3 Feb 2014

Media - Splinter Cell: The Blacklist

Splinter Cell: Double Agent was the fourth game of the franchise and the first game I ever had played on my brand new 360. Double Agent and the previous three games of the series were staples for my PC. I had played them ad nauseum. Double Agent was never finished on the PC because of the issues it had with bugs and hardware compatibility.

When I finally played it through on my 360 I was wow'ed. The game had multiple endings, a great central Hub from which you performed and explored more missions, a brilliant two-way trust system. Missions were interesting and varied and the dual objectives from different parties made the game about choices.

2006 was a good year.



Splinter Cell V was up and down. We had seen some videos but nothing was solid near final product. In 2007 we saw a fully bearded Sam Fisher merging into crowds and using objects through the environment to attack pursuers. Then it was officially put on hold. The fear of another Star Craft: Ghost crept forward and the stealth genre looked like it had lost another son.

When Splinter Cell: Conviction was released in 2010 the gaming world was put through it's paces. Gone was the rigid stealth controls. Replaced by a smooth snap to cover, along a dynamic and fluid movement system. The Mark and Execute game mechanic turned the genre upside down. Players started treating areas in the levels as kill puzzles as they stalked and hunted down the enemies. Once they were ready, the Mark and Execute mechanic would drop enemies in a click of a button. It had a brilliant co-op campaign that gave the background for Sam Fisher's main story with two interesting other characters - Archer and Kestrel. In game challenges and a point buy reward system rounded out the package giving players more gear and upgrades as they progressed in the game and in their own play style.

Players that had avoided or lacked the love for the stealth action genre were won over. Suddenly the stealth action was about the set up and explosive action. The 'hard core' genre fans would still agonize and work to get the perfect stealth run but now when the shit hit the fan ... the game just changed.

Brilliant - Five out of Five.

Now we have Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Is this the next major success for Sam Fisher?

No.

After finishing the game SC:Blacklist I was disappointed.

Listed below are my major gripes.

1. In Conviction we had a series of challenges to accomplish in game that would reward the player with credits to upgrade and purchase new equipment. You would finish the game in your particular play style with a large portion of the challenges completed. After a run of the co-op campaign more of the challenges would get nixed and after throwing oneself at the challenge maps (solo or with another player) you've done a lot of the challenges. It rewarded any player as they played their style. A player looking to try out new things would be rewarded with more completed challenges and more credits.

Blacklist took a step back. Each mission is scored against three different styles: Panther, Ghost, Assault. To get the gold you need to play in just that style forgoing the other two. You then also have to replay the mission another time towards the play style you in order to get the gold score - twice. This does two things poorly. It pads the game with needless replay and fails to properly reward players by forcing them to play the game as 'has to be played' rather than the way the player 'wants to play' the game.

Conviction rewarded dynamic and creative play, Blacklist hold players back by rewarding them when they hold themselves back.

2. The story was frustrating. You work for the president. Yet the conflict between 4th echelon and rest of the three letter US intelligence branches are fighting each other causing Sam to fight his own people. The reason for the Blacklist is given at the end of the game and you're hard pressed to agree that the whole convoluted plot to terrorise the US to only get one thing was way too far fetched and overly complex for no reason.

Lame.

I know Tom Clancy games always have a complex plot to draw people in and give reasons for running around doing Tom Clancy things but this was the worst so far with only Ghost Reason: Advanced Warfighter at the top.

3. The change in Sam.

Old Sam from Previous Games
Instead of de-aging Sam and the rest of the cast of Splinter Cell characters. Have him retire, let the other guy take over. Splinter Cell is starting down the same road of 24. Kiefer Sutherland had a great show but come season 3 the show was trying too hard to find a reason for Jack Bauer to jump in and save the world. Kiefer should have introduced another agent to take the lead while Jack steps back.

Splinter Cell is not about Sam Fisher but he is important to the franchise. Instead that value of Sam has been lessened due to his changes. You can have Splinter Cell games without Sam Fisher. Look at the two brilliant co-op campaigns in past games. Keep Sam but don't change him in a way that makes him less Sam.

Sam Fisher - Fountain of Youth in the current game
Mario get away with being in most of his games because he is timeless and jump around in a fantasy world. Splinter Cell is trying to be gritty and realistic and does it well with Sam but that same tone adds the weight of accepting change or fall into the realms of fantasy.

It's a little much.

I also think it's lame.