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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

[Review] Splinter Cell: Blacklist Xbox 360 (& RC Paladin Plane)

If there's any Ubisoft or Tom Clancy game you can count on being great, it has to be the Splinter Cell series. I began the series with Pandora Tomorrow and have been a strong fan ever since that release. Choas Theory was an excellent change in the series as it allowed the player more control and more choices in the game. Conviction became my new favorite and always a game to come back to. I had been anticipating a sequel to Conviction since completing it. However, Blacklist's news made me weary of the newest installment into the series.

Michael Ironside had been voicing the protagonist, Sam Fisher, since the game's debut in the early 2000's. Fans had grown accustomed to hearing his voice throughout the games. The videos showing previews of Blacklist showed a much different experience than what fans had been playing. But don't be fooled...

Blacklist could be another great in the series' run.

I preordered the game in the early part of the year and even got the special edition for once because it came with an RC plane.

The game centers around Sam Fisher, once again, after the events of Conviction which basically dismantled 3rd Echelon. In Blacklist, players enter the role of Fisher as he begins his journey with 4th Echelon. 4th Echelon is a plane called the Paladin. Everything that you need is close by. Your infirmary, your weapons cache, your equipment...everything is within arm's reach in the Paladin.

The game's engine is very much like that of Convictions with a few tweaks here and there. Gamers used to Conviction will have no problem mastering this game within a missions. There are a few differences such as color scheme and a few different controls (I own Xbox 360 versions) but it's nothing too out of the ordinary. If you are moving from Double Agent or any game previous to that, you may find some difficulty at first getting used to the new controls and UI.

The game has been improved to allow more types of gamers to begin playing in the franchise. For Splinter Cell 1 and Pandora Tomorrow, the game did not allow any or lots of kills towards enemies. Chaos Theory through Conviction allowed more control and more choices with the ability to kill enemies. Blacklist begins a new trend by not only allowing kills but also encouraging them at some points.

The Splinter Cell series has been focused around stealth for the majority of its games; however, Blacklist allows and encourages for two new types of players.

At the end of each game session, gamers are given a readout of their performance as it relates to three different styles of game play.

First is the Ghost. The Ghost is your standard Splinter Cell experience. You are to use non-lethal attacks or not engage the enemy at all. You get more points for not engaging the enemies.

Second is the Panther. The Panther experience involves players killing but in the most secretive way possible. You are to not alert any NPCs of your presence when making a kill. You get less points for this style than if you went Ghost.

Third is the Assault. The Assault experience is a new one for Splinter Cell games in that it requires gamers to engage in active fire fights with the enemy. For many fans, we were displeased to see this sort of gameplay shown prior to Blacklist's release as it seemed that the series was changing it from stealth to more combative. This is not the case. The game simply allows for a different experience. Be careful though; trying to go Assault is not as easy as it appears. Fisher can only take so much damage before he finally dies.

The gameplay is just as great as it was before, if not better. Conviction changed up the series by encouraging players to play multiplayer with friends whether it be online or local. This feature alone made the game for my brother and I as we were able to play together and complete missions that were too hard for one of us. However, the game does not allow single player campaign to be done cooperatively just as it was for Conviction.

It's becoming less and less popular for games to include local multiplayer, meaning multiplayer played with someone on the same console as you. I'm glad to see that Blacklist hasn't changed in that light and we do use it quite often.

The graphics of the game have not changed that much in comparison to Conviction which was a huge step up from its predecessors. However, Blacklist became a game that introduced fans more to sunlight areas than it had done before. And believe me, these can be some very tricky places to be as you try to stick to dark places for stealth.

The weapons and armor customization have improved a great deal. There are more weapons and armor choices than before. The armor choices are what fascinated me most in customization. With the new game styles, there needed to be some changes with Fisher and how he could approach a battle. If you want to go in with Assault, you can't realistically be wearing armor designed for stealth as it doesn't weigh as much and bullets could penetrate much more easily. However, you don't want a heavy suit designed for Assault to be used for Ghost because it makes too much noise. While the armor choices aren't very extensive, the new customization is meant more so for game styles rather than how you want Fisher to appear.

One thing that I do not like about the weapon customization is that there are some guns that require a DLC download. I realize that this is the norm for many games nowadays, but you lose respect for companies when they do stuff like this. I bought the $60 game (actually paid over $169.99 since mine is the deluxe) but I have to pay an additional $2.99 to get all of the available features. It just seems like a cheap move to get me to pay more money considering that the game just came out but there are DLC items already out.

I have yet to play the online modes such as Spies versus Mercs.

All in all, the game lives up pretty well to its name. I and many other fans were worried that the changes such as Michael Ironside not doing Fisher's voice and new gameplay styles would ruin the new installment. I can say that my initial impressions were wrong. I miss Mr. Ironside's voice but it doesn't really detract too much from the games and the new style does not destroy what made the game great as its simply a choice.

I've got to say that I'm very happy and can't wait to see what other new games will be coming to complete the series.

I mentioned before that I bought the special edition with the RC plane. I plan to do a review on this as well but have not had the chance to fly the plane yet.

HOWEVER, I should note that the plane did not meet my expectations when I assembled it and tried to charge the battery.

The plane is made out of styrofoam. This can be good and bad for many reasons. The plane is not so durable but it can take a beating when crashed into the ground in better ways than plastic can. Overall, I think the decision to use styrofoam had nothing to do with durability but to decrease shipping costs. The controller used to control the plane is made of an extremely cheap plastic as well.

I followed the instructions included in the package and it said that to charge the battery, you must first plug in the battery to the charger then plug the charger into the power outlet. I did so but when I plugged the battery into the charger before plugging it into the wall, lights on the charger came on and there was a weird smell. The smell was like a burning smell. After that, smoke came out of the charger and I immediately unplugged the battery which stopped the smoke.

That has caused me to rethink using it and maybe even considering contacting Ubisoft as I may have a defective unit. Either that or the instructions weren't clear enough.

Update 9/7/2013: Click here for a separate review on the RC Paladin plane.

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