All the talk of the ‘Summer Drought’ in the games industry is set to come to a grinding halt in the very near future as the Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist release date of August 23rd (PS3, Xbox 360, PC and WiiU) comes hurtling towards us. Always promising a glorious mixture of stealth and action, Ubisoft have certainly kept us waiting for this latest installment of the critically acclaimed franchise (Sam Fisher’s last outing was in 2010’s Splinter Cell: Conviction) – and once you see the latest game play trailer, you’ll understand why!
The game looks absolutely outstanding! Offering an even greater variety in play styles than ever before, protagonist Sam Fisher can approach any situation the game presents him with three very distinct methods to mix and match as best suits the situation.
The first, described as ‘Ghost’ in the trailer, sees Sam working his way through each area and completing the mission being silent as a church mouse holding his breath in a vacuum – using non-lethal techniques to take out any foe necessary. The ‘Tri-rotor drone’ looks to be something very special indeed when it comes to silent infiltration! Of course, the sleeping gas sounds like a similarly handy resource, but at the end of the day – it will be the players ability to stay patient, keep to the shadows and use their surroundings that will make this play style such a success.
The second, and totally contrasting, approach is quite descriptively referred to as ‘Assault’. This sees Fisher using a ‘kick the front doors down, leave no witnesses’ method of local destruction. Developed in such a way that makes it an equally viable play style as stealth, Sam can run and gun, use humans as shields – and even use humans as explosive weapons to distract or destroy (seriously, check the video out – it looks hilarious). I particularly liked the idea of using your last know position to send enemies, literally, chasing ghosts as you swing around the flank and gun them down. As the trailer suggests, playing the game this way forces you to ‘accept the consequences of detection.’ What this, in all likelihood, translates into is more enemies, working together to bring you down as quickly as possible. A scary prospect for anyone but a heavily armed Sam Fisher.
The final – and at this moment my favorite – play style is simply known as ‘Panther’. Though it sounds like a hybrid of the two, it shares more in common with the ‘Ghost’ technique at first glance. Stalk from the shadows, then pounce in a lethal and deadly fashion. Fisher becomes a calculated, noiseless nightmare for anyone standing in his way. The weapons in this class look particularly intriguing – especially the karambit knife for up-close-and-personal stealth kills. The use of tagging to burst into the open and silently take down multiple enemies has me very excited!
It will be interesting to see what techniques and weapons players will favour once the game is released. The trailer voice over suggests you will use ‘which ever play style suits the situation’ – this is something of an ambiguous statement at the moment. Not knowing the full details of each mission means that the interpretation of ‘the situation’ could be wildly different to each player. On one hand, it could refer to player preference. I might prefer an action packed, guns blazing, assault approach, you may prefer a stealthier, cautious approach. Whilst there will undoubtedly be trophies and awards for things such as completing missions without being seen or with no casualties, I feel the approach may be more dependent on the context of each situation. If passing through an area with civilians or local militia that I have no specific issues with, I would take a stealthy non-lethal approach. If I had to infiltrate a mansion on a rescue mission – and knew the occupants to be a specific threat – I’m more likely to be the panther. On the other hand, if getting from A to B at pace is what is required, it’s all out assault for me!
With so many ways to approach each mission with Sam’s arsenal and the sheer variety through the missions themselves – this is one adventure that could keep us playing for a long time!
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.