Splinter Cell: Blacklist Impressions: Bloody Chaos
Details about about Splinter Cell: Blacklist have been kind of scarce so far, so I was excited to sit down with Scott Lee, the game’s Art Director, at PAX East last weekend to find out just what we can expect from Sam Fisher’s latest adventure. It turns out we could learn a lot of it by taking a look at his first one, Chaos Theory.
Sam Fisher has been around for quite a while, and he’s done a lot of jobs. But in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Sam’s not the lone wolf operative we know from the past. Now he’s the leader of Fourth Echelon, albeit a reluctant one. It’s about six months since the events of Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Sam’s on the trail of a terrorist group called the Engineers. THe Engineers are perpetrating a series of escalating attacks known as ‘The Blacklist.’ Sam’s hunting them down from Fourth Echelon HQ. Fourth Echelon’s new base isn’t a fixed building, though. Instead, Sam’s team is based on a large aircraft called the Paladin.
The Paladin serves as a home base, a mission hub, and an upgrade shop. Here you can customize your character and upgrade your equipment, all while chatting with your team members to learn more about them. Learn enough, and you’ll unlock new character-specific co-op missions. The Paladin is also home to the true center of Blacklist, the Strategic Mission Interface, or SMI.
SMI allows the player to see all the missions that are currently available on a digitally projected globe. You’ll see campaign missions, co-op missions, and even multiplayer games your friends are in in this interface. What makes this really interesting is that you can hop into a friend’s multiplayer game from the SMI without interrupting your single player game, meaning you can play a round with your buddies and then pick up your campaign where you left off.
Watching gameplay in The Paladin, the first thing you notice is the upgraded graphics engine and motion capture that went into Black list. Characters look more real, with secondary motion (like moving hair) adding more authenticity. Lee told me that this scene was mocapped simultaneously, with all 4 of the actors involved on a sound stage interacting with each other. The extra interaction pays off, as the characters react believably when conversing.
As the mission was about to launch, I saw that you can now set your difficulty on a per-mission basis. Lee pointed that they are adding a new difficulty setting called “Perfectionist,” and it’s just what it sounds like. Lee calls the new difficulty setting, “Our love letter to hardcore stealth fans everywhere.” Perfectionist removes the ability to see through walls with sonar goggles, disables mark & execute, and removes the ability to execute takedowns if you aren’t behind the target. Oh, and the one shot, one kill damage settings from Chaos Theory return as well. It sounds delicious.
Completing missions rewards you with money, and the better you do, the more money you’ll earn. You’ll be scored on Ghost, Panther, and Assault styles, with Panther being a hybrid of Ghost and Assault. As Ghost represents the hardest route through the game, it will provide the greatest rewards. Blacklist also introduces a persistent economy. That means you can take the money you earn in single player and use it to upgrade your multiplayer character, or vice versa. No matter what you’re doing, you’re earning money, and that money is attached to your character in every game mode.
It’s a good thing you’re earning money, because The Paladin is full of unlocks to spend it on. Not only can you upgrade the plane itself, but you can upgrade basically every piece of gear Sam carries, from weapons to gadgets. Blacklist also marks the return of Sam’s ops suit because, as Lee put it, he “Never wanted to play another Splinter Cell where Sam Fisher was wearing a sweater.” You’ll be able to mix and match pieces of the ops suit to perfectly fit your preferred play style. Lee wasn’t positive that you could unlock everything in one playthrough of the campaign, but that he thought it would be possible.