I spent my Summer trying not to go insane due to the lack of games by playing through some older titles and going through some games in my pile of shame. I made it through most of Summer without the help of prescription drugs, and at least August was highlighted by the first game to break the summer stagnation, Splinter Cell Blacklist. I have always enjoyed a good stealth game, and the Splinter Cell franchise has been a predominant name in the genre. But how has the latest installment in the series perform when compared with the latest games baring stealth elements, such as Hitman, Dishonored, or Tomb Raider?
Audio and Video: The visuals of the game are great, when you actually get to see any of it. Throughout the entirety of the game you only get a handful of levels that can be played during daylight, which actually look great. Unfortunately 90% of the title takes place in a pitch black setting, which will require you to play the game through your night vision goggles. I know that this is a stealth game, but holy golden lobster, the environments and setting are so dark that you will randomly get stuck to chest high walls or trash bins in the shadows (cause most of the time your goggles are jammed). Some facial details seem to be bad in certain characters, and unfortunately there is a lack of originality in the diversification of enemies. Basically all your Middle Eastern enemies wear the same exact clothing, all the time regardless of the country. The audio segment of the game isn’t bad, but then again it not impressive. There isn’t a single part in the game where I was actually impressed by the surround effects or the overall quality of the sound. Being a stealth game in silent and dark environments, audio could have been rendered better to make use of one’s surround system to enhance the experience and generate more tension (like Naughty Dog did in The Last of Us). Voice overs were well made, but something which pissed me off was the fact that Libyans and Iranians conveniently communicated in English between each other at all times.
Gameplay: Gameplay is straight forward; you always have to stealthily access and escape from buildings in the dark to complete missions. Avoiding enemies and silently murdering enemies will earn you XP which will give you access to more money for upgrades. There are some platforming elements in the game which, in my opinion, are boring and way to easy. My biggest issue with the gameplay is the customizations; you have a vast and never-ending menu of customizations which is simply useless. You can upgrade the plane which is basically your headquarters, which will then allow you to upgrade or customize your weapons, suit, and goggles. Each and every single upgrade you buy is simply useless, as during mission you will always go back to using your silenced pistol and melee attacks. All the items I bought, such as a sniper rifle or a tri-rotor, were never used, because all levels are designed for users using the standard weapons. Certain sequences have to be played in First Person Mode, which simply pissed me off. I bought this game to play it in third person mode, why the hell was there a need to put me in first person view. To make matters worse, in FPS mode, you don’t have any cover or hide option (remember this is a stealth game), and the melee attacks are different and require you to be closer to your enemies, which just throws you off. Some missions will also require you to take care of a person of interest; in normal situations when you are with someone whilst being under attack you will send the person to hide in a safe place until you take out the endless enemies, but no, you have to walk with this person under your arms which will make you easily spotted, slower, incapable of using secondary weapons and gadgets, and incapable of performing melees or hand to hand combat. Random enemies spawning out of thin air are also another problem of the game, in one occasion I was in an empty room regaining health, when an enemy appeared out of thin air in front of me and took me out. The last and most weird feeling I had when playing the game, was the fact that I never felt that I’m approaching the end of the game, the final boss fight actually came as a surprise to me. The story is simply boring and the game is too linear and repetitive to actually feel the tension of reaching your goal. This was the first time I experienced such a feeling after playing a game.
Personal Experience: The game had the unfortunate faith of undergoing an overhaul just for the sake of appealing to a mainstream market. The series was fine as it is, and in all honesty I didn’t see the point of having such an over the top customization list and such a crappy inventory system. Why is one the world’s most advanced special ops team have the need to buy shit to save America from terrorism in his own headquarters, when you have a weapons engineer on the plane which can upgrade them in exchange for XP for example? The development team should have focused more on better level design and more intuitive controls which would have made the game better. More elements could have been introduced which could have brought Blacklist to a whole other level, but apparently a long list of crap you will never use was deemed more important than actually creating a decent experience.
Overall Rating: 7/10
Written By Matthew C.