First of all, I personally have enjoyed my time with Splinter Cell: Blacklist – I fully acknowledge that it controls differently, and has a fair amount in common with Conviction, which was barely a Splinter Cell game. However, I found that the changes in Blacklist were, for the most part, positive ones. Unlike past games, the player is completely able to handle themselves in a fire-fight, which means that a mission isn’t automatically failed if a body is discovered, or if Sam himself gets spotted by an errant guard. In fact, in the game’s equipment select screen, it’s entirely possible to equip a loadout that would make stealth very difficult, if not impossible to achieve – something like a machine pistol with a shotgun makes any mission feel more like a cover-based shooter than a stealth game.
I went through the game trying to play Sam as a more controlled secret agent – my Sam Fisher didn’t shoot people in the head, he sticky shocked them, or gassed them, or snuck up behind them and knocked them out. I didn’t, however, make it through the game without killing some people – there were times when I’d somehow get discovered, and then suddenly I’m pinned down behind cover, and there were just too many guards for my liking. I’d panic slightly, but then take a breath, and start dealing with the situation I had created for myself. See, I guess it just boils down to one fact – I wasn’t ever very good at the older Splinter Cell games. I wasn’t methodical enough, wasn’t slow enough to really get through a level as a ghost, with no one even knowing I’d been there. Oh I’ve tried, and I wish that I was that good. The feeling I get from my small successes is what drives me to keep trying to be stealthy. But, in those older games, once I’d messed up, I would always get frustrated – the enemies had no problems moving and shooting, and they had powerful automatic weapons. Meanwhile, I had trouble moving my crosshairs around quickly, let alone side-stepping while I was doing so. And so I never really got into a Splinter Cell game – I’d try the games, purchasing them used after they’d come out, and just dip a toe in, only to find out that, no, the water was still to hardcore for me to go swimming.
That changed when Conviction came out. And I will fully admit, Conviction doesn’t feel very much like a Splinter Cell game – there’s no hiding bodies, fewer gadgets, and, most damningly, infinite pistol ammo. Also, most of the pistols in the game are very accurate, and will fire as fast as you pull the trigger. And so, the game transformed from a tactical, slow-paced stealth game, into one where 3D movement was quick and easy, where moving cover to cover was smooth, and where the quickest and easiest way to silently eliminate your enemies was to pump them full of silenced lead. Admittedly, the game felt more like an action movie, full of stealthy take-down sequences, and punctuated with the occasional gunfight, but I liked it that way.
Anyways, to get back to SC:B; the addition of a smooth, intuitive movement system, combined with the ability to sneak completely through a level, created, at least for me, a compelling stealth experience. For the first time in a Splinter Cell game, I felt like I was legitimately a super-spy; I wasn’t an assassin, and I wasn’t just some guy walking through somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. I felt competent, both during the sections where I was a ghost, moving through an environment, killing no-one, and knocking out only a few, as well as in the sections that would inevitably follow them, where I would be stuck in cover, with the entire level’s population of guards looking for me.
Overall, I think that Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a solid game, and one that people, either fans of the series or new-comers, should give a chance.