for one remaining Spy is panic educing. The first-person view of the mercs seems limiting at first, but that’s the handicap to overcome to be victorious.  This mode could become a serious time sink for me if I can get a reliable team of friends.


The sheer amount of replay value, and value in general, makes “Blacklist” a must-play this year. This is the best “Splinter Cell” of the series.


9 out of 10



Varied gameplay
Spactacular multiplayer



Questionable use of quick-time events



 Release Date   8/20/2013 
 Platform  Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC 
 Price  $59.99
 Rated   M for Mature

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.