Well, it's been a very long time since I last did a review on a game and I thought I'd make one for Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Blacklist is the latest chapter of the Splinter Cell series made by Ubisoft and I can tell you right now that it's a fantastic game. It certainly does many things better than Splinter Cell: Conviction by bringing back certain elements of Chaos Theory into the mix. While it does try to go back to its previous roots, there are some flaws that do hamper the overall enjoyment of the game and I shall provide my opinions on what those are.
Story: A few years after the events of Conviction, Sam Fisher and Co. are the heads of 4th Echelon; a secret agency much like the 3rd Echelon. Things go sour when terrorists calling themselves The Engineers attack an air force base in Guam and then initiate what they call The Blacklist; an ultimatum with the goal to remove all U.S. troops out of occupied bases around the world and if not met, will result in a number of deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. With little time to spare, 4th Echelon is called upon to stop the Engineers at all costs.
Gameplay: For those of you that have played any of the Splinter Cell games, you'll feel right at home with Blacklist. For those that have NOT played any Splinter Cell games, you play as Sam Fisher (who is NOT voiced by Michael Ironside this time) sneaking around terrorists to reach your goals. Much like Metal Gear Solid games, you have a ton of weapons and gadgets at your disposal to reach those goals. Some missions will have you kill every terrorist on the field while other missions will require you to sneak around them without killing anyone nor being detected.
The action in Blacklist seems much more fluid this time around rather than in Conviction. In Conviction when you used the Mark & Execute maneuver, you had to be stationary to execute it. In Blacklist, you are able to move about and execute it at the same time, thus providing you with a more fluid combat system that doesn't hinder you as much.
The stealth aspect is much more appealing in Blacklist than it was in Conviction. Back in Conviction, when you were hiding in the shadows, the screen would go into a black & white mode to let you know. Ubisoft did away with that idea and implemented a more subtle way of telling you that you were hiding in the shadows. In Blacklist, while you're in the shadows, the lights on Sam's suit will glow. It's a much better way to tell you that you're in the shadows rather than having the screen go all monochrome.
Lastly, you have a ton of extras to unlock in Blacklist. Just like in Conviction, you have extra weapons and armor upgrades to unlock and purchase to give Sam more 'oomph.' In order to purchase upgrades and weapons, you earn cash from completing certain achievements and performing certain actions. You have 3 "styles" in Blacklist: Ghost (sneaking past guards and using non-lethal maneuvers), Panther (stealth kills), and Assault (going Rambo basically.) You can also use the money that you earn to upgrade your base of operation and thus giving Sam some perks. For instance, if you upgrade the medic bay of your base, this will give Sam faster health regeneration. If you upgrade the lab, it unlocks experimental weaponry for Sam to use in the field.
Graphics: Blacklist is the first Splinter Cell game to utilize DirectX 11 and it makes the game beautiful. The game was rather intense graphically when I was using my Radeon 6850 so I had to turn down some graphics settings but once I switched to my Radeon 7950, it enabled me to turn up everything to Ultra without skipping a beat. However, there were some things that kind of irked me and that was that some textures looked outdated and just plain bad. There were some clipping issues as well as physics issues that weren't that bothersome but did catch my attention. But hands down, this game looks great on Ultra using DirectX 11.
Miscellaneous: Other than the small graphical issues that I mentioned earlier, the biggest complaint I have with Blacklist is that the voice actor for Sam is rather bland. It's just too hard to picture Sam Fisher's voice without Michael Ironside and this new guy is just too robotic. Gone are the great 1-liners that Fisher used to spout out during certain times in the game and he's just become too much of a company man. Without Ironside, Sam Fisher just isn't Sam Fisher. The 2nd complaint I have about Blacklist are the God-forsaken controls! They are waaay too janky and feel clunky. I would try to press Q to hug a corner to stealth melee a guy and Sam would just walk right into the guy and I'd get killed because of it. Ubisoft seriously needs to tighten up the controls for this game. Gone is the ability to knock people around and into the environment during interrogations like you did in Conviction. It was too much fun to smash a guy's face into the urinal or a stove and I truly loved that aspect in Conviction.
Conclusion: As it stands right now, Blacklist is a great game to play if you're a stealth action junkie and if you're a huge Splinter Cell fan. A lot of the annoying things in Conviction are pretty much gone in Blacklist while still retaining the good stuff (Mark & Execute.) The absence of Michale Ironside's voice for Sam and the janky-ass controls are the biggest gripes about this game and it can really kill the mood when playing. I forgot to mention that if you wanted to play online, you'll have to go through Ubisoft's horrible Uplay to join up for multiplayer Spy vs. Mercs and co-op campaign. So all in all, I'm going to recommend this game only if you're a huge Splinter Cell fan or if you like games that utilize strong stealth/action mechanics.
Video of me playing Blacklist on Perfectionist difficulty *spoiler alert!*:
"People say that time flies but you keep breaking its wings..."