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'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Preview

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The espionage action thriller returns to form on familiar ground and fan favorite additives. Fisher is sized up on all fronts of his latest operation.

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As Splinter Cell: Blacklist prepares to launch an all out assault on PC, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3, this summer, Ubisoft was kind enough to give the press an exclusive run through of the titles three featured modes, including; Spies vs Mercs. In a nutshell, it’s classic Splinter Cell, albeit with some new additions on a familiar, yet sturdy, foundation.

Single Player:

Retaining the same brutally satisfying pace of Conviction, while harmonizing with the franchise’s markee MO, stealth; Blacklist takes the best attributes of it’s predecessors creating a hybrid of fluid action with methodical covert play. Mark & Execute returns to take the forefront of stylish, evanescent gun play, while lethal and non-lethal takedowns cover the meticulous furtive approach. It’s the best of both worlds, really, however, your play style also has a hand in game pace.

Assault, ghost and panther makeup the gameplay archetypes you can adhere to; the latter being a blending of the two aforementioned styles. Though SC has never taken to brisk action well and that still remains somewhat true with SCB, it’s still the best formulation of alacrity combat in the series to date.

As mentioned, panther is a culmination of mastery between ghost and assault. The game really shines with fluid combat when panther is exhibited; slicing a throat, or breaking a neck all while performing a M&E is incredibly rewarding to see unfold. You feel like the ultimate kickass spy that would make James Bond wet his pants and retire simultaneously. But don’t let that fool you, ghost and assault each bring their own flavor of satisfaction, whether it be going through an entire level without killing or being detected, or leaving a trail of survivor-less havoc in your path. There’s enough room for every color of SC gameplay.

Co-op:

If you played Splinter Cell: Conviction’s co-op, then you’ll feel right at home with SCB’s cooperative mode. Dual M&Es, and teamwork yield the best results, however, if you prefer a ramped up challenge, then assaulting missions brings plenty of that in the vein of heavy armored guards, snipers and spectres of their own.

Sure, your alliance is best facilitated with a mutual agreement on one play style, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have one teammate go assault, while another plays panther, it’s just trickier to pull off, even on normal settings. Basically one of you serves as an assault decoy, yes, you still need to kill, but you also need to distract and stay alive long enough for your teammate to flank.

Whether smooth or messy, our co-op session was just as much fun each time through.

Spies vs Mercs:

A classic mode, sorely missed in Conviction, but no longer the void remains. SvM returns in every sense of the word. The asymmetric gameplay is ever present with versatile spies - utilizing a 3rd person perspective - harnessing gadgets, shadows and nimble maneuvers for CQC; while Mercs - in a first person view - rely on heavy armor, assault rifles and explosives. Spies hack, Mercs defend, it’s that simple. In short, it’s classic SC multiplayer fun. Welcome back.

Final thoughts:

Splinter Cell: Blacklist makes an ardent effort to take the best elements of the franchise, fusing them together in one cohesive experience. Based on our afternoon session, Blacklist succeeds in this goal. New additions like Shadownet (economy-system), where players can purchase new weapons, gadgets and gear, including upgrades for each individual piece, adds lots of depth to gameplay, as there’s enough gear to cater to one or more of the 3 gameplay styles. Co-op and multiplayer finally come together in the same breath, with single player seemingly offering the best balance of stealth and action. Splinter Cell: Blacklist as it stands so far, may be the best Splinter Cell conceived and we’ll find out soon enough when it releases on Aug. 20th.

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