Splinter Cell Blacklist preview: re-conviction

Although Splinter Cell Blacklist comes from a brand new team, it plays close to the formula established by Conviction.

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Splinter Cell Conviction proved to be quite divisive, introducing faster, more action-packed gameplay into the long-running stealth franchise. While critics and newcomers largely enjoyed the redefined Sam Fisher, many longtime fans lamented the franchise's new direction. Three years later, the newly-formed Ubisoft Toronto is taking the reins with Splinter Cell Blacklist. Although this sequel comes from a brand new team, it plays close to the formula established by Conviction. As before, you'll be able to run, mark, and execute your way through the game--but Blacklist also attempts to return to the series' roots. Blacklist has been designed around three different play styles. Conviction established what the team calls the "Panther" style, where players strike from the shadows. This is a lethal playthrough, one where they use stealth to take out enemies silently, in the quickest way possible. If Batman were bloodthirsty, this is probably how he'd play. Conviction players will find themselves jumping into Blacklist quickly. It won't be long before you're doing corner take-downs, and mark-and-executing targets. However, the combat has been upgraded to be more fluid. Sam can now perform take-downs while moving, like after sliding down a zipline on top of an enemy. You can also mark and execute while moving. At the end of each level, you'll be graded on your performance, and awarded points based on how much of a "Panther" you are. However, the game is also grading you on two other play styles as well. You can earn "Assault" points if you take enemies head-on and simply run-and-gun your way through the level. While I personally don't see that as a very fun way of playing, the option is certainly there. And, with the refined aiming controls, it becomes far easier to play that way, should you wish. The "correct" way of playing, as many longtime fans would argue, is to become a "Ghost," by remaining undetected and waiting for the best opportunity to move through the shadows.

Blacklist takes the same visual language as Conviction

I saw many opportunities to vary my play style through the two levels Ubisoft previewed. For example, as I was climbing up a building, I could deal with a sniper in two ways: grab him and throw him off the ledge, or sneak around him and avoid his line of sight for the rest of the level. In another section, I saw a key target getting interrogated. I could simply kill the captors, but I chose to throw a smoke grenade in the room and silently (and non-lethally) take the two guards out. In an escort segment, I could mark and execute the assassins getting in my way, or navigate a path to the exit without confrontation. At the end of each level, you'll earn rewards based on your play style. The in-game money you earn can then be used to customize Sam to best suit your needs. You'll be able to save multiple loadouts for Sam, so you can choose before each mission how silent you want to be. For example, Ghost players will probably want to upgrade the Paladin to unlock better radars. With enough credits, you'll be able to see not only where enemies are, but what direction they're facing. Assault players will probably want to upgrade their weapons; Panthers will probably want to upgrade their gadgets. Not only does the in-game economy enable players to customize their Splinter Cell experience, it also encourages replayability. Perhaps you want to try a no-kill run, now that you've purchased better equipment. Or maybe you'll want to challenge yourself to a harder difficulty, but with better gear. Each mission can be replayed at any given time through the Strategic Mission Interface (SMI)--a map of the world that looks similar to what you'd see in a military CIC. Here, you'll see not only any active single-player missions, but also various online missions as well. If your friend is playing a co-op mission and there's room on the server, you'll be able to enter that game as if it's another single-player mission. Should it work as Ubisoft envisions, it will certainly be an elegant way of combining single and multiplayer gameplay experiences.

Sam's goggles can see through walls... except in harder difficulties

While Blacklist largely continues the blueprint established by Conviction, I do appreciate Ubisoft Toronto's attempt to sate every type of player. Sam may be far more agile and lethal than ever before, but who will notice if you stay hidden in the shadows? Splinter Cell Blacklist will be available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 on August 20.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 30, 2013 9:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Splinter Cell Blacklist preview: re-conviction.

    Although Splinter Cell Blacklist comes from a brand new team, it plays close to the formula established by Conviction.

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      January 30, 2013 9:15 AM

      the loss of michael ironside is still a really pain point for me. i have my concerns.

      also, i feel like conviction wrapped up sam's story really well. why not just make this a new third eschelon dude? sam's replacement? something?

      anyone?

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        January 30, 2013 9:27 AM

        I actually told Ubisoft that it would've been more interesting if they had gone for a reboot instead of a continuation. You'll see that interview on Shack later today.

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        January 30, 2013 9:42 AM

        I agree. I don't think it's "nerd rage" the way Ubisoft has painted it. They've changed an integral part of the series in order to advance the gameplay or whatever, and that's fine for them, they have their reasons. But for long-time fans, it can still jarring.

        I think a more sweeping change would be better received: Replace Sam. Put him in an office somewhere, or give him a cameo, and just pass the torch the way Michael did.

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          January 30, 2013 10:50 AM

          that is also risky. when you pass the torch, like Ezio did, you throw off your user base...

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      January 30, 2013 9:43 AM

      Nice article, I am really looking forward to Blacklist sounds rad and from everything we have heard thus far of seen.

      Cool.

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      January 30, 2013 10:49 AM

      I won't be playing this game. Sam Fisher IS Michael Ironside. Conviction wrapped up Sam's story quite nicely imo. I mean FFS Sam is around 58-60 years old in this so called "blacklist" game. It's so incredibly dumb.

      Maybe I would have stuck around for another Splinter Cell game if they rebooted the franchise with another Echelon Operative; but Sam Fisher and no Ironside, and hes 60 years old? Get the hell out of here I don't want anything to do with you.

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        January 30, 2013 11:18 AM

        Yikes!

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        January 30, 2013 11:35 AM

        You aren't going to play an awesome game because they changed the voice actor. Got it.

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          January 30, 2013 7:25 PM

          To be fair, you shouldn't call it awesome until it's released and we know if it actually is or not.

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            January 30, 2013 8:31 PM

            To be fair, it is awesome.

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      January 30, 2013 11:07 AM

      How did the enemy dialog seem? Was it as ridiculous as conviction?

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        January 30, 2013 11:22 AM

        I'M GOING TO KILL YOU SAM FISHER!

        I didn't hear a single line like that However, it's probably because they never knew I was there in the first place...

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          January 30, 2013 12:32 PM

          We've made damn sure none of that annoying enemy VO was in the game.

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            January 30, 2013 2:00 PM

            I think your heart is in the right place, but something I think you apologize for things that don't need apologizing for. A lot of people loved Conviction, and as rtricoche said, the voice acting was sometimes memorable like it was in vegas 1 and 2. One of the most memorable moments I ever had in an sp game was tied into a perfectly timed and appropriate piece of enemy banter in vegas 2.

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        January 30, 2013 1:18 PM

        I LOVED the enemy dialog in Conviction.
        Reminded me of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (and 1)
        In fact lots of friends of mine picked it up based not only on game mechanics but because it was also fun to hear these guys.
        As far as I am concerned they can continue the trend. Separates this game further from most other third person games.
        The loss of Micheal Ironside is sad and silly. The man is still around and healthy. Why change voices?!
        Oh well.

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      January 30, 2013 1:39 PM

      Thank god. Can we please stop pretending these are Splinter Cell games now? Chaos theory was the last one. If I am not spending 3 minutes waiting in the shadows for enemies to walk around frequently it is not a splinter cell game.

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        January 30, 2013 1:41 PM

        I really wish there was some patience left in gamers :( I liked strategically shooting out the lights.

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          January 30, 2013 8:34 PM

          Waiting in shadows for 3+ minutes AND shooting out lights you say.

          :)

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        January 30, 2013 7:05 PM

        Can we stop pretending that Chaos Theory was the holy grail. The game wasn't very good. It was boring as tears with not an ounce of decent story telling.

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          January 30, 2013 10:41 PM

          I'm not pretending. I've played the whole franchise and Chaos Theory is still my favorite.

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          January 31, 2013 12:16 AM

          You are insane. CT had the best mechanics and gameplay.

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          January 31, 2013 2:21 AM

          It had some great moments dude. I enjoyed Conviction too, though more the co-op which was amazing.

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            January 31, 2013 5:42 AM

            I'm not comparing to any SC game. I just wanted to counter that CT isn't anything special.

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        January 30, 2013 7:22 PM

        Double Agent was good we just all played the wrong version. Plus it at least had the same mechanics as the previous 3.

        Conviction isn't a bad game, it's just a shadow of what I think Splinter Cell is. Somewhere along the line they forgot that Sam Fisher by Conviction is like 60 years old. Then they ditched Michael Ironside because he's 60 years old. Dumb. That was always the interesting thing in the beginning of the series. He was an old guy brought out of retirement to resolve a crisis. Now he's their main active agent and somehow looks and acts like he's 30. They should have just rebooted it a la James Bond or something. I think everyone could have accepted that anyway.

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      January 30, 2013 6:10 PM

      gg eonix!

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      January 30, 2013 8:03 PM

      Very encouraged to see that you can get through the game via stealth. Killing everyone is one thing, not ever being detected is another. MGS and SC were my favorite stealthy games.

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        January 30, 2013 10:53 PM

        Says the person who never played Thief. Splinter Cell and MGS are fine games.

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      January 31, 2013 2:19 AM

      It's not an entirely new team is it? Pat Redding headed up co-op on Conviction (which was easily the best part of the game)

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        January 31, 2013 7:37 AM

        Redding is Gameplay Director for Blacklist.

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          January 31, 2013 10:56 PM

          Yeah that's what I mean, not a new team like the article says. Hey, can't wait to play your game dude, had the pleasure of meeting some of the Conviction team on the UK press tour while I was at Ubi, great guys.

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