‘Splinter Cell Blacklist’ Hands-On Preview

2 years ago by  

We traveled to Ubisoft Toronto earlier this week to preview the young studio’s first title, Splinter Cell Blacklist. The presentation and hands-on demo were strictly focused on the single-player experience, aimed to highlight the new offerings Ubisoft aims to deliver with the franchise’s sixth installment.

Ubisoft Toronto is now the home of the Splinter Cell franchise going forward and even though the studio is brand new, it was staffed with senior team members from around the company and industry. The presentation began with Creative Director Maxime Beland and Game Director Patrick Redding introducing the game to journalists in a room surrounded with PCs setup with a playable demo of the game, all featuring a Sam Fisher desktop background, Xbox 360 controllers and SteelSeries headsets.

The introductory hands-off demo first began however, with a sizzle reel comprised of real-life footage of terrorist attacks, foreign occupation, riots, etc., emphasizing the state of the world, with an intimidating voiceover. The end of the video reached a climax with the mysterious and powerful phrase “We are The Engineers.” The video represents the “opening salvo” of the Engineers’ agenda and serves an introduction to the narrative of Splinter Cell Blacklist.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Chemical Weapon Terrorist Attack

The Engineers are a new international shadow terror network that formed in response to the fact that the United States has a presence in two-thirds of the world’s nations. It’s backed by unknown parties who for their own interests, need the U.S. to pull their troops out, and is led by one “super terrorist” figure modeled after the infamous political terrorist Carlos the Jackal. They have an ultimatum with set deadlines, backed with an organized series of escalating terror attacks (“The Blacklist”).

In response to the crisis, President Patricia Caldwell – who dismantled corrupt Third Echelon after the events of Splinter Cell: Conviction – covertly puts together a new organization that’s, as Redding describes, “blacker than black, very small, extremely mobile, self-financing, utterly deniable and will be able to go after the organizers of the Blacklist behind-the scenes while she deals with the more public reaction.” And the one man qualified to lead such a team? Sam Fisher.

The core team we saw from the demo includes familiar faces Anna “Grim” Grímsdóttir, a staple of the franchise and Fisher’s old handler; Isaac Briggs, an ex-CIA operative who joins Fisher on the field; Charlie Cole, the tech nerd who helps with weapon and gadget mods. At least one other character joins team in an unexpected capacity, and we expect there could be a few other guest members along the way.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Ops Suit

The creative drive behind Splinter Cell Blacklist was to get Fisher back in his iconic special ops suit and back in the field, but in a way fans haven’t seen before. Many of the game design choices, new features, Fisher’s new role as a team leader instead of lone wolf – and even the redesigned Sam Fisher character – are all evidence of this.

The first and most exciting feature of the game is how it rewards player choice in terms of play style. Splinter Cell Blacklist caters to true stealth players and fans of the original Splinter Cell, but it also allows (and actively rewards) gameplay styles from players who may have entered the franchise with the last installment, Conviction, and shooter fans who may jump in as newbies for Blacklist. It does this by rewarding three styles of play. Where stealth games like Hitman: Absolution often punish players for taking a non-stealth approach, Splinter Cell embraces it with a dynamic scoring system that ranks players on three different playstyles:

  • Ghost
  • Panther
  • Assault

Ghosts are the players who traverse an area and complete objectives without anyone knowing they’re even there. Assault is for the run and gun players who suit up with bigger weapons and heavier armor for direct confrontation. We’re told that players likely start playing one of these two styles but as they master each, they become more of a panther, someone who can lethally and quietly take out opponents in the most efficient way possible. The game is able to reward points based on metrics involving lethal vs. nonlethal play, detected vs. undetected, etc.

Continue to Page 2 (of 3) for details on Splinter Cell Blacklist’s customization options and similarities to Mass Effect!

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  • jwalka

    you cant really compare this to far cry 3 since they where both made by different ubisoft studios, but i see your point with the marking thing.

    how are the controls, are they as annoying as hitman b/c the hitman controls felt excessive (and the button lay out was weird). what about enemy AI are the as good as the AI in hitman or far cry 3, i would assume they would be pretty on/off at this stage…

    the game overall looks like it has something for everyone, i hate it when a game forces you to play a certain way (hitman) whilst giving you all these weapons ot massacre people >:(

  • Lord Ghali

    the date is Jan 31 2013….and still no word on spies vs merc….. will old school players rally behind this game ….. I am not going to touch it unless SvM is back from the dead. Its a broken record. TELL US ABOUT SPIES VS MERCS, NO OLD SCHOOLER CARES ABOUT THE SINGLE PLAYER GAME THAT MUCH. THE MULTI PLAYER IS WHERE IT WAS AT. WHY IS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT THE BIGGEST LOSER MOVE ANY GAME COMPANY EVER DID TO THEIR CORE FAN BASE… I KNOW SOME OF YOU READING THIS KNOW WHAT I MEAN. UbiSoft made something amazing,,, and then took it away. Hey Game Rant , thats the real story here, why don’t you approch Ubisoft on that topic..(and i don’t care about my spelling or grammer) ….. SPIES VS MERCS FOR GODS SAKE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • vain

    Why the preview now?

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      Because we played the game Tuesday at Ubisoft Toronto.

      American, UK and Canadian press were all embargoed until yesterday afternoon to post previews from demos held over the last week.

  • boogoo

    I’m loving the Mass Effect comparisons. Can’t wait to hear about the coop!

  • Alter

    when do we get back the classic 3 way vision goggles

  • DarthMalnu

    Feels good to be excited about a Splinter Cell game again. The Mass Effect elements sound like an excellent fit.

  • WELP

    How is Fisher still in the field? He’s like 55!

    • jwalka

      same reason why snake from metal gear is 😛

  • YourColourTelevision

    I stopped reading at “a run and gun approach is also possible.”

    Since the E3 Demo i’ve been dissapointed with this piece of shit, dumbed down, generic third person shooter. This isnt Splinter Cell, Sam Fisher isnt supposed to be a “action hero” and he certainly isnt supposed to be seen.

    I hated Conviction, but there they atleast had an excuse for it in the Story. Here its just… Generic Action-Hero, kill Terrorist Group from the Far East. Pang Pang Explosions Pang Pang.

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      I can tell you it’s not “generic” at all, lol. And you don’t have to take the action route. You can if you want because you’re a dude with a gun, but I didn’t play that way at all. I tried to explain that in the post, but I know it’s three pages long.

      • YourColourTelevision

        Yeah well, over the years, i’ve learned that everytime a developer (be it Survival Horror, Stealth or even Ace Combat) they always “you can still” – and it was NEVER true in the final game. :/

        Also, please more long posts. Long posts are great. 😀
        This Game here just makes me go crazy though.

        • doc

          I for one have no hope for this game having any real resemblance to classic Splinter Cell.
          Not saying it will be a really bad game but i find it is an insult to the classic splinter cell games to completely replace the old style and gameplay mechanic and still calling it “splinter cell”. Ubisoft has an annoying history of doing that.

          Also no michael ironside ->fail.

  • http://majamaki.com/ Terry

    The changes sound great. I just completed Hitman: Absolution (my review: http://majamaki.com/2013/01/hitman-absolution/) and the stealth gameplay reminded me a lot of Splinter Cell. Can’t wait until Blacklist is out, it looks like Splinter Cell is finally getting the love it deserves from developers.