Splinter Cell: Blacklist might be unearthing the stealthier roots of the franchise’s earlier installments — night vision goggles, the stealth suit and ultramodern gadgets, for three, have been sourly missed — but make no mistake: The highly efficient combat machine Sam Fisher became in 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction — the One-Man Army to the classicist’s Silent Killer — is now and inexorable part of his gritty and grizzled makeup.
And players just might need every ability afforded to Sam to overcome Blacklist’s shadowy new enemy, the Engineers. The latest trailer for the game released by Ubisoft opens to terror network’s the menacing manifesto, but highlights the varying methods at Sam’s disposal as the head of the new Fourth Echelon.
Following the opening, America-at-war montage, the trailer partitions Sam’s predatory talents into three phases: Stalk, Strike and Silence. It’s a flashier way of representing the three unique play styles that factor into Blacklist’s dynamic scoring system: Panther, Assault and Ghost. We went hands-on with a demo of the game back in January, and Ubisoft emphasized the way gameplay is tailored around player choice — actively rewarding users in unique ways by measuring how each mission unfolds (think metrics for body counts, detections, alarms, etc.).
Judging from how the trailer unfolds, it appears as if that trifocal vision is very much intact. Sam stalks an enemy from the shadows, dropping from a ceiling pipe to perform a quiet takedown. He strikes an enemy in open-terrain, dashing 20 yards and hurdling obstacles before sweeping him off his feet (and out of his spinal alignment). Finally, likely to highlight the hybrid “Panther” play style, we witness Sam neutralize an entire squad of mercenaries after shooting out lights with a crossbow, leaving them helpless and blinded in the company of a familiar friend: darkness.
It’s been almost a year since Splinter Cell: Blacklist debuted at E3 2012 with an impressive 10-minute gameplay demo and a newly voiced Sam Fisher. Contrary to its annual franchise, Assassin’s Creed, however, the publisher has given its Toronto studio three years to meticulously devise the game’s new direction. Similar simmering was allowed for November’s Far Cry 3, which captivatingly blended customization and exploration with an open-ended approach to combat. And while the two games certainly don’t resemble each other style-for-style or narrative-for-narrative, the concept of substantial development time and multifarious gameplay is fairly identical.
We’ll see if it pays off when Splinter Cell: Blacklist releases on August 20, 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC.
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