'Splinter Cell' saves the world, rather sneakily
By Lou Kesten ,APWhat does America need to fight terrorists? Pervasive surveillance, missile-firing drones, even torture — everything's open to debate.
August 24, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
“Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist” (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC, US$59.99), like most contemporary war games, has all of the above. But its most effective weapon is one guy: Sam Fisher, the grizzled black-ops agent who's been saving civilization since the series began in 2002.
This time, Sam is recruited into Fourth Echelon, an elite team headquartered in an elaborate flying fortress called the Paladin. The enemy is a terrorist group called the Engineers, who have promised to unleash a series of attacks unless the U.S. withdraws all its troops from foreign soil.
Sam's missions generally involve either infiltrating an Engineer stronghold abroad or preventing a disaster in the U.S. The developers at Ubisoft Toronto aren't shy about poking at political sore spots: The second mission is set in Benghazi, Libya, and Sam later sneaks into, and then escapes from, the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Sam's forte is his ability to stay in the shadows, sneak up behind the bad guys and take them out silently, one at a time. The environments in “Blacklist” are cleverly designed to reward the stealthy approach, and it's unusually satisfying to make your way through a terrorist camp without firing a single bullet. If you'd prefer to attack the Engineers with guns blazing — well, that approach can work too, although Sam is more vulnerable to enemy fire than most video-game warriors.
The solo missions in “Blacklist” are beautifully paced, building tension so smoothly that I often found myself holding my breath. There are also a dozen or so cooperative missions, some stealthy, others more trigger-happy. And “Blacklist” marks the return of “Spies vs. Mercs,” a multiplayer competition in which one team tries to prevent the other from stealing secrets.
Fans of stealth games will find “Blacklist” a welcome return to form after 2010's more action-heavy “Splinter Cell: Conviction.” It's one of those rare games that made me want to replay missions just to see if I could kill fewer terrorists. Three stars out of four.