Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an experience that delivers on every spectrum of the third-person, stealth-action genre. It takes what fans of the older instalments loved the most and incorporates them alongside features introduced in Conviction to write up another chapter of Sam Fisher's life with elements that we've come to expect from the gaming industry today.
In classic, Hollywood-blockbuster form, terrorists are up to no good and the fate of the world falls into the capable hands of Fisher and his Fourth Echelon (4E) team consisting of the ever popular Anna Grímsdóttir, Isaac Briggs and Charlie Cole. The Engineers, a group of cyber-warfare terrorists, destroy Anderson AFB in Guam and announce that the assault was the first of a deadly continuance of attacks on United States assets, called The Blacklist. Their demand: the United States government is to call back all military troops stationed abroad. Patricia Caldwell, the President of the United States assigns Fourth Echelon to the task of finding and bringing to justice the men responsible and stopping The Blacklist before the countdown reaches zero.
Blacklist reintroduces elements favoured in the original trilogy and mixes them with the gameplay and tactics of Conviction; many were understandably sceptical at first, but the myriad of glory that the combination produces has quelled all cynicism. Blacklist reintroduces the dependency of gadgets and stealth tactics and rewards the player accordingly for their proper implementation. However, engaging in guns-blazing firefights also have their share of rewards as well as a mixture of both.
Blacklist presents three different play-styles for the player to engage in: Ghost, Panther and Assault. The Ghost play-style resurrects the classic Splinter Cell methodology and requires the player to sneak through the map undetected and either leaving hostiles unharmed or eliminating them with non-lethal means. Fisher also has a handful of equipment to assist him on this path including a stun gun, a crossbow with shock or sleeper darts and grenades proximity mines that release knock-out gas and electrical charges respectively. Should the player feel like completing the mission without any technical assistance, the good 'ole fashioned method of 'distract and disengage' with hand-to-hand takedowns is at your disposal as well.
The Panther play-style is a fair balance between the Ghost and Assault methods, requiring you to complete your mission undetected by hostiles, but allowing you to eliminate them with lethal means including headshots and Mark & Execute (from Conviction), stabbing and slicing with a Karambit and snapping necks for that up close and personal feel. Your equipment ranges from tear gas and smoke grenades to crossbows with deadly arrows and any suppressed firearm in Fisher's armoury (pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles.) Blacklist also introduces a new gameplay mechanic called 'Killing in Motion,' which allows players to highlight targets and take them out in a quick succession while on the run; favoured by this play-style.
The Assault play-style is nearly self-explanatory; get the job done while making as much noise as possible and not giving a hoot about who sees you doing it. Go loud with frag grenades and a Desert Eagle with a shotgun or a carbine rifle and take out everyone in sight.
Players may complete their missions in any manner they see fit and are not limited to a single play-style per mission. If you want to start off as a Ghost and sneak past the hostiles and then start slicing throats from cover as a Panther before going out with a bang with a Desert Eagle and some grenades, you're more than welcome to. You receive points and rewards accordingly, but more rewards are earned through completing the mission strictly as a Ghost, Panther or Assault agent.
Blacklist also introduces Kinect integration which allows players to say things to distract enemies and then escape, evade or eliminate. The player can also use the Kinect sensor to control Fisher with their body instead of the Xbox 360 controller.
As featured in Pandora Tomorrow, Blacklist returns Spies Versus Mercs as the multiplayer component which plays just like the original, but with an upgrade to gameplay befitting of Blacklist's methodologies as inspired by Conviction. It's just as fun, just as competitive...and sometimes just as annoying when you have an overly-aggressive participant on the enemy team. SVM also introduces a training mode which allows new players to learn and experience the component with other new players. It's a nice little feature to allow newcomers to hone their skills before getting themselves into matches with higher-levelled participants. At least it would be if Ubisoft put a level-cap on the training mode. You'll find that it is an unbalanced slaughterhouse where players with levels of 20 or higher will participate for easy levelling, as they'll be paired up with others who are much lower in rank, often bringing an unfair advantage and experience to the table.
Overall, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an experience that must be...well, experienced by every fan of third-person action, stealth and a mixture of both. It's lengthy, offers a great narrative and has plenty of replay value.