PS3 Reviews: Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

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Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

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Graphics:

 

8.9

Gameplay:

 

9.2

Sound:

 

9.0

Control:

 

8.7

Replay Value:

 

9.0

Online Gameplay:

 

9.3

Overall Rating:       9.0

 

 

Publisher:

Ubisoft

Developer:

Ubisoft Toronto

Number Of Players:

1-4

Genre:

Action

Release Date:

August 20, 2013

Splinter Cell is back. Many fans of the esteemed franchise will tell you that Chaos Theory was the best entry and that the previous installment, Conviction, went off the rails a little. With Blacklist, the developers remember precisely what made this series so damn good; they put a premium on stealth, give us back all those nifty gadgets, add depth via customization and upgrades, and provide us with diverse, satisfying missions. As a huge bonus, the gripping, original multiplayer enhances and diversifies an already rewarding experience.

The production values allow the latest Splinter Cell to shine. I found some of the character models to be somewhat off-putting but besides that, we enjoy a highly detailed environment and a slick, refined visual presentation. The animations are numerous and fluid, the level design is excellent, and the graphical variety borders on outstanding. The exotic locales are quite immersive and allow the player to appreciate his surroundings. Factor in a dynamic structure that takes advantage of such visual flair, and you end up with an immensely effective backdrop that keeps us riveted.

The sound reaches similar heights in terms of technological excellence and diversity, as the soundtrack keeps the intensity pegged. The designers keep that great score on the down low during periods of stealthy silence, but it swells with insistent urgency when the action hits a new octave. There are some top-notch voice performances as well, but I definitely miss good ol’ Michael Ironside as Sam Fisher. Eric Johnson does a good job but nobody can properly replace that gruff, appropriately gravelly tone of Ironside’s. Still, with outstanding balancing and variety throughout, the audio excels.

Being a fan of this franchise since the original launched back in early 2003, I know one incontrovertible fact: At the center of Splinter Cell beats a heart that encourages, rewards and ultimately adores stealth. This is why I was disappointed with the direction Ubisoft took with Conviction; Sam turned into more of an action hero, much of the stealthy greatness of past iterations mystifyingly disappeared, and I was left with a merely average third-person shooter. Sure, stealth was an option at times but it felt bland and uninspired; it played second fiddle to heavier action.

And while the developers can’t help but make Sam an action hero again (guess it’s a requirement these days), the aforementioned heart of the franchise has returned. Stealth isn’t simply an option; it’s the recommended play style. You get more points – and consequently, more cash for purchasing upgrades – by playing as a Ghost; i.e., non-lethal enemy takedowns, hiding bodies, never getting spotted, etc. You get the second-most points for adopting the Panther style, which is also based around invisibility but includes lethal attacks. You can go full-on Assault if you wish, but it’s clearly not the focus.

The US is under attack from terrorists who have one demand: Either remove our soldiers from the hundreds of countries where they’re stationed, or continue to suffer terrorism attacks on American soil every seven days. The game begins with a destructive attack on a military base and obviously, the criminals in question are ruthless and extremely efficient. Sam must go back into action and this time, he’s better equipped than ever before. In fact, everything about his new adventure features improved equipment, from his Ops Suit to his government aircraft, the Paladin.

The latter acts as the game’s hub, where you can talk to team members and customize the Paladin and Sam’s loadouts. It’s straightforward and simple, and it allows players to experience a level of freedom and customization heretofore unheard of in Splinter Cell. For the first time, the money you earn in the field will go towards a plethora of upgrades. You can purchase new weapons and gadgets (some are only available on the Black Market, which must be accessed by being very, very thorough in your questing), and you can pick up other enhancements. For example, you can buy tactical mesh for parts of Sam’s suit that minimize movement sound.

You can customize up to three separate loadouts for Sam, and don’t forget that the Paladin can be upgraded as well. The plane has all sorts of extremely useful – although comparatively pricey – updates that will make your life on the ground easier. If you choose to play the game almost entirely as a Ghost or Panther, you’ll want to pick up familiar gadgets like Sticky Cameras, Smoke Grenades, and the silent but deadly Crossbow. One of the first upgrades I nabbed was Sonar for my goggles, which allows me to sense bodies through walls. See, that’s the kind of intel I can really use in the field, you know? Stuff that goes beyond night vision.

Control is always critical in such games. If you’re going to be stealthy and silent, you require a masterful understanding of the control and if it’s unreliable, everything goes to pot. I have to say, I’m not enamored with the control in Blacklist, although it’s still completely functional. I just can’t decide if I like the “snap into cover” mechanic via the Circle button. This pins Sam to a wall or obstacle, which qualifies as cover. It seems that simply moving up to a wall in a crouched position isn’t quite the same thing, which means you have to use that sticky cover. The cool part is that you can instantly move to another safe location with the press of a button.

It’s streamlined and it does work, but I kinda miss being able to fine-tune my position exactly as I want. You can still move back and forth in cover, but getting out of it requires a relatively violent motion that seems jarring. I also notice that Sam’s platforming abilities have oddly improved with age; he can climb, sidle, and in general, maneuver quicker than ever before. It’s not necessarily a downside but it is a slight nod to the “faster and dumber” trend we’ve seen in video games. For the most part, the third-person shooting and hand-to-hand combat works very well, so those who go Assault shouldn’t be disappointed. Sam does earn access to significant firepower.

The single-player missions are extremely varied and encourage you to experiment with just about everything in your inventory. This really makes you carefully consider each purchase, and completing a mission with tons of Ghost points coming your way is quite fulfilling. The story is actually decent, too, and in fact, it may be the best narrative of any series iteration. That doesn’t mean it’s great; it just means it’s interesting, mostly well written, and effectively performed. And of course, I love the trial-and-error aspect of stealth games and that’s definitely here in spades. Some people hate it but the stealth perfectionists take full advantage.

The action hero aspect comes into play when you fill up a certain meter. This is accomplished via enemy takedowns; when the meter is full, you can access a special execute option that is all sorts of flashy. You mark multiple targets with R2, hit Triangle, and Sam goes to town: The game slows and the hero rips off a quick series of deadly shots (this can also be done with the Stun Gun). It’s great when a lot of enemies are between you and your objective, and it spices up the slower-paced stealth-oriented gameplay. Lastly, the multiplayer is a huge draw because co-op fans are going to have an absolute blast; it's the best co-op action since Borderlands 2.

The co-op maps require that buddies work together, remain in constant contact, and execute skillfully and tactfully. There’s a wide variety of objectives, too, so your tasks will be diverse. The Spies vs. Mercs mode from Pandora Tomorrow has returned – two stealthy spies vs. a duo of runners and gunners – and that’s a glorious contrast of play styles. Whether you’re working together or playing competitively (Team Deathmatch is always fun), the money you earn can be used for more upgrades. I wouldn’t expect multiplayer modes to be so important for a game like this, but they are. The experience expands exponentially with these online alternatives.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist does it right. It blends the glossy production values and some unrealistic action with the authentic, engaging, and startlingly challenging demands of pure stealth. It encourages the latter and punishes you for acting rashly. In my eyes, it’s the proper successor to Chaos Theory, as it holds true to the franchise’s roots while still offering a few modern, flashier elements. I miss Ironsides as Sam, I’m still iffy on the “sticky cover” mechanic, and the story isn’t fantastic, but the AI is consistently impressive (be aware; they’re not stupid robots!), the missions are diverse and challenging, the fresh customization is awesome, and above all else, the stealth is back and it's better than ever!

The Good: Highly detailed environments. Good soundtrack. New customization and upgrading is great. Choice is evident but stealth is most rewarded. Mostly top-notch AI. Diverse, challenging missions. Engaging, unique multiplayer.

The Bad: “Sticky” cover mechanic causes minor control issues. Story has its moments but still could’ve been better.

The Ugly: “Nothing wrong with the new voice for Sam, but man…I do miss Ironsides.”

8/27/2013 Ben Dutka

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Comments (39 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 10:51:31 PM
Reply

Never played a Splinter Cell game but it's always heartening to hear a franchise succeed by going back to what made it great before a horrifying lapse of judgment jostled fans.

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 10:55:25 PM

Same here, I've always felt a little odd having never played any of the series.

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xenris
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 4:05:29 PM

Chaos theory was the best of the original trilogy most fans thought. So I would suggest checking it out.

I have heard this game stands up to that game too so that is very reassuring.

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 10:54:51 PM
Reply

I even read your reviews of games I don't ever intend on buying. That's called respect.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:06:03 PM

I like that Most Interesting Man In The World guy. "Mosquitos don't bite him... out of respect."

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:20:38 AM

"He once parallel parked a train."

"It has never been his bad."

"His two cents is worth thirty seven dollars and change."

Love those commercials. LOL And thanks LV. :)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:09:44 PM
Reply

I'm gonna do some self promotion if nobody minds. Connecting back to something I wrote in early May: http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-news/13082.html

I look forward to sitting back and watching the industry react to this game.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 8/27/2013 11:09:59 PM

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:26:07 PM

Haha...awesome, just awesome. You sir deserve a glass of soda.

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Jawknee
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:27:36 PM

Grape soda?

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:30:18 PM

No Jawk, World is white...come on man. He will get some RC cola.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:48:22 PM

Thank you thank you, I loves me some Dr. Pepper :)

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:57:54 AM

Oh dammit, now I want a Dr. Pepper.

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frylock25
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 6:04:09 AM

haha i was drinking dr pepper while reading this

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 9:50:51 AM

That deserves a thumbs up.

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Temjin001
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:18:45 PM
Reply

Thanks for the review Ben. It sounds like a winner.
I look forward to getting around to the game when I can.

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Jawknee
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:28:18 PM
Reply

Might pick this up for Wii U down the road. Never played one before but for a few minutes here and there.

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LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:30:42 PM

::snicker::...Wii U? Really?

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Nas Is Like
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:47:05 PM

You still own a Wii U? lol

Come on, son...

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Jawknee
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 @ 11:56:06 PM

@Limited, you know i'm a Zelda whore. May as well pick up what third party games I can for it. ;)

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LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:21:48 AM

Haha, just hating to hate. I too will eventually own a WiiU.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:49:02 AM

miraculously Jawknee, of all the console versions the Wii U version is the only one with a locked v-sync engaged.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:52:07 AM

Yup, that's the main reason I would choose that version over the PS3. Though I read it does take a hit in the frame rate dept. down to 20fps. Ouch!

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:07:56 AM

The irony with Nintendo and their problem of inadequately scaling their teams to meet the new technology demand of the Wii U is that it was they themselves who tried warning the industry of the escalated costs of production while they announced the 'Nintendo Revolution'(later to become the Wii) at an E3 many years ago. So here they are now with that 'next-gen' now current gen tech and they've been scrambling to try and get games completed and out within a reasonable time.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:17:45 AM

Yup. Miyamoto spoke to that. It was rough out the gate getting used to developing HD games. They had to double their teams. But he was happy to announce they are finally up to speed and should be able to release games in a more reasonable time frame. Which is why were starting to see monthly releases from now until early next year.

Last edited by Jawknee on 8/28/2013 1:19:00 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:21:54 AM

Dude, don't gimp this game just because you feel the need to support Nintendo. Play it on a console that can actually play good games.

....

Ha.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:33:39 AM

I don't know...looking at the Lens of Truth comparison the Wii U version seems to have the edge over with the PS3 version only having slightly more detailed texures. The 360 version fared the worst. Lol

http://www.lensoftruth.com/head2head-splinter-cell-blacklist-screenshot-comparison-and-analysis-ps3-vs-xbox-360-vs-wii-u/

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:35:40 AM

I'm not taking a minuscule difference in graphics that basically nobody is ever going to see when the frame rate dips THAT low.

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:51:47 AM

I think Digital Floundry said it dips to 20fps. Lens of Truth says averages 30 while 360 and PS3 are constant 30 so I assume its somewhere in between then. If it means no tearing, I'm all over it. :) Plus no mandatory install is a plus for me since my PS3 HDD in low on space. Perhaps it's time to clean house.

Last edited by Jawknee on 8/28/2013 1:52:37 AM

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 10:22:21 AM

It's just too bad Ubisoft didn't see fit to include the HD texture pack for the Wii U that both the PS3 and 360 included. For whatever arbitrary reasoning Lensoftruth had, they felt offended the 360 version didn't clearly denote the option for the HD texture pack and excluded it's existence from the comparison. Lens of Truth has a tendency to be emotional in their comparisons which bothers me. I also suspect the level of their expertise.

Regardless, it would seem to me any platform is a good platform to experience the game. For those who like having a secondary touch screen companion then the Wii U would be the way to go.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/28/2013 10:23:54 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 11:12:32 AM

I still can't figure out why there's a 12GB install for this game. Someone has to explain that to me. I thought RAGE was insane at 8GB but this is just ridiculous.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:17:43 PM

Ben, Ubisoft used the Blu-ray capacity to make the 'high res texture pack' standard in the PS3 release. The 360 has a second disk that can be used to install those optional HD textures. The Wii U has omitted this option altogether. As for why the install is mandatory for PS3, I don't know.

Judging from the screens it seems the pack doesn't make all that much of a difference to begin with. Bitmap resolution just doesn't make as much of a difference these days as it used to.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/28/2013 12:18:17 PM

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Jawknee
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 1:11:15 PM

They did mention the load times are significantly longer on the Wii U. Perhaps this is the reason there is no texture pack and why you don't see much of a difference in texture quality across the platforms. Also with the Wii U having a maximum 32gb capacity storage, they really couldn't require an install.

Last edited by Jawknee on 8/28/2013 1:11:46 PM

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PlatformGamerNZ
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:16:13 AM
Reply

i don't know when or if i wud try this game

happy gaming =)

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 12:47:19 AM
Reply

I'll miss Michael Ironside too. And not just that but the dialogue between him and Lambert. SC is like the only game where someone could make me feel like a complete bone head for fumbling something up.
Lambert would be like, "sweet mother of Christmas Fisher. We had one chance to intercept that message and you blew it. We're pulling you out." Saying it all with this disappointed and lecturing tone.

Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/28/2013 12:49:23 AM

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___________
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 4:54:45 AM
Reply

first thing that struck me with this game is how god dam amazing it looks on PC!
i mean especially since its a UE title, i mean there is no freaking way this is a UE title!
UE games are always dull, dreary, low detailed gritty sluggish messes!
this is the complete opposite with some really vibrant colors, detailed textures, and a really nice smooth shine to everything.
actually reminds me allot of the shine you see in the KZSF demos.
it looks absolutely amazing, the complete opposite to what you would expect from the UE!

its sadly though one of those games where i love it, theoretically i shouldent be able to stop playing it, its a stealth game done right and i freaking love stealth games!
but i just aint enjoying it.
its like rayman origins and sonic generations, on paper i should absolutely love it, but after playing a mission or two im bored out of my mind and cant stand anymore!

i think part of that has to do with the clumsy cover system.
it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO reliable in conviction, where you looked you could run cover to.
but now its been made worse, you can only move to cover so far, and there is no button to switch sides on a piece of cover either.
so if you want to switch from the length piece of a cement block over to the width thin side you have to leave cover, walk over and take cover there, thus exposing you to being seen.
the execute function is so much worse as well, so many times ive had 3 enemies right in front of me clear sight i could shoot them myself, but the cursors above their heads only goes read on one or two of them for some reason.
never ever had those problems with conviction.
i think this just needed a bit more time and polish to fix those things up, and tidy up the level design a bit, for this to be a worthy successor to conviction which was so well honed.
this actually reminds me allot of GT5, this is clearly such a better game than conviction, it has so much more options and variety.
but theres no point serving 100 meals that taste like sh*t, your much better off serving one dish of the day.
just feels like they lost their focus and bit off a little more than they could chew.


Last edited by ___________ on 8/28/2013 4:56:49 AM

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Temjin001
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 10:23:20 AM

Unreal Engine 2.5 owns!

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DjEezzy
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 10:32:35 AM
Reply

is it online co op only?

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greg238
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 7:43:04 PM
Reply

I want this game

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greg238
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 9:57:04 PM
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Good review

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