It’s hard to say why there are only a handful of gaming franchises known for competent stealth gameplay, but it didn’t take long for Splinter Cell to become synonymous with striking from the shadows. That approach has been given a serious overhaul in recent years, most notably in the announcement of Splinter Cell: Blacklist at this year’s E3.
Director Patrick Redding maintains that Ubisoft Toronto has put together an experience far more in keeping with Sam Fisher’s stealth roots than the initial trailer might imply. In fact, a larger emphasis is being placed on a player’s chosen play style, from level design all the way to cinematic cut-scenes.
Redding had previously discussed the studio’s decision to showcase Blaclist‘s daytime, action-packed gameplay in order to make more of a statement at E3 2012, and taking the demo as an indication of the entire game was premature. The amount of discussion that the game’s showing has generated shows they made the right call.
The full interview from VG24/7 gives a bit more insight into Ubisoft’s method of bringing stealth and action together in one new campaign, with handing the choice to the player being toted as one of the ways to keep evasive or stealthy gamers happy.
The heavy emphasis on action witnessed at E3 was a result of the extremely refined gameplay section, according to Redding. Sam Fisher’s trigger finger was overworked in the demo, but that is by no means the only way to play the game from start to finish:
“When we hand the controller to someone else they can elect to try to avoid those conflicts, and if they’re good they can succeed at it. As with any Splinter Cell game there is a challenge in being stealthy and undetected, and there are advantages to being stealthy and undetected, and it’s certainly a valid option that’s available to the player. And we give them tools to do it if that’s the way they want to do it.”
Walking a line between making the player feel capable of handling every situation and demanding they avoid detection has never been easy. In fact, the Splinter Cell series almost encapsulates the entire struggle, from the insta-fails of the original games to the ability to mark-and-execute one’s way through Conviction.
With Ubisoft Toronto promising a blend of both, some stealth fans may not be so easily convinced after similar claims were made in the past. It may simply be that a developer hoping to earn more than niche sales just can’t release a game that rewards only those who agonize over going completely undetected.
Redding explained that the “blueprint” for the game’s level design and narrative is centered around trying to offer satisfying experiences to both camps:
“We went out of our way to make sure that there were missions that put the emphasis on stealth and then there were other missions that put the emphasis on combat, but that it was never 100% one or the other. There might be occasional moments in the game where you need to go undetected, but we didn’t want to create a lot of situations where it was like an ‘instant fail’ if you got detected.”
Keeping the experience moving forward whether detected or not may or may not solve the problem, but this integration of each player’s decisions into the overall game will be extending beyond remaining in cover or opening fire. We saw firsthand in our preview of Blacklist that players will be able to deal with informants in different ways. Apparently Sam’s behavior won’t just change the end of the attached cut-scenes, but carry over to his interactions with the other members of Fourth Echelon who may approve or disapprove of his decisions.
Hints are all the developers seem happy to give at the moment, but fans of stealth are expected to be addressed as the game gets closer to release.
How do you Fisher-fans and newcomers feel about the balance being struck by those making Blacklist? Think the blend is the best solution, or not what you had hoped? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is tentatively scheduled for a release in early 2013 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
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