WiiUDaily.com -- the leading Wii U site, with news, updates, rumors, videos, and much more.
  
 

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review

Splinter Cell: Blacklist marks the return of Sam Fisher, but is the return to stealth gameplay we were promised?

splinter-cell-blacklist1

Splinter Cell has long been one of my favorite stealth action series, with Chaos Theory seemingly the pinnacle of design. Conviction was a decent entry into the series but it played more like an action game than a stealth game. Splinter Cell: Blacklist does a good job of returning Sam to form, offering up new ways to stealth execute your enemies while still retaining the ability to rambo through the levels should you choose. It’s this balance that makes Blacklist one of the better Splinter Cell Games in recent memory.

Overview

The story behind Blacklist is noticeably better than more recent Splinter Cell games. A group calling themselves The Engineers have launched an attack on the United States, delivering a single ultimatum. Remove troops from 153 countries around the world, or every seven days the group will initiate another attack on American soil. These attacks are to be delivered under the guise of names like American Consumption and American Freedom.

blacklist.0_cinema_640.0

Sam Fisher, as the newly minted leader of the Fourth Eschelon must stop these attacks before they occur, which is where the game starts. Anna Grimsdottir is back despite the events in Conviction and Sam, looking more grizzled than ever, sports a new voice that just doesn’t add up to previous performances with Michael Ironside at the helm.

Gameplay

One of the biggest emphasis on gameplay in Blacklist is that players can control Sam Fisher how they like. There are three different categories of play in the game, called Ghost, Panther, and Assault. Ghost rewards the most points as you complete missions silently, using non-lethal takedowns and not alerting enemies of your presence. Panther is the playstyle of Conviction, hiding in the shadows to dole out executions as you progress through the levels, and Assault is little more than your standard run and gun affair.

The controls are fluid for the most part, though I found the awkward pause needed to switch between lethal and non-lethal takedowns a bit of an immersion breaker. Moving cover to cover is just as fluid was it was in Conviction, with the added ability of being able to pick up your bodies and hide them not only to gain points, but also to keep your cover through those ghost playthroughs.

splinter-cell-blacklist-3

Ubisoft has done a good job of providing secondary objectives in each of the story missions as well, as there are dead drops, high value targets you need to capture alive, and laptops to hack in order to reward Sam for exploring. The more information you gather about The Engineers, the more money you get in order to upgrade your arsenal.

Everything takes place on a stealth plane that Sam can upgrade to help provide ground support, more ammo drops for being in the field, and various other perks. Sam himself is upgradable down to nearly every aspect of his suit, instead of just the gun options we’ve seen in previous games. The better you do in the field the more money you’ll have to get a quieter suit, quieter takedowns, and even assistance from mini drones.

Graphics & Audio

For the most part, the world of Splinter Cell: Blacklist feels as it should. The streets of Benghazi are dusty and hostile, while the Chechen countryside is vibrant but scarred by war. The team does a good job of providing alternate routes for Sam throughout the various missions, so exploring them and taking in a little bit of eye candy hidden away and meant for studious players is always a treat.

I will forever be disappointed that Michael Ironside does not reprise his role as Sam Fisher and it definitely affects the game for me. Players who are not long time fans of the series might not notice his absence, but the lack of that gravelly voice giving orders and discussing things makes Sam feel almost artificial. If this story were written as a prequel, or featured an entirely new character instead of Sam Fisher, it would have been a better one for fans of the series to accept than completely dropping Ironside from his titular role.

Anna Grimsdottir also has a new voice actress but her contributions are slightly less problematic than the loss of Ironside, as her actress does a good job of imitating that authoritative manner in which Grimsdottir speaks. After playing several of the missions and listening to the new Grim, it was hard to distinguish between old and new. This fact just serves to highlight what a unique voice Ironside brought to the table, as every time Sam speaks he feels like an impostor.

Multiplayer

Co-op has always been a part of the Splinter Cell series, but Conviction really shined in the fact that it offered a completely separate co-op campaign featuring a different set of agents all together. That’s not the case here, though Conviction style co-op makes its return. Each of your crew members will have side missions that can be played, but unfortunately the Wii U version does not offer these to be played in local co-op. Sam can undertake them solo and with online friends to complete them just fine, but given the fact that I’ve played them co-op on PC this is a huge disservice to the Wii U version where many will want split-screen co-op.

co-op

Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer mode is back with a bang, after being notoriously absent from the series for a while now. Blacklist captures this game mode better than ever, with the spies being limited in power but unnaturally stealthy, while the mercs play more like your standard shooter. In classic mode the gameplay is pitted between two spies and two mercs, while Blacklist mode offers up to four spies and four mercs the chance to go head to head.

Among these options are three different objectives, including extraction, which is a sort of capture the flag with spies defending intelligence while mercs try and grab it. Uplink control is a sort of king of the hill with mixed teams, you choose to be a spy or merc and help control points on the map until data transmissions are complete. Of course, the standard team deathmatch returns, with mixed teams and the only objective being to kill everyone you meet.

Overall, the multiplayer is really robust, though I did experience some problems with the game locking up randomly between matches. These lockups were few and far in between, but it did occur twice in two different settings. I’m not sure what Ubisoft can do to fix the problem or if it will be there perpetually, but it’s worth noting that I did experience this problem.

Wii U Features

Before the release of Blacklist, Ubisoft touted the Wii U release as the definitive version. This is hard to accept given the fact that local co-op is missing from the game and the load times on the Wii U version are some of the worst I’ve seen. Dying between missions presents no problem, but the initial boot between missions can take upwards of 30 seconds. It’s annoying to have to wait that long and it feels poorly optimized, given that missions on the PC version load nearly instantly for me. I’m not sure how other consoles fair in this department, but be aware of these long load times.

Splinter-Cell-Blacklist-Wii-U-Advantage-1024x576

As for the gamepad features that the game comes with, they’re nice but they’re not essential. In fact, I spent most of my time playing the game on the GamePad in off-tv mode, which means abilities like using the GamePad as the snake cam were not available to me. I can’t say I missed them, as I valued having the game in the palm of my hand more than I did using the touch screen to tap around.

Conclusion

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is certainly one of the better Splinter Cell games in recent memory. It takes features of Conviction that were enjoyable and expounds on them, allowing true stealth players to get their groove on while still providing rambo options for those who want to play Sam as an angry man hellbent on revenge again. It’s a nice balance and the fact that the game rewards stealth more than the assault option is a good encouragement for doing things the right way.

The single player story and co-op missions are all pretty competent, while the spies vs. mercs online mode will have you playing the game well beyond once you finish the story. Overall I would say the gameplay is a big improvement over Conviction, though Michael Ironside’s presence will be sorely missed by long-time fans of the series.

Pros

+ Game rewards stealth gameplay and brings back numerous stealth elements
+ Story is on par with Pandora Tomorrow and drops the action hero feel
+ Co-op and multiplayer modes are super fun to play with friends
+ Controls are fluid and easy to pick up for maximum control of situations

Cons

- Series familiars will sorely miss Michael Ironside’s voice talents
- Campaign is somewhat short with only 11 missions
- Long loading times when starting missions
- Random freezes when playing Spies vs. Mercs online

Final Score: 8/10

Around the web
  • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

    Great review! Thanks Ashley! Think I might pick it up when it starts dropping in price a bit

    • juancamiloarq

      Yeah, I’ve been buying my games when they have dropped the price a bit lately. Actually, the last game I picked at full retail price was Skyrim, and I’m tempted to get WW HD when it comes out.

    • Clel

      This game is actually top priority on my last, it looks so good. I have never played Splinter Cell before, so I’m really hyped for it.

  • KosmoCrisis

    I like the Wii U Features bit.

    • Ducked

      Same here. I played the demo, but some things just felt a little meh

      • NintendoNoob

        THERE IS AN E-SHOP DEMO!?

        • Ducked

          I think so, the store had one so I’m guessing.

  • Marcus Navarro

    I’m sorry, but the Metal Gear Solid series was the greatest series of stealth-based movies I’ve ever played.

    Edit: Emphasis on the “movie” bit. Why are y’all comparing SC and MGS as games?

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      Metal Gear is nice. I enjoy Solid Snake. The gameplay of the Splinter Cell series minus Double Agent is just better than MGS to me.

      • getupkid2k

        Double agent is great, underrated.

    • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

      ^The above comment

      • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

        I don’t care who you are that is funny right there.

        • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

          why thank ya!

    • val berger

      Metal Gear Solid 1 & Twin Snakes where masterpieces. Then it got worse. I stopped playing MGS4 because it felt like a superendless moviecutscene that gets interrupted by some gameplay elements. They could actually move back to the time when this series was actually about playing, not watching, in this case I would agree that it’s the greatest of its kind.
      Stuff like Deus Ex or Dishonored shouldn’t be ignored here. They may not be pure stealth games, but when they are, they also do a damn good job.

      • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

        I absolutely loved both Deus Ex and Dishonored. I’m really looking forward to the new Thief and I hope it maintains how sneaky that series is as well.

        Stealth games are probably one of my favorite genres.

        • val berger

          yeah mine too but I feel that this genre needs something fresh. Dishonored as well as Deus Ex both played very good, but they were too similar. I think I’m more the type of First Person Stealth because you just get more sucked into the game and the scenery, but by going into this RPG-genre-direction they all play the same, sometimes in some steampunk environment, sometimes cyberpunk, sometimes something else. I never felt that those games would deliver the ultimate solution for a stealth experience and yet, they all seem to have been stuck on a similar state of evolution.
          Maybe you played Amnesia or the Penumbra games. Although those games might be more survival horror, I’d love to see more elements of such games in stealth games as they somehow force you to go stealth in a quite cruel way and come up with some quite fresh concepts. Or whatever, just some new ideas.

          • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

            Actually, I have played Amnesia and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to a Machine for Pigs and there’s a new game on Steam that’s a similar survival horror called Outlast that I need to check out.

          • val berger

            I guess I’ll check it out as well then, sounds promising, thanks for the hint.

        • Superstick98

          Ashley what PC do you have? I’ve been thinking about getting a gaming PC so I won’t have to deal with my mom’s low end PC. -_- lol

        • Rich Garriques

          if you like stealth games then metal gear solid is the king of all stealth games.

    • ConCity Soldier

      I can’t make a comparison over the entire series as I have only played a couple games on both sides. I have MGS 4 and it’s an awesome game, but I enjoyed Splinter Cell Chaos Theory more. That’s the only SC game I have ever owned and to me it’s a better game then MGS 4. I borrowed MG Twin Snakes, but I didn’t have enough time with it but I loved it when I had it. I can’t compare anything to it as I only had a limited time with it. I did play SC Pandora Tomorrow, but once again limited time. All I can compare is SC Chaos Theory and MGS 4. In my opinion Chaos Theory is the better game.

    • Yousif Alromaithi

      Without a doubt.

  • Guest

    I think it’s 10/10 i dont think this was a proper review no offence these are not even cons.

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      That’s the great thing about reviews, they’re subjective, not objective. You’re welcome to have your opinion and I’m welcome to have mine.

    • Zuxs13

      Load times, frame rate issues, and lack of Co-Op are not cons?

      • Justis Bistawros

        When it comes to frame rate I’m pretty sure if im lagging in a game it’s a con.

        • Adrian

          you are contradicting yourself.

          • Guest

            You’re are contradiction

          • Clel

            You might want to consider making sense before arguing with people.

        • david jarman

          The only frame rate issues that most people stated were in the mission briefing.
          Wii u’s version has v-sync on all the time while ps3 and Xbox had some screen tearing.

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      It was a proper review. No game comes without it’s flaws, which were listed.

    • val berger

      there are even reviewers who would never give a game (or any other medium) a 10/10 because you wouldn’t want to claim there can’t be anything improved. I think an 8/10 is damn good, better than I would’ve expected after I read several reviews and some are quite excited, some aren’t.

    • Guest

      Lol ashley was a little late when adding more cons. OK now i agree with those 2 cons ashley added.

  • Zuxs13

    Ashley were you using a disc version of the game or a downloaded version?

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      I have a disc version.

      • Zuxs13

        I have been trying to figure out if the load times are better on the DL version. I usually buy a disc copy but if the load times are this bad and the DL version is any better i might just go that way.

        • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

          A person on the Facebook account for WUD said that they experience long load times on the PS3 version, too. It could be something native to consoles. I don’t have long load times on my PC version.

          • Zuxs13

            unfortunately my Lap Top wont run this very well, so It is WII U or nothing. Funny I remember Iwata standing up during the reveal od the Nintendo Revolution, and said “load times are a thing of the past” if only they remained true to their word.

          • adamm

            I read another review somewhere which said many issues surrounding load times and textures on PS3/Xbox stemmed from not installing the game from the disc. Wii U had the best out of the box performance though.

            That review did not say, however, if the Wii U eshop version had loading issues or not. I’d imagine the eshop version is the ideal console experience, besides the lack of local co-op.

        • Joshua Brodie

          I have the DL. Though I don’t know how long the disc takes to load, I can say that the DL has ungodly long load times to get into mission. What was really confusing is that it also has long load time when entering and especially exiting upgrade menus (grim’s plane upgrades is by far the worse) on the plane.

          • Zuxs13

            External hard drive or on your internal flash?

          • Joshua Brodie

            External HD. I keep everything on the external HD. In fact, everything on my system started running a lot better / faster after I moved all info to the external. Hulu stopped freezing among other benefits. Who knows, maybe SP:BL runs faster on the internal. But based on my experience with other games that started out on the internal and got moved to the external HD I would like to think it won’t run any faster.

  • val berger

    “+ Co-op and multiplayer modes are super fun to play with friends”

    I thought they’e cut the coop out due to their schedule?

    • http://www.youtube.com/azhood321 AZHood

      Co-op can only be done online, not locally.

      • val berger

        thank you, this is even more ridiculous than I thought. but OK, wouldn’t it be nice.

  • Mike A

    Ashley, you hit all the points i want to know in a review…great job. I want this game but my kid wants Rayman Legends. Guess what game I be playing this weekend. I don’t mind since Rayman is also great game. Could be worst like the Smurfs! Later on I will buy Splinter Cell even though no Ironside is a big con for me.

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      Hey Mike,

      My review for Rayman Legends is coming next week. :)

      • Mike A

        Looking forward to reading it.

  • http://www.youtube.com/azhood321 AZHood

    I’m curious as to how much time was spent on the game for this review, because it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect how Splinter Cell: Blacklist is on Wii U.

    “I found the awkward pause needed to switch between lethal and non-lethal takedowns a bit of an immersion breaker.”
    “In fact, I spent most of my time playing the game on the GamePad in off-tv mode”

    Playing with the GamePad in mind allows for faster transitions between takedowns, gadgets, and weapons. Granted, you will still need to hold the D-pad to switch between visor modes, but this is one benefit the Wii U version certainly has over the console platforms. Switching to your gadget or weapon of choice by a simple touch is much faster than using the D-pad.

    “Overall, the multiplayer is really robust, though I did experience some problems with the game locking up randomly between matches. These lockups were few and far in between, but it did occur twice in two different settings.”

    This also, is unfortunately false. It’s one thing to say that the multiplayer is good on the other platforms, but having spent several hours on this game on the Wii U, the multiplayer is anything but robust. Freezes occur online and off. Even if you call Ubisoft and use the solutions that they have provided, such as changing your router’s DMZ, you will still encounter problems. Unhackable terminals, falling through maps, connection issues galore… heck, the lobbies won’t display the correct information. I just got out of a match where I hacked all 3 terminals without worry, while my teammates continued to rack up kills… except no one was listed on the other team

    I don’t want to say this review should be scored differently. However, given the state of Splinter Cell: Blacklist on Wii U and the problems players have had with the game, both through various gaming forums and Miiverse, this review does not properly reflect how the game is on Wii U.

  • val berger

    additional to the missing Michael Ironside, I would mention that most of the character models are really ugly for a 2013 Ubisoft AAA title. Ubisoft, the company that did a quite game changing job with Farcry 3 in terms of character models. Those seen here look like…like…aww, there just plain ugly, bah!

  • Sharingan

    Hopefully we get a Metal Gear game for the Wii U.

  • Mark

    Michael Ironside was replaced, and now David Hayter is being replaced. Fine, Kiefer Sutherland can have Big Boss, but if Kojima EVER takes Solid Snake away from Hayter, I’m gonna flip out.

    P.S: This game is cool and will make a good MGS replacement for my Wii U; however, if Kojima ever decides to put MGS5 on Wii U, it’s an instant buy baby!

  • Agent721

    Nice review…I plan on getting this one eventually.

  • Yousif Alromaithi

    Best Metal Gear was four and better than Splinter Cell.

  • Sean

    great review! another con.. local co op

  • Ducked

    Can you do a Rayman Legends review next? I haven’t been able to pick the game up yet. My Wii U took a nasty fall.

    • starwars360

      No need to wait for review from here. Go to Gamerankings.com.

    • sd

      It had a fall. I will send an ambulance, listen out for it………………….wii u wii u wii u wii u wiiu….

      • Ducked

        I’ve heard that joke many times lol.

        • sd

          The best one is the xbox one joke at the initial reveal, not sure whether it was the sony or ms reveal though. (this is from someone who has preordered the xbox BTW).

          It was the:- MS are down, someone call an ambulance………Wii U, Wii U, Wii U, Wii U.

          That still makes me chuckle. Especially as these are the consoles for me so far this gen.

          • Ducked

            Yeah that’s the best one!

            ps
            Xbox One didn’t get to the hospital in time.

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      Yep, Rayman Legends is next on my list!

      • Ducked

        Awesome!

  • MysticDude97

    Seems fair, but expect a load of hate from Splinter Cell fans, because you gave it a B -.

  • sd

    Nice review. I am still on the fence about this game. Do I have time to play and complete it before Zelda is released? Especially when I am only just getting close to finishing W101.

  • Blazenwing

    Only 11 missions? Aww. I was hoping for a longer experience (that isn’t expected to be made longer by playing online PvP). Sad panda. -_-

    • Antar Rodríguez

      there are not only 11 missions, there are like 27 but only 11 of them are the actual campaing the other ones can be played solo or co-op

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      Yeah there’s just 11 that are single player only, but the co-op missions can all be done via single player.

      • Le Chevalier

        Cool, this game just gets better and better !! :o)

    • ICHI

      Like the other posts say there are extras, and they are worth doing as they feed into background characters or story threads in the main campaign. Once you have completed a set (they are different depending on who gave it to you) they will unlock a piece of equipment or two. Also during the mission select screen you can set the computer to show you all missions, or you can even start them by wandering around your plane and talking to people so it’s not like they are just in a multiplayer menu, they feel like part of the main game.

  • Antar Rodríguez

    campaing is great but spies vs mercs is broken as hell, not to mention that pairing is broken too, i hope ubisoft releases the patch they tweet about really soon

  • Le Chevalier

    Overall, this is a fair review of a terrific little game with some of the most absorbing gameplay I’ve come across in a long while (it’s certainly my personal favourite game on the Wii U so far). While the loading times are fairly long on start up and loading new missions, I personally didn’t feel they detracted too much from the game overall, but then if there’s one thing this game teaches you it’s patience. As far as the gamepad goes though, I find it much easier just to tap the weapon/gadget on the pad to select it rather than bringing up the menu on-screen and rotating to select the item (and thus pausing the game in the process). Haven’t played it online yet, but in single player mode I haven’t come across any freezing, slow down or glitching thus far, although occasionally the camera angle sometimes ends up facing you if e.g. moving too quickly up a winding staircase etc. And while 11 missions doesn’t sound like much, especially if you just rush/muddle through to reach the end of each mission, these levels are well laid out and offer much replay value, not only to go back and search every inch to find hidden items & routes, but also to go through each mission again properly with as few mistakes as possible. Anyway, would highly recommend this game to anyone who is thinking about purchasing it.
    Interesting to see that the Watchdogs trailer released recently used similar play mechanics to Splinter Cell when the main character sneaks into the guarded compound, which bodes well for Ubisoft’s other upcoming title I think.
    As for the Metal Gear Fans out there, on the C&VG website today they say that the new MGS: Ground Zeroes demo showed that it will also utilise Splinter Cell style ‘mark & execute’ takedowns too ?

  • Pebbicle

    So… yeah. Is the online multiplayer as dead/hard to connect to as Assassin’s Creed 3 for the Wii U?

  • companyoflosers

    For someone like me who is playing splinter cell for the first time, i see no problem with sam’s voice acting. it must be something only people who have been around a while would notice and mind about.

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      That’s definitely it. Michael Ironside has been Sam Fisher for years now. Think of it like someone replacing Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. You’re going to be overly critical of that person because of how much Harrison Ford brings to the character, but someone who has never seen the first trilogy of movies won’t have that same problem.

      That’s all that’s work at here and the reason I list it as a con is because Splinter Cell fans deserve to know the performance just doesn’t add up to what they’re used to hearing.

      • Suck_My_Ballz

        or like when they replaced Robert England in the Freddy Kruegger franchise

  • audi lover

    Pandora tomorrow was the my fav from the series

  • Nintedward

    Back!

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      Welcome back.

  • JBeauregard

    Thanks to this review, I went and bought it. It’s my first time playing a SC game, but I’m loving it!

  • ACE

    how’s the online multiplayer?

  • Veliki N

    I wish we could have Blacklist on 3DS, but with same gameplay and use of
    tuchscreen as on wii-u. Surley graphics like RE Revelations would be
    nice. I’m sure that people would love that kind of game. How to get this kind of message to Ubisoft?

  • Suck_My_Ballz

    why when I try play on The TV the game feels dark as hell but when I play on the gamepad I can see everythang perfectly!!!

  • fireheartis1

    This game is amazing period, but am I the only one who has to stay up late so I can work overnight for 4 nights? lol Every time I try to get online there’s nobody playing. Maybe I should try at 2:00AM instead of 4:00AM MST.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/ChiGuyGaming John Zaccari

      Hit me up with a friend request if you want. JohnnyDaily. I’m trying to get various online games together with people in the Wii U Daily community.